Calendula vs Marigold: What’s the Difference?

Updated: Mar. 22, 2023

A pot marigold is NOT just a marigold growing in a pot.

Calendula vs Marigold: Similarities and Differences

calendula vs marigoldCourtesy Svitlana Huenink
Marigolds (above) and pot marigolds are not the same plant.

Calendula flowers (Calendula officinalis) are commonly known as pot marigolds, which can lead to confusion at the garden center. Although their names are but one word off, those three letters belie a bevy of differences.

For one thing, these annual flowers differ vastly in appearance. Marigolds (Tagetes spp.) have shorter, compact petals and thinner leaves. Calendula flowers feature longer petals and rounder, wider leaves. Although both plants are part of the daisy family, calendulas look more like daisies.

Beautiful orange calendula officinalis on stemBasieB/Getty Images
Calendula flowers prefer cooler weather than marigolds.

For another thing, the flowers smell different. Marigolds have a powerful, sharp, and near-pungent aroma. As such, they are often used to ward off rabbits, deer, and other unwanted backyard critters. Calendula flowers, on the other hand, have a more commonplace, flowery smell.

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Marigolds are a popular choice for warm-season annuals, blooming first in late spring and continuing on until the first frost of fall. Meanwhile, calendulas prefer cooler temperatures—they’ll wilt if the weather gets too steamy.

Truly, the two most significant similarities between marigolds and calendulas are their overlapping common names and their bloom colors. Both flowers come in sunny shades of orange, yellow and red, which can make them difficult to tell apart at a quick glance. Pair that with the common name confusion—“marigold” vs. “pot marigold”—and it’s not too tricky to understand the mix-ups.

Once you’re clear on the difference between calendula vs marigold, check out the differences between Chinese snowball bush vs hydrangea.

Marigold Care

Bnbbyc17 Jessi Wasell 4Courtesy Jessi Wasell
Sparky Mix marigold flowers

To plant marigolds, make sure you have a sufficient spot of full sun. They’re more than tolerant of sunshine and summer heat, and if they’re placed in the shade, they can succumb to powdery mildew. It’s also best to water marigolds at the base of the plant rather than from the top, since excess water on the leaves can cause powdery mildew as well. These fast-growing annual flowers are easy to start from a packet of seeds and they grow well in containers with well-draining potting soil.

Here’s how to solve the most common plant problems.

If you’re serious about keeping the flowers blooming, deadhead them when the blooms are spent to keep the plant’s energy focused on nurturing additional sunny blossoms.

Did you know marigolds are the October birth month flower?

Calendula Care

277574882 1 Deborah Billings Bnb Bypc 2021Courtesy Deborah Billings
Yellow calendula bloom

In complete contrast to marigolds, calendula plants, like violas and pansies, prefer the cooler temperatures of spring and early fall. They don’t handle sizzling summer temperatures well, but regardless, they do grow and flower best in full sun. These plants should not be overwatered, as the roots may rot in wet soils.

Another key difference—calendula flowers are edible! Some gardeners use pot marigold petals to add color to salads, or even to make natural dyes.

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