Marigold, Tagetes spp.

February 3, 2020

By Matt

Did You Know?

Marigold flowers are grown commercially for lutein and zeaxanthin, used to prevent macular degeneration!


Caption: African marigold plants
Credit: By Forest & Kim Starr, CC BY 3.0 us, 
  • Marigolds are long-flowering annual plants. The three most common varieties are signet marigolds (Tagetes tenuifolia), French marigolds (Tagetes patula), and African marigolds (Tagetes erecta).
  • Signet marigolds are 6 to 12 inches tall, and about 6 to 14 inches wide. Blooms are daisy-like, and foliage is fine and lacy. Colors include paprika red, orange, and yellow.
  • French marigolds are 6 to 12 inches tall, and 6 to 14 inches wide. They have red, orange, and yellow blooms. Foliage is fernlike.
  • African marigolds grow 1 to 3 feet tall, with a 1 to 1½ foot spread. Blooms are large and round, and come in red, orange, yellow, and white. Foliage is fernlike.
  • Marigolds are easily grown from seed into wide, bushy plants with many branches. They have fragrant flowers and foliage that is aromatic when crushed.

What Makes Marigold So Awesome?

Caption: French marigold flower
Credit: George Chernilevsky / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

Marigolds are long-blooming, with many fragrant flowers from early summer through frost. Hummingbirds and other pollinators are attracted to their bright, cheerful blooms. Butterflies drink their nectar, and some butterflies and moths will lay their eggs on marigold leaves. 

Especially easy to grow from seed, marigolds are a rewarding first plant for children to grow. They’re low maintenance, and thrive in hot weather. They’re versatile, at home in mixed beds, containers, or alongside vegetable plants.

Their strong fragrance was long thought to be a natural pest repellent; this theory is unproven, but French marigolds have been shown to control nematode populations in soil.  

How Can I Grow One?

Marigolds prefer sunny areas and fertile soil with plenty of organic matter, but will tolerate most well-drained soils. Seeds germinate quickly, and can be direct-sown after the last frost or started indoors. Seedlings can provide a faster start in cold areas.

Marigolds often spread wider than plant height, so plant French and signet varieties 10 to 12 inches apart, and larger African marigolds 12 to 18 inches apart. Plants can be affected by powdery mildew, and room for air circulation is helpful for prevention. Always water at the base of plants, never overhead.

Pinch back young plants, which will help promote bushy growth. Periodic deadheading encourages profuse blooms throughout summer and fall. Marigolds grow in USDA Zones 2 to 11.

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