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 are one of the following:
- Tagetes erecta (aka African marigolds, American marigolds, or Mexican marigolds): This species is the tallest and most upright marigold, reaching 3 to 4 feet in height and producing large, full flowers. They’re native to Mexico and Central America and will thrive even under drought-like conditions.
- Tagetes patula (aka French marigolds): French marigolds tend to be smaller, bushier, and more compact than T. erecta. 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. They are better suited to rainier conditions than the other Tagetes species.
- Tagetes tenuifolia (aka signet marigolds): These petite marigolds do well in hot, dry sites and make for a wonderful edging plant. They rarely reach more than a foot in height.
- Calendula officinalis (aka pot marigolds or English marigolds): A native of southern Europe, this “marigold” is actually not a true marigold, but is an attractive companion plant nonetheless. Its bright flowers are edible—with a tangy, peppery taste—so it is often grown alongside herbs in kitchen gardens.
Check out our video to learn more about the benefits and uses of Calendula:
Marigolds have been stereotyped, but they offer tremendous variety. Both the American and French marigolds are generally aromatic, too.