A native of Mexico, marigolds have been grown in gardens throughout the world for hundreds of years. Marigolds are species of Tagetes L., which is a genus of annual and perennial, mostly herbaceous plants in the sunflower family (Asteraceae or Compositae).
Marigolds are easy to grow, bloom reliably all summer, and have few insect and disease problems. There are numerous marigold varieties available to home gardeners. Many of the commonly grown marigolds are varieties of African and French marigolds. Less known are the triploid hybrids and the signet marigolds.
African marigolds (Tagetes erecta): They have large, double, yellow-to-orange flowers from midsummer to frost. Flowers may measure up to 5 inches across. Plant height varies from 10 to 36 inches. African marigolds are excellent bedding plants. Tall varieties can be used as background plantings. Although native to Mexico and Central America, this species is most often commonly called African marigold (Aztec marigold, American marigold and big marigold are also sometimes used).
The French marigolds (Tagetes patula): These are smaller, bushier plants with flowers up to 2 inches across. Flower colors are yellow, orange, and mahogany-red. Many varieties have bicolored flowers. Flower heads may be single or double. Plant height ranges from 6 to 18 inches. French marigolds are familiar, easy to grow, bright-flowered annuals that are actually native to Mexico and Central America. and may have originated as a hybrid between the American marigold (Tagetes erecta) and signet marigold (Tagetes tenuifolia). French marigolds have a longer blooming season than the African marigolds and generally bloom from spring until frost.
The triploid hybrids (Tagetes x hybrida): These marigolds are crosses between the tall, vigorous African marigolds and the compact, free-flowering French marigolds. Most triploid cultivars grow from 12 to 18 inches high. Triploid hybrid marigolds are unable to set seed. As a result, plants bloom repeatedly through the summer, even in hot weather. Though they have the combined qualities of their parents, their rate of germination is low which is why they are also know as mule marigolds.
Signet marigolds (Tagetes tenuifolia): They are quite different from most marigolds. Signet marigold plants are bushy with fine, lacy foliage. The small, single flowers literally cover the plants in summer. Flower colors range from yellow to orange. The foliage has a pleasant lemon fragrance. Signet marigolds are excellent plants for edging beds and in window boxes.
French Marigold ‘Bonanza’
The compact and double-flowered, French marigolds in the Bonanza Series (Tagetes patula ‘Bonanza’) bear brightly colored, many-petaled blooms atop bushy, erect, 8- to 12-inch plants.
French Marigold ‘Durango’
The ‘Durango’ series (Tagetes patula ‘Durango’) delivers a well-matched, 5 to 7-day flowering window across all colors. Flowers are uniformly shaped, extra-large. Bushy, vigorous plants.
- 2 to 2.5-in./5 to 5.5-cm flowers.
- <full blooming color>
- <blooming season>
African Marigold ‘Antigua’
The ‘Antigua’ series (Tagetes erecta ‘Antigua’) offers both superior pack and garden performance. This dwarf variety is ideal for gardeners who love the mounded garden habit with blooms covering the entire plant. Very free-blooming, these plants keep their neat 12- to 16-inch height all season, making them a great choice in front of tall perennials, annuals, and shrubs.
- 3″ fully double flower heads.
- Height: 10-12″, 10-12″ spread.
In the Garden
For best growth, marigolds require full sun and well drained, average soil. Regular deadheading will help plants look and flower their best. French marigolds are great for mixed plantings and containers. As an added benefit, research suggests that marigold roots emit a substance that deters root nematodes, so they make fine companion plants for nematode-susceptible vegetables.
- Generally blooms from summer to frost.
- Vivid and exotic bloom color.
- Flower attracts butterflies.
- Fragrant and consider a repellent to some garden pests.
Caring & Growing
African marigold is hardy to USDA Hardiness Zone 2 – 11. French marigold is hardy to USDA hardiness zone 8-11
Prefer full sun, though appreciates some light afternoon shade in hot summer.
Marigolds can grow in full sun to partial-shade, but it is preferable to plant them in sunny locations as shading may have an adverse effect on flowering.
Marigolds grow best in average, evenly moist, well-drained and fertile soil.
When the plant are tall enough, spread a 2 or 3 inch layer of some organic material such as dried grass, wood chips or chopped leaves on the soil around them. This mulch reduces weeds, retains moisture in the soil, cools the soil, and fertilizes the soil as it decomposes.
Marigolds do not need regular watering but require so during the dry spells. Be careful not to sprinkle water on the flowers of tall varieties, otherwise they become water-logged and soft. It is better to water Marigolds during the early morning hours so that there is sufficient time for the water on the foliage to dry up.
Marigolds do not require fertilizers if the soil is rich in organic material. For poor soils, you can add a slow-acting, granular fertilizer(about 1 teaspoon per plant), but be careful not to add an excess of fertilizers which may result in an increased growth of foliage instead of flowers.
Misc. Maintenance Tips
- Pinch off faded flowers to encourage additional bloom.
- Tall African marigolds may require staking to prevent the plants from falling over or lodging during storms.
- 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.
- Can be grown along side vegetables as its fragrant can act as repellent to pests.