No annual is more cheerful or easier to grow than the marigold. These flowers are the spendthrifts among annuals, bringing 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- or carnation-like flowerheads that are produced singly or in clusters. Although there are some 50 species, most marigolds we see in the garden come from just three:
- Tagetes erecta are the tallest and most upright, reaching three to four feet in height. They are commonly known as American marigolds, Mexican marigolds, or even African marigolds, though they are native to Mexico and Central America. They thrive under hot, dry conditions.
- Bushy T. patula, aka French marigolds, are somewhat smaller and more compact. They are often wider than they are tall. Elegant and eye-catching, they have relatively demure flowers and usually grow from 6 inches to 2 feet tall.
- The dainty T. tenuifolia—known as signet marigolds—like hot, dry sites and make a wonderful edging. They rarely reach more than a foot in height.
You may have heard of another flower with the moniker “marigold”: Calendula officinalis, a native of southern Europe, is also commonly called the pot marigold or English marigold.
Marigolds have been stereotyped, but they offer tremendous variety. Both the American and French marigolds are generally aromatic, too.