Marigolds

How to Plant, Grow, and Care for Marigolds

Marigold

Close-up of an orange marigold.

Angela Altomare

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No annual is more cheerful or easier to grow than marigolds. These flowers are the spendthrifts among annuals, showing a wealth of gold, copper, and brass into our summer and autumn gardens. The flower’s popularity probably derives in part from its ability to bloom brightly all summer long.

Marigolds have daisy-like or double, carnation-like flowerheads and are produced singly or in clusters.  Although there are some 50 species, some marigolds we know come from just three:

  • Tagetes erecta are the tallest, at three to five feet. They are sometimes known as African, or American, marigolds.
  • Bushy T. patula, or French marigolds, are somewhat smaller and more compact. Elegant and eye-catching, they have relatively demure flowers and usually grow from 6 inches to 2 feet tall.
  • The dainty T. tenuifolia are the signet, or rock-garden, marigolds that like hot, dry sites and make a wonderful edging. Their flowers are edible.

Marigolds have been sterotyped but they offer tremendous variety; some have fantastic aroma; all marigolds are good in containers and provide long-lasting cut flowers.

Planting

  • Marigolds need lots of sunshine.
  • Though they grow in almost any soil, marigolds thrive in moderately fertile, well-drained soil.
  • Sow them directly into the garden once the soil is warm, or start seeds indoors about a month to 6 weeks before the last spring-frost date.
  • The seeds germinate easily, but watch out for damping off if you start them inside.
  • Separate seedlings when they are about 2 inches tall. Plant them in flats of loose soil, or transplant them into the garden.
  • Space tall marigolds 2 to 3 feet apart; lower-growing ones about a foot apart.
  • If planting in containers, use a soil-based potting mix.

Care

  • Germination from large, easily handled seeds is rapid, and blooms should appear within a few weeks of sowing.
  • If the spent blossoms are deadheaded, the plants will continue to bloom profusely.
  • When you water marigolds, allow the soil to dry somewhat between watering, then water well, then repeat the process.
  • Do not water marigolds from overhead. Water at the base of the plant. 
  • Do not fertilize marigolds. Too rich a diet stimulates lush foliage at the expense of flowers. Marigolds bloom better and more profusely in poor soil.
  • The densely double flowerheads of the African marigolds tend to rot in wet weather.

Pests/Diseases

Farmers and gardeners have long known that marigolds make important companion plants all over the garden. Not only does the scent of the marigold (Tagetes spp.) repel animals and insects, but the underground workings of the marigold will repel nematodes (microscopic worms) and other pests for up to 3 years. They are especially helpful as deer-resistant plants.

Marigolds themselves are hearty but may be prone to gray mold, bacterial leaf spot, powdery mildew, Alternaria leaf spot, damping off, and root rot.

Harvest/Storage

  • In flower arrangements, strip off any leaves that might be under water in the vase; this will discourage the overly pungent odor.
  • Marigolds can be dried for long-lasting floral arrangements. Strip foliage from perfect blossoms and hang them upside down.

Wit & Wisdom

  • In the late 1960s, Burpee president David Burpee launched an energetic campaign to have marigolds named the national flower, but in the end, roses won out.
  • For years, farmers have included the open-pollinated African marigold ‘Crackerjack’ in chicken feed to make egg yolks a darker yellow.
  • Marigolds are one of the October birth flowers.

Cooking Notes

  • The bright petals of signet marigolds add color and a spicy tang to salads and other summer dishes.
  • The flower petals are sometimes cooked with rice to impart the color (but unfortunately not the flavor) of saffron.
  • ‘Mexican Mint’ (sometimes called Texas tarragon) is a study little herb that can be substituted for French tarragon in cooking. This species has been long used in Latin America for tea as well as seasoning.

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Reader Comments

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Limp Marigold Leaves

I've always planted marigolds with taller plants in the back of them. I'm prone to the yellow smaller varieties. So far mine are doing great, except I just noticed one of them is limp looking. The blooms are still fine and pretty, but what in the world happened to that one plant out of six. Could a dog have urinated on it? Is there anything I can possibly do to save it. It's a little late to replant one in that spot and also I'd be stuck with others I have no need for. Please help! Bewildered!!

It could be any number of

It could be any number of things from a poor transplant (it happens) to bugs to fungus. Check for bugs and, if you see them, insecticidal soap over and under leaves.

Marigolds and Deer

We live in an area where there are a lot of deer. We've been told that marigolds will repell deer and other wild animals. Is that true? We've plated other "deer-proof" plants only to have them eaten. We really don't want to provide the deer with yet another tasty salad.

Deer-proof plants

There's no such thing as a "deer-proof" plant but they are more likely to stay away from poisonous plants, strongly flavored plants, and plants with hairy or furry leaves. Put strong-smelling plants that deer don't like on the outside of your garden and smaller plants that need more protection on inside.
Deer steer clear of ageratum, begonias, chrysanthemums, columbines, coreopsis, cosmos, foxglove, iris, lavender, monarda, purple coneflower, rudbeckia, salvia, Shasta daisies, verbena, vinca, yarrow, zinnias. See a list with more deer-resistant plants here: http://www.almanac.com/content...
And see more about ways to deter deer on our Pest Pages here: http://www.almanac.com/content...

margiold and deer

I planted marigolds as well, hoping deer would not eat them, however, I see them starting to disappear. I have planted spike plants and dianthus flowers and they have been left untouched and are thriving.

they keep dying

i planted some marigolds and they came up but now they just keep withering and dying and i keep watering them so i no its not that and there in full sun like there supposed to be so what am i doing wrong- im growing them indoors first

We can only say that

We can only say that marigolds don't like to be wet or cold at all. We're not sure where you live. If you're from northern areas, you don't want to put in the ground until mid to late May to be on the safe side. Also, they don't like a lot of watering nor do they need fertilizer. Just use mulch and compost. Then, don't water marigolds until the soil dries out. Hope this helps.

Marigold Advise

Marigolds are easy to grow, but from indoors to out they do need to harden off in in a bright spot outside before planted in the sun, for only a few days will work, I plant about 300 by seed indoors every year and have learned by mistakes! Back off on the water and them them dry out, the roots may have become water logged, they like to dry out before a good watering, hope this helps! Good Luck and Happy Flower Season!

Marigolds

I live on Vancouver Island. Every year when I plant my vegetables and flowers I put a ring of crushed egg shells around them. slugs hate them,they also hate coffee grounds try this you might be suprised how it works.

Planted marigolds too early

I guess I planted my marigolds too early. (I'm here in Canada on Vancouver Island) I noticed they were being eaten by slugs, so go slug pellets. But they still seem like they are not thriving as they usually do. Is there something I can give them to make them healthy again.

They should recover. Just try

They should recover. Just try pinching them back to keep them healthy.

Marigold Seeds

Can the seeds from the spent Marigold flowers be germinated to use the same season or do they have to dry for a year before planting?

marigold seeds

If the marigold seeds are mature enough and the seeds are completely dried out, I don't see why it wouldn't work. We've never tried to replant within the same year. Let us know how it goes!

Marigold Seeds

I planted the seeds from this year's dead-headed flowers, and it worked! It took 8 days for them to germinate, and another week for them to form true leaves.

Marigolds

I have been able to sprinkle the deadheads around & have them grow in the same season.

marigolds

do you think it's possible to use other liquids besides water an for them to survive

watering marigolds

Not sure. We've only used water! Tap or distilled water (which is purified) is recommended for marigolds. They don't need much. If you are trying to conserve water, see our article on a water-wise garden: http://www.almanac.com/content...

Marigolds

For some reason I've never been able to grow marigolds because the one pest that LOVES them are earwigs. They start munching on them right after they've been planted.

marigold

I want to know when to water the plant for it won't die out as soon as possible.I want it to live on for a long time.

watering marigolds

Water marigold plants thoroughly when they are first planted and then during period of high heat and drought. Spread 1 to 2 inches of any organic material over the soil between marigold plants to help retain moisture.

Marigolds and earwigs

Earwigs love marigolds. Some thoughts: 1. Spread diatomaceous earth where they crawl in late spring about a week apart. 2. Mix a quart of insecticide soap with 1 tablespoon (isopropyl) alcohol and spray the areas every 2 to 3 weeks. 3. Put out rolled up newspaper to trap them, then check daily and submerge into soapy water.

Marigold seeds

For the last 5 years I have kept many seeds from the marigold plants I grow. I have 3 tall kinds but don't remember the varity, two of the types are luminacent, one an orange and the other a yellow. I have picked and dried them and get enough to fill a 5 gallon bucket half full of dried seeds. What I do is take and toss them about in my gardens and come up what may. I just thin them out whre I want to plant crops. This the second year now I have had NO aphids and other bad bugs in the garden. I roto-till the plants into the soil in the fall so it seems to be working. They are very beautiful still. This year I kept more seeds than in the past.

Marigold seeds

Each summer dropped Marigold seeds sprout in my flower bed and the leaves do not look like Marigold plants and the blooms are horrible looking. What is wrong with them?

Your original marigolds may

Your original marigolds may have been hybrids. Their seed does not always grow true to the original plant.

Companion Plants

This Spring for the first time ever, I followed your advice and put Marigolds among my tomato plants. Guess what ! I suppose this worked because in years past we have been over run with tomato worms that ate our plants vigorously and this year we have had NONE at all (worms that is) but have had a bountiful crop of tomatos. Thanks for all the tips. I will pay more attention in future to what you tell us and will use your wisdom for my own good.

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Botanical Name: 

Tagetes

Plant Type: 

Sun Exposure: 

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Flower Color: 

Bloom Time: 

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