Leave it to Mary to Brighten Up Your Winter

The flowers of Calendula officinalis, also known as Mary’s gold or pot marigold, are a bright blessing for warm Southern winters.

Single Mary's Gold
Getty Images/revenaif

As Texas gardener Elizabeth Winston says, “Of all the herbs that grow in the garden, calendula is the flower I’d choose to heal both the body and the soul.” Known as Mary’s gold, these vivid annuals are supposedly named for the Virgin Mary and her golden halo. Now they are commonly called by their Latin name, calendula, and are also known as pot marigold to avoid confusion with the newer Tagetes marigolds. Calendulas are admired by gardeners for their silky, 2-inch-wide disks of gold, cream, and orange in 1- to 2-foot plants.

These annuals have many culinary and medicinal uses. They’re also a good food source for butterflies and a charming vegetable garden companion plant that may help deter tomato hornworms and asparagus beetles.

Calendulas will withstand light frost (to 25 degrees) and will flower until a hard freeze knocks them back. In mild winters, they’ll go from fall to spring if deadheaded to encourage constant bloom. They like full sun in winter but will appreciate afternoon shade as the weather warms. In the Upper South, plant them in March, and they’ll blossom into summer. In the Lower South, set out transplants in February or October. They bring their glowing warmth to the garden during the coolest seasons, and help satisfy our color-starved hearts with their halos of gold.

PLANTING TIP

Pair calendulas with other cool-season flowers such as pansies, stock, or snapdragons. Use them to highlight flowering quince or contrast with summer snowflakes and spring phlox. Edge a bed with calendulas and parsley, or scatter them through crimson poppies.