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, most marigolds we know come from just three:
- Tagetes erecta are the tallest and most upright, at three to five feet. They are sometimes known as African, or American, marigolds. They thrive under hot, dry conditions.
- Bushy T. patula, or 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 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. Both the African and French marigolds are generally aromatic, too.
French and signet types can be planted anytime through midsummer, but the tall American marigolds are best planted right away in the spring (after danger of frost is past) because they are slower to mature.