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Marigold: Plant Care and Growing Guide

Marigold, a popular annual flower, is renowned for its bright and vibrant blooms, easy care, and ability to act as a natural pest repellent in gardens.

French Marigold, African Marigold, Aztec Marigold, American Marigold, Big Marigold, American Saffron, Signet Marigold, Slender leaf Marigold, Striped Mexican Marigold

Blooming their heart out in summer and fall, Tagetes (Marigold) is a genus of annuals and perennials with showy single or double flowers in shades of orange, yellow, red, gold, white, and any combination of those colors. The strongly aromatic fern-like foliage repels pests such as deer or rabbits, making Marigolds great companion plants to other plants.

All you need to know about Marigold Flowers

  • Marigolds belong to the aster family (Asteraceae), genus Tagetes, which includes about 50 species. However, only three species are widely cultivated worldwide.

Most popular Marigold Flowers for the landscape

  • Tagetes erecta (African Marigold, American Marigold, or Mexican Marigold): This is the tallest and most upright species of Marigold, towering up to 3-4 feet (90-120 cm). It boasts large, double and pompon-like flowers, up to 5 in. across (12 cm), in shades of yellow, orange, and creamy white. Tagetes erecta is commonly known as the African Marigold, although it did not originate in Africa. It is called the African Marigold because it was first imported to Europe through a trade route that passed through northwest Africa. These annual plants are native to Mexico and Central America. They are a good choice for hot, dry garden conditions where other Marigolds might struggle.
  • Tagetes patula (French Marigold): French Marigolds are compact and bushy annuals, typically 6-12 inches tall and wide (15-30 cm), with semi-double, double or crested flowers, up to 2 in. across (5 cm), in various combinations of reds, oranges, and yellows. Tagetes patula is commonly known as the French Marigold, but it did not originate in France. It is native to Mexico. It is adaptable to poor soils, heat, humidity, and especially drought. French Marigolds are reported to provide the greatest protection against a wide range of nematodes and are used in companion planting for many vegetable crops.
  • Tagetes tenuifolia (Signet Marigold): Signet Marigolds are compact annuals, reaching 12 in. in height and spread (30 cm), with a profusion of single, richly colored, small flowers, 1 in. across (2.5 cm), which generously cover the finely divided lacy foliage. Native to Mexico as well as Central America, Colombia, and Peru, their flowers have a pleasant lemon scent and are edible. They can be used in salads or in teas.
  • Calendula officinalis (Pot Marigold, English Marigold): This native of southern Europe is not a true Marigold and should not be confused with the Mexican genus (Tagetes). Its brightly colored flowers are edible and possess wound-healing and local anti-inflammatory properties. Pot Marigold is however more commonly grown in the flower garden than as a culinary herb.

Guide Information

Hardiness 2 - 11
Plant Type Annuals
Genus Tagetes
Exposure Full Sun
Season of Interest Spring (Late)
Summer (Early, Mid, Late)
Fall
Maintenance Low
Water Needs Average
Soil Type Clay, Loam, Sand
Soil pH Acid, Alkaline, Neutral
Soil Drainage Moist but Well-Drained, Well-Drained
Characteristics Cut Flowers, Fragrant, Showy
Tolerance Drought, Deer, Clay Soil
Attracts Butterflies, Hummingbirds
Landscaping Ideas Patio And Containers, Edging, Beds And Borders
Garden Styles City and Courtyard, Coastal Garden, Informal and Cottage
Tagetes erecta (African Marigold)
Tagetes patula (French Marigold)
Tagetes tenuifolia (Signet Marigold)

Marigold Basics

  • Marigolds are regarded as one of the easiest plants to grow.
  • Most varieties bloom reliably from late spring or early summer until hard frost in late fall.
  • Marigolds thrive in moderately fertile, dry to moist, well-drained soils. Some light afternoon shade is tolerated in hot summer areas. They are adaptable to poor soils, heat, humidity, and especially drought.
  • They work well as bedding plants in mixed borders, as edging plants, in patio containers and some make excellent cut flowers.
  • Both African and French Marigolds produce alpha-terthienyl, a substance that suppresses nematodes (microscopic worms that attack the roots of plants), making them suitable for growing in vegetable gardens.
  • The flowers attract beneficial insects that not only pollinate but also help control bad bugs. Beneficial insects attracted to the flowers include hoverflies, ladybugs, and parasitic wasps that prey on garden pests.
  • Marigolds naturally repel pests such as deer, rabbits, or mosquitoes since they find their odor offensive.
  • They are very low-maintenance once established. However, to keep them blooming almost non-stop all summer until frost, they need to be deadheaded.
  • Marigolds have no serious pest or disease issues. However, despite their reputation for repelling pests, some insects are attracted to them. Keep an eye out for spider mites, slugs, leafminers, aphids, whiteflies, thrips, and caterpillars.
Tagetes patula ‘Fireball’ (French Marigold)
Tagetes patula ‘Konstance’ (French Marigold)
Tagetes patula ‘Legion of Honor’ (French Marigold)

When to Plant Marigold Flowers?

  • The best time to plant French Marigolds and Signet Marigolds is from spring through mid-summer.
  • The best time to plant African Marigolds is in the spring after the danger of frost has passed. These flowers need more time to mature and bloom.
  • Marigolds can be direct seeded in the garden once soil temperatures reach 65°F (18°C).
  • Alternatively, they can be started indoors 6-8 weeks before the last frost date.
  • Plants germinate quickly, sprouting within 5-8 days at 70-75°F (21-24°C) and blooming in about 8 weeks.

Where to Plant Marigold Flowers?

  • Marigolds are heat-loving plants that thrive in zones 2 to 11.
  • They are easily grown in full sun (at least 6 hours of sunlight daily) in moderately fertile, dry to moist, well-drained soils.
  • Some light afternoon shade prolongs their blooms in hot summer areas.
  • Tall varieties should be planted in locations sheltered from strong winds and heavy rains. These taller varieties may also require some light staking for support.
  • Marigolds are adaptable to poor soils, heat, humidity, and especially drought.
  • They work well as bedding plants in mixed borders, as edging plants, and in patio containers.
  • Thanks to their ability to suppress nematodes, attract bees and beneficial insects, and deter rabbits and deer from nibbling in your garden, they are suitable for growing in vegetable gardens. Marigolds are good companion plants for potatoes, tomatoes, basil, cucumbers, aubergines, squash, melons, asparagus, sweet corn, chilies, and peppers.
  • As a mosquito repellent, Marigolds are powerful. Plant them in containers on patios, porches, near entrances or seating areas where you want a mosquito-free zone.
  • Surrounding your Marigolds with a succession of flowers will reinforce the beauty of their blooms and extend the season of interest in your landscape. Some of the best companion flowers include Allium, Tickseed (coreopsis), Roses, Sage (Salvia), Bachelor Buttons (Centaurea), Lavender (Lavandula), and Geraniums.

How to Plant Marigold Flowers?

  • French Marigolds can easily be started from seed, while African Marigolds are best purchased as young plants (they are slower to mature and can take a long time to bloom).
  • Sow seeds 1 inch apart (2.5 cm) and about 1/4 inch deep (1/2 cm) and make sure the seeds are fully covered by the growing media.
  • Water thoroughly after planting.
  • When the seedlings begin to generate new leaves, thin them. Space French and Signet Marigolds 8-10 inches apart (20-25 cm) and African Marigolds 10-12 inches apart (25-30 cm).
  • A general-purpose fertilizer with equal amounts of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium should be incorporated into the soil at the time of planting.
  • Water well at planting and keep the soil evenly moist for the first couple of weeks until they become established.
  • If planting in containers, use a pot that is at least 10 inches across (25 cm) for African and larger French types. Dwarf French Marigolds can grow in a 6-inch container (15 cm). Use any good-quality commercial potting mix, not regular garden soil. Do not crowd potted plants (Marigolds require good air circulation to remain healthy), so be sure to space them properly.
  • When planting young plants purchased at a nursery, set your plant in a planting hole at the same depth it was planted in the nursery container. Water well around the plant after planting.
  • Plant taller varieties deep: strip off a few of the lower stem leaves and set plants below the remaining leaf scars so as to minimize the need for stem support.
  • Spread mulch around the plant to keep moisture in and weeds out.
Tagetes erecta ‘Kees’ Orange’ (African Marigold)
Tagetes erecta Big Duck Gold F1 (African Marigold)
Tagetes erecta Garuda Deep Gold F1 (African Marigold)

Caring for Marigold Flowers

Water and Moisture

  • Allow the soil to almost dry out between waterings. Water regularly in high heat or dry weather
  • Never water Marigolds from overhead as this could lead to powdery mildew issues. Always water at the base of the plant.
  • Spread mulch around the plant to keep moisture in and weeds out.
  • Once Marigolds have developed a good root system, they will be more drought-tolerant, however, they will produce more blooms if given weekly water.

Fertilizer

  • Marigolds do not need any fertilizer unless your soil is extremely poor.
  • A general-purpose fertilizer with equal amounts of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium should be incorporated into the soil at the time of planting.
  • After planting, no extra fertilizer is necessary.
  • Too much fertilizer will cause the plant to produce fewer blooms as it devotes its energy to foliage growth.

Deadheading

  • Pinching back the early flower buds will help your Marigold to promote more branches and grow bushier. This will prevent the plant from becoming leggy and will encourage more blooms.
  • Marigolds do not require deadheading, but if the faded blossoms are removed, this will promote more blooms and extend the flowering season.
  • Deadhead faded flowers by pinching off (cutting) the flower head back to the nearest set of leaves.
  • Remove rotting flowers and keep the soil surface clean to prevent diseases.

Harvesting

  • Marigolds are an excellent choice for fresh bouquets and flower arrangements.
  • Harvest stems any time after the blooms are halfway open. Flowers will continue to open and develop thereafter.
  • Cut off the central stem almost at ground level, just above 3 to 4 side shoots.
  • Remove all foliage below the top set of leaves below the flower. Make the next cuts at the end of the stem being harvested. Place them immediately in water.
  • The flowers last 10 to 20 days in a vase. They can also be dried for long-lasting floral arrangements. Strip foliage from perfect blossoms and hang them upside down.

Propagating

  • Marigolds are propagated easily from seed.
  • At the end of the season, seeds can be saved from open-pollinated cultivars. However, it is best not to save seeds from hybrid cultivars. Their offspring will not look like their parents.

Pest and Diseases

  • Marigolds have no serious pest or disease issues. However, some problems may occasionally occur:
  • Snails and slugs may eat leaves, especially on young plants. Keep the soil free of leaf debris, and set out slug and snail traps.
  • Aphids can be easily treated with horticultural soaps or oils.
  • Powdery mildew can be avoided by providing good air circulation between plants and by watering at the base of the plant.

Companion Plants for Marigold Flowers

Brassica oleracea Italica Group (Broccoli)
Brassica oleracea Capitata Group (Cabbage)
Cucumis melo (Cantaloupe)
Glycine max – Edamame
Solanum melongena (Eggplant)
Brassica oleracea Acephala Group (Kale)
Lactuca sativa (Lettuce)
Allium cepa (Onion)
Cucurbita pepo – Pumpkin
Glycine max – Soybeans
Solanum lycopersicum (Tomato)
Cucurbita pepo – Zucchini
Aster novae-angliae (New England Aster)
Coreopsis (Tickseed)
Cosmos Flowers
Lavandula angustifolia (English Lavender)
Rosa (Rose)
Salvia (Sage)

Garden Examples

A Long-Lasting Summer Garden Idea with Marigold and Sage
Flowers and Herbs for a Rock Garden
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While every effort has been made to describe these plants accurately, please keep in mind that height, bloom time, and color may differ in various climates. The description of these plants has been written based on numerous outside resources.

Guide Information

Hardiness 2 - 11
Plant Type Annuals
Genus Tagetes
Exposure Full Sun
Season of Interest Spring (Late)
Summer (Early, Mid, Late)
Fall
Maintenance Low
Water Needs Average
Soil Type Clay, Loam, Sand
Soil pH Acid, Alkaline, Neutral
Soil Drainage Moist but Well-Drained, Well-Drained
Characteristics Cut Flowers, Fragrant, Showy
Tolerance Drought, Deer, Clay Soil
Attracts Butterflies, Hummingbirds
Landscaping Ideas Patio And Containers, Edging, Beds And Borders
Garden Styles City and Courtyard, Coastal Garden, Informal and Cottage
Compare All Tagetes (Marigold)
Compare Now
Explore Great Plant Combination Ideas
Tagetes (Marigold)
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Tagetes (Marigold)

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