Here’s everything you need to know to grow this delightful spring blooming, hardy perennial flower.
Common names: Marsh Marigold, King Cup, Winking Marybud, Marybud
The name may come from the Greek calathos meaning a ‘cup or goblet’ as the flowers do fold slightly to form a shallow cup-shape. There is also a suggestion that it also comes from the Latin caltha – meaning any ‘yellow flower’. Marsh Marigold comes from the normal location of this native yellow flower – found in wet, swampy marshes. The Marigold and Marybud common name refers to its use as a flower devoted to the Virgin Mary during medieval church ceremonies.
- Sun needed: Full sun to shade
- Bloom color: Bright yellow
- Bloom time: Early spring
- Height: 12”
- Planting space apart: 12” to 18”
- Propagation method: Division or seed
- Hardiness: USDA 3
- Lifespan: greater than 5
- Soil preferred: Damp soil in spring is necessity. It can dry out later in the season after the major growth is finished but it must be quite swampy in the spring.
- Potential disease problems: none of significance
- Potential insect problems: none of significance
- Use: damp gardens for first spring blooming
Growing Care Tips:
This is a wonderful plant for the shady, damp garden. Its bright yellow blooms brighten up the spring in any garden and the glossy-green foliage hangs around looking neat for most of the summer rather than falling apart and bringing disrepute to the entire neighborhood.
The only thing to note is that this is a bog plant with an unrequited love for damp ground. It will thrive in wet spring soil (almost underwater) and it can be dried out in normal garden soil for the summer without killing it.
However, while you can keep it damp for the summer, you can not let it dry right out. This means growing it in the shade of thirsty tree roots will stunt and eventually kill the plant. It grows best beside moving water in constantly damp soils.
It will tolerate full sun if it is kept damp. There was rather large wild colony of the plant in a very damp meadow next to our farm. The plants get the run-off from our farm pond and only dry out a bit during the height of the summer (end of July) until September’s rains wet down the meadow again.
Potions and Poisons
Every part of this plant is a strong irritant and should not be used internally. The petals will yield a yellow stain when soaked in water. In the past, an infusion (tea) was made and given to patients with fits. It is reputed to have stopped these fits. I note that perhaps the person was made too ill by the tea to have a fit.
Caltha palustris is the species and North American native commonly found in garden center and pond specialist nurseries.
The double flowering form Caltha palustris ‘floraplena’ is quite lovely and available from specialist nurseries.