Bright, colorful and easy to care for marigolds are one of the garden’s most popular flowers. An ideal gift, marigolds are also excellent companion plants, meaning that even the most committed vegetable growers enjoy the benefits of a marigold.
Suitable for cultivation in all USDA Zones, their red, orange and yellow blooms bring bright color to any space. Marigolds are also the ideal choice for the novice gardener, who wants an easy to grow, colorful flower. They are equally as popular with more experienced growers.
Bright and colorful, Tagetes are one of the easiest flowers you can grow.
From larger flower beds and vegetable gardens to smaller container gardens, marigolds are the perfect choice for easy to grow, colorful flowers. This guide will take you through everything you need to know about growing Marigolds.
Different Marigold Varieties
Marigolds (Tagetes) come in four distinct varieties.
African marigolds (T. Erecta) are tall flowers that can reach a height of up to 4 ft depending on the growing conditions. Each plant has a spread of 1 to 2 ft and produces large, 5 inch wide pom-pom like flowers. These larger varieties are best suited to the back of a flower bed.
Moonsong Deep Orange is a particularly pleasing variety that produces lots of rich flowers. Antigua is an easy to grow, disease resilient cultivar that averages about 2 ft in height. It is available in a range of colors.
For something a little different, Vanilla produces eye-catching white flowers. Smaller than other African varieties it reaches a height of about 18 inches.
Tagetes Erecta are easily recognizable by their large, pom-pom like flowers.
French marigolds (T. Patula) are usually dwarf or small varieties, rarely exceeding 12 inches in height. With an average spread of 6 to 9 inches, French varieties tend to be more compact plants than the larger African varieties. Ideal for the front or middle of a flower bed, these attractive annuals produce bright double flowers that are about 2 inches wide.
The cultivar Durango, reaches about 1 ft in height and is one of the taller French varieties. Its flowers are a soft orange color, with a deeper orange-red center. Bonanza is a good companion plant that can also be used for edging borders. Achieving a height of 12 inches Bonanza enjoys a spread of 12 to 24 inches. Petite is another reliable companion plant choice. Producing large flowerheads, it rarely exceeds 6 inches in height.
Signet or Single marigolds (T. Tenuifolia) have an average height and spread of about 12 inches. They are primarily grown for their large single flowers. These daisy-like blooms sit on long stems above the plants foliage.
Less common than African and French varieties, Signet cultivars have a rapid growth habit and can quickly overgrow a space. This vigorous growth habit means that they are a great choice if you have a lot of room to fill.
Signet marigolds are usually edible and can be used to add color to salads or pasta dishes. Always check the plant label or seed packet before consuming. The Gem series is a compact and edible cultivar that looks particularly effective if planted if planted alongside nasturtiums.
Coming in a range of shapes, sizes and colors, take the time to find the variety that best suits your garden.
The fourth Tagetes variety is the Triploid multicolored cultivar. This is an attractive French African hybrid which is more heat and water tolerant than the African and French varieties.
What is the Difference Between Marigolds and Calendula?
Both marigolds and calendula or Pot Marigold are part of the Asteraceae or sunflower family. However Marigolds belong to the Tagetes genus, while Calendula belong to the smaller Calendula genus. Despite this distinction, they are often mistakenly grouped together.
Marigolds and Calendula differ from each other in a couple of ways. Tagentes plants are native to South America, tropical America and southwestern North America while calenduals originate in south-central Europe and north Africa.
Calendula plants achieve a height to 12 to 24 inches. Marigolds can range in height from 6 inches to 4 ft.
Other differences include aroma, Tagetes smell pungent or spicy, while Calendula emits a sweeter smell. Physically calendula petals are longer and straighter than marigolds while their blooms are more flat or bowl shaped. Calendula flowers can be orange, pink, white and yellow. Tagetes come in shades of red, cream, orange and yellow.
The seeds also differ between the two plants. Calendula seeds are brown, slightly bumpy and curved. Marigold seeds are straight and black with a white brush-like tip.
Finally, calendula plants are edible and considered safe. While some marigolds are edible others can be toxic.
Growing from Seed
Seeds are easily available from local nurseries and garden stores. Plants in the Tagetes genus are some of the easiest plants to start from seed. However, if you don’t have the time or space to grow from seed you can also buy young plants ready to be planted out.
Sow seeds undercover 50 to 60 days before your last predicted frost date. This timeframe means that the seedlings will be ready for planting out at the start of spring.
Sow your seeds in trays or pots filled with a damp potting soil. Sprinkle the seeds over the top of the mix before covering with a light layer of vermiculite.
Cover the pots or trays and place them in a warm spot such as on the top of a refrigerator. You can also place the trays inside a small propagator such as the Tabor Tools Propagator Tray. At this stage in the germination process warmth is more important than light.
Regularly check the seed trays. Germination can take about 4 days but may be longer in cooler conditions.
Following germination remove the cover from the tray and place in a light position. The seeds need about 5 hours of light a day. If you struggle to find a light enough position, grow lights can be used. During this period, as the seedlings grow, aim to keep the soil evenly damp.
Once the seedlings are large enough to handle and have developed at least two sets of true leaves they can be transplanted into larger, individual pots. The pots should be filled with a fresh potting mix.
After the last frost date has passed, harden the seedlings off before planting outside.
Starting Seeds Outside
In warmer climates, or if you are sowing later in the year, you can also sow seeds directly into their final position. To do this rake the soil over and weed.
Moisten the soil and scatter the seeds on top. Moistening the soil helps the seeds to stay in place.
Cover the seeds with a thin layer of compost or vermiculite. In a couple of days seedlings should emerge. Remember to protect growing seedlings from pests such as slugs and snails.
Once the seedlings have two true sets of leaves they can be thinned out.
Where to Plant Marigolds
Marigolds are surprisingly versatile and resilient plants. While they do best in full sun positions, they also grow in partial sun.
While these are full sun loving plants, if the weather is constantly hot or humid they can begin to suffer.
Marigolds can thrive in both well draining and moist or heavy soils. This hardiness has helped to increase the flowers popularity as both a container and bedding plant.
Taller varieties may appreciate some shelter from the wind.
A pleasingly hardy plant, Tagetes grow in a range of conditions.
How to Plant
Remember to harden off seedlings before planting. Bedding plants are often sold ready to plant out.
Work the soil over and weed before planting.
Dig a hole in the soil that is big enough to hold the plant’s root ball. When planted the marigold should sit slightly above ground level. Allowing some of the top roots to sit above ground level helps to prevent the plant from becoming waterlogged. This is particularly useful if you are planting in a heavy or clay soil.
Remove the plant from its container. If the roots are compacted together, gently tease them apart. While this can cause the plant some immediate stress, it helps a stronger root system to form.
Position the plant in the hole. Backfill the hole taking care not to overly disturb the plant.
Taller varieties may require some staking or support to ensure that they remain upright. Royal Imports Green Wood Plant Stakes provide sturdy support whilst also blending into your garden.
After planting use a hose or watering can to water well before mulching around the base of the plants. This helps to suppress weed growth. Mulching also helps the soil to retain enough moisture to keep your plants hydrated.
Planting in Containers
Planting marigolds in containers is exactly the same as planting in the ground.
Fill a clean pot with fresh potting soil or compost. Make sure there are drainage holes in the bottom of the pot. If there aren’t any, you will need to put some in. To further improve drainage some gardeners like to add a layer of crocks or pebbles before adding the soil, but this isn’t strictly necessary.
Plant as described above.
If you are planting more than one plant, take the time to space them out correctly. This helps to keep your plants healthy. The exact spacing varies between varieties. The correct distance for your chosen variety should be printed on the back of the seed packet.
Caring for Marigolds
Once planted, marigolds are a low maintenance addition to the garden.
Pleasingly easy to care for, Tagetes also do well in pots and raised beds.
When to Water
For the first two weeks after planting, keep your flowers well watered. This helps the plants to establish a healthy root system.
Once the root system is established you need only water when the soil is dry. If it doesn’t rain this may be as little as once a week. Plants growing in pots may require watering as often as once a day.
When watering your plants, try to keep the flower as dry as possible. Instead just water the soil around the plant. If the flowers get too wet they can turn brown and become mushy.
Drooping leaves are a clear indication that your flowers are in need of some water.
Be careful not to overwater your flowers, they are prone to root rot.
Unless they are planted in particularly poor soil, marigolds happily flourish without fertilizer.
If your plants do need a boost, apply a water soluble or liquid fertilizer once a month.
Deadheading and Pruning
Deadheading spent blooms encourages more flowers to form. Like geraniums, regularly deadheading marigolds encourages them to flower throughout the growing season.
Marigolds can be deadheaded just by picking or pinching the spent blooms from the stem. A garden scissors can also be used.
As the growing season ends, allow some of the spent flowers to remain on the plant. These will turn into seed heads that, when dry, can be harvested and sown next year.
Removing spent flowers encourages more flowers to form. Allowing some flowers to remain on the plant enables them to go to seed. Seeds can be harvested and sown on for flowers the following year.
Marigolds are a reliable companion plant. Often planted in the vegetable garden they are believed to have the ability to repel pests such as aphids, beetles and nematodes. As well as repelling pests, marigolds also attract pollinators to the garden.
A reliable companion plant, Tagetes also work well in mixed flower borders.
Vegetables that benefit from planting near marigolds include:
How to Propagate
Tagetes are best propagated by seed. While the majority of cultivars produce seed heads some do not. Check the information on the label or packet before you make your purchase. Also, seeds gathered from hybrids do not grow true to type.
Harvesting marigold seeds is pleasingly straightforward. Simply allow the flowerheads to fade and dry on the plant. As the flowers fade, long, thin seeds develop. You will notice that one half of the seed is dark and the other is light.
To remove the seeds from the plant, cut the stem as close to the spent flowerhead as possible. Pull the seeds away individually. Alternatively pull away the petals and shake the seed heads into a bag.
The seeds can be stored in a dry place overwinter and sown early next spring. Remember to label and date your seeds. As they age seeds, lose their viability, making germination harder.
Common Pests and Problems
Many common issues such as powdery mildew, bacterial leaf spot, gray mold and root rot are often caused by over watering. With the proper care your plants should remain healthy.
Regularly check your plants for signs of infestation. Both leaf miners and spider mites can target plants. Spider mites are particularly problematic during warm or dry spells. Infestations can be removed with either a blast from a hose or with an application of insecticidal soap. This is an effective non-toxic solution to infestations that is surprisingly easy to make at home.
Aster yellows, a disease caused by sap sucking insects, can sometimes be an issue. There is no cure, simply dig up and destroy infected plants.
Popular with growers and pollinators, this is a low maintenance high impact flower.
Bright and colorful, marigold’s resilient nature has helped to make it a mainstay of both the flower and vegetable garden. Equally adept as a bedding plant or as a companion plant, their bright blooms are sure to attract scores of pollinators to your garden.
Marigolds not only look great they are also pleasingly easy to care for. Why not add some marigolds to your garden today?
Jen is a master gardener, interior designer and home improvement expert. She has completed many home improvement, decor and remodeling projects with her family over the past 10 years on their 4,500 sf Victorian house. She is also a passionate farmer who keeps goats, chickens, turkeys cows and pigs on her farm, and an instructor for her community’s Organic and Sustainable Farming project.