One of the most attractive flowers, the marigold is also pleasingly easy to grow. A good companion plant, bringing a myriad of benefits to the garden or vegetable patch, even the most inexperienced gardeners can have success growing these cheerful little flowers. But did you know that there is more than one type of marigold?
There are over 50 known types of marigolds. Most of these belong to one of 4 groups:
This guide will not only explain the differences between the various types of marigolds, we will also highlight the benefits of each variety as well as providing some general marigold care and planting advice.
Bright, colorful and easy to grow, these flowers thrive in a range of conditions.
1 French Marigold
The French marigold is one of the more compact, bushy types of marigolds. Often wider than they are tall, the French marigold is popular for its elegant flowers that look great in mass plantings. Ideal for containers, window boxes or edging flower beds these are one of the sturdiest types of marigolds.
Flowering from late spring until the fall, you can also grow French marigold flowers indoors. The plants thrive when the temperature averages between 70 and 75 ℉. Once established they withstand drought well. Like other types of marigolds, the French marigold is easy to grow from seed. A low maintenance flower, French types of marigolds tend to cope better in wet weather than other varieties.
French marigold flowers come in single or double varieties. Depending on the variety the plant height can be between 6 and 18 inches.
The long lasting flowers of the French marigold are commonly used for perfumes and culinary purposes.
The attractive ruffled heads of the French marigold.
Some of the most popular types of French marigolds include:
- Little Hero, a dwarf variety which rarely exceeds 8 inches in height. Little Hero produces attractive, double flowers in shades of yellow, orange and maroon.
- Janie produces attractive blooms that are similar to double carnations. Flowering in shades of orange, yellow or maroon, Janie plants tend to be smaller than other types of marigolds, growing to just 8 inches in height. This makes them a good choice for window boxes and pots.
- Safari is another compact variety. Despite a compact growth habit, the flowering stems can reach up to 14 inches in height. Safari flowers, which are roughly 3 inches wide, are available in shades of red, gold, yellow and orange.
- Bounty thrives in hot, humid climates producing red, orange and yellow flowers throughout the summer months.
- Bonanza is a reliable variety with a pleasing bushy growth habit. Bonanza’s compact blooms, in shades of maroon, orange and yellow, sit on stems which are roughly 10 inches tall. Bonanza has a mature spread of about 2 inches.
2 Signet Marigold
Signet marigold plants are not only attractive, they are also edible. The flowers can be used to decorate or sweeten a number of dishes including salads. The daisy-like blooms have a spicy tarragon-like flavor. This means that Signets are an appropriate addition to the herb garden. They are also a popular choice for pots, borders, window boxes and mixed flower beds.
Also known as the single or rock-garden marigold, Signets are compact plants that thrive in hot, dry conditions. At their best when planted in a full sun position, these billowy blooms thrive in moist soil. Regular watering, especially during dry periods, is recommended. Don’t worry about planting in rich soil, Signet types of marigolds thrive in poor soil conditions. In fact too much nutrition can deter flowering or weaken the plants.
As with other types of marigolds, regularly deadheading spent blooms encourages more flowers to emerge. Growth can sometimes slow during the warmest summer months. If this happens cut the plants back by about a third. As soon as the weather cools down a little, new flowers should start to emerge.
The open, billowy bloom of the Signet marigold.
The Gem series of Signet marigold plants are particularly attractive. Growing up to 1 ft tall, these long lasting blooms flower throughout the summer months. Lemon Gem is popular for its bright yellow flowers while Tangerine Gem produces equally attractive orange blooms. You can also find Red Gem marigold plants, belonging to the same series; these are popular for their bright red flowers.
Other popular types of Signet marigold plants include:
- Irish Lace is a short variety which produces white lacy flowers and dark green foliage
- Spanish Tarragon is popular for its anise flavored flowers. Flowering in the fall, these are a good choice for gardeners in climates too hot to grow tarragon.
- Paprika Gem is a reliable, maroon flowering variety.
3 African Marigold
African Marigolds, also known as Mexican, Aztec or American marigolds are tall, upright plants prized for their large globe-shaped flowers. This makes them perfect for cut flower gardens and floral arrangements.
Thriving in hot conditions these eye-catching blooms are an ideal choice for bedding plants. The large blooms, which sit on stems up to 4 ft tall, can reach 5 inches wide. The tallest of the many types of marigolds, African marigold plants are suitable for planting in the middle or the back of a flower bed. Like other types of marigolds these plants do best in warm, sunny conditions with a little regular water. More drought tolerant than French types of marigolds, these are sturdy, resilient plants.
Used by the Aztecs for ceremonial and medicinal purposes African marigold plants can be used to add both color and flavor to salads. The flowers can also be used to make a yellow dye. Just as beneficial in the garden, the strong scent of the African marigold helps to ward off large pests such as deer and rabbits.
While you can plant French and Signet types of marigolds at any time during the spring or summer months, African varieties require a longer growing season before flowering starts. This means that they must be transplanted into their final growing position as early in the spring as possible. If you are growing from seed you will need to start your African marigold plants undercover during the winter months.
An attractive plant, you will find varieties of African marigold that flower in shades of yellow, orange, white and gold as well as double flowering yellow and orange types. Double varieties are slightly shorter than single flowering types, reaching around 2 ft in height.
Large, globe shaped blooms.
Some of the most popular African marigold varieties include:
- Discovery Orange, these plants produce bright orange flowers. Roughly 3 inches wide, the flowers sit on 1 ft tall stems above masses of rich, green foliage.
- Discovery Yellow is part of the same series as Discovery Orange, however, as the name suggests, these plants produce large yellow blooms.
- Taishan Gold is a reliable yellow flowering variety with a vigorous growth habit. The sturdy stems cope well with wet weather, remaining strong and upright long after other plants have started to wilt.
- Gold Coin plants are grown for their bushy foliage and bright yellow or orange flowers.
- Inca is prized for its large flowers, up to 4 inches wide, in shades of red, orange and yellow.
4 Triploid Hybrids
Triploid Hybrids are a cross between French and African types of marigolds. These attractive flowers have been bred for their large, bright, multicolored blooms. These resilient flowers remain healthy and the stems remain strong and sturdy even in the most difficult of growing conditions. Continuing to flower long after the weather has become too warm for other types of marigolds it is easy to see why these are such a popular bedding plant.
Triploid hybrids are more difficult to grow from seed than other types of marigolds. Triploid seeds have a notoriously low germination rate. This can make them challenging to grow, but as long as you carefully follow the instructions you should enjoy some success. Like the other types of marigolds on our list, you can also purchase young transplants ready for planting in your garden, from your local garden store.
Sometimes called mule marigolds, because they don’t reproduce, these attractive flowers are far longer lasting than other types of marigolds. This is because they don’t bolt or set seed during warm spells. Triploid hybrids are also far more adaptable, suited to growing in both warm and cold climates as well as areas that can be short on daylight.
Each variety has its own benefits including producing bright, long lasting colorful flowers.
Triploid Hybrid varieties include:
- Nugget, not the most popular types, these double flowering plants come in a range of colors including red, orange, gold and yellow.
- Zenith types of marigolds produce striking blooms that can stretch up to 3 inches wide. These eye-catching blooms sit on strong 14 inch tall stems. Zeniths flower in shades of red, orange and yellow.
Why Grow Marigold Flowers?
Whatever type or types of marigolds you decide to grow there are numerous benefits.
These are attractive long lasting plants that flower throughout the spring and summer months. With the right care the flowers can be encouraged to last until the first deep frosts of the year. Surprisingly easy to care for, once established the plants require only regular watering during dry spells.
The marigold is a good companion plant, repelling aphids, Mexican bean beetles and many other common pests. This makes them a good choice for inclusion in herb and vegetable gardens. The bright blooms also attract pollinators, meaning that these bright blooms not only protect your vegetable plants but also help to increase your yield.
Finally, many types of marigolds are also edible. The flowers can be used to flavor salads, cakes.They can also be boiled and used to dye food and color rice, if saffron isn’t available. If you aren’t using the flowers immediately they can be dried and stored. This is easily done by spreading out the flowers and placing them in a shady, well ventilated area to dry. Once dried you can store the flowers in airtight glass jars in a cool, dry place until you are ready to use them.
The marigold has many benefits, including drawing pollinators to the garden.
Surprisingly easy to grow from seed, novice gardeners or those who struggle to grow anything will find some success with the marigold. Just remember to read the instructions and follow them. Here are some useful growing tips that you may find useful.
Marigold Growing Tips
Whether you choose to grow one or more of the different types of marigolds highlighted above, the process is largely the same. However, there are a few things you can do to ensure your seeds succeed.
Firstly, know your planting zone. In USDA Zones 8 and higher most types of marigolds can flower throughout the winter as well as during the rest of the year. In cooler areas the plants fade in the fall.
Marigold plants are easy to grow from seed. If you are growing from seed, start undercover around 8 weeks before your last average frost date. Sow the seeds in trays filled with damp fresh potting mix. General purpose potting soil can also be used. While marigold plants rarely suffer from transplant shock, starting the seeds in Delxo Peat Pots helps to make transplanting an easy process. Simply plant the seedlings still in the pot, in the soil. As the roots grow the pots break down, allowing them to spread and develop.
Sprinkle the seeds on top of the potting medium as thinly as possible. Cover with a thin layer of vermiculite. Germination occurs when temperatures average around, 66 ℉. If you are starting seeds in the winter, you may need to place them in a warm location such as a sunny windowsill or on a heat mat. The VIVOSUN Durable Heat Mat is a waterproof solution which enables you to safely maintain an even temperature around your developing seedlings.
Germination usually occurs within a week. Allow the seeds to grow on, moistening the soil should it show signs of drying out, until the seedlings are large enough to thin out. This is usually when they have developed 2 sets of true leaves.
Following the last frost date harden the seedlings off before planting outside. This applies whether you have started the seedlings from seed or have purchased your marigold transplants from your local garden store.
Select the space for your plants carefully. These plants do best in full or partial sun positions.
Amend poorly draining soil before planting. Compost or well rotted organic matter can be worked into soil to improve drainage. If you are planting in pots, fill them with fresh, well draining potting soil.
Plant in prepared soil on a cool or cloudy day. This helps to reduce heat shock which can often stress transplants causing them to fail.
Correctly space your seedlings or transplants out. Remember that these small seedlings need room to grow and flourish. Depending on which types of marigolds you are growing the plants can require between 8 and 18 inches of space. This gives them plenty of room to flourish while also enabling air to freely circulate around the plants. Maintaining good air circulation helps to prevent issues such as powdery mildew.
After planting keep the soil moist until the plants have started to produce new growth. You may also need to protect the young plants from slugs and snails. If slugs are a particular problem, there are a number of ways to deal with them.
Water your plants during dry spells and regularly deadhead spent blooms. This helps to keep the marigold plants productive throughout the summer months. A dose of flower appropriate fertilizer once every 4 to 6 weeks also encourages plants to stay healthy and productive.
Popular companion plants, all types of marigolds do well alongside these flowers:
When planted in the vegetable garden, marigold plants act as trap plants, drawing pests such as aphids away from your vegetables. They also attract beneficial insects and pollinators to the garden. Some of the many vegetables that can benefit from planting in close proximity to marigold plants include:
Finally, herbs such as basil also benefit from growing in close proximity to marigold plants.
Avoid planting types of marigolds near beans, this is not an effective combination. Cabbage and broccoli plants should also be avoided when planting.
All types of marigolds thrive in a range of planting schemes.
Bright, attractive and easy to grow, while the different types of marigolds each have their own attractions all bring a myriad of benefits to the garden. With this in mind, why not add some marigold plants to your garden?
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.