February 25, 2012


Marigolds are easy to grow and have a long flowering period. African marigolds have a upright growth and can reach a height of 30-40 inches, while French marigolds grow to only 8-16 inches. The scent is strong and somewhat unpleasant, and is effective in repelling many garden pests. African marigolds come in shades of yellow and orange, while French marigolds are often multicolored in shades of orange, yellow, mahogany and crimson. Both are suitable for massed plantings or pots. They are attractive as cut flowers if the scent isn’t a problem. Change the water in the vase frequently.

Marigolds can be grown in all but the coldest climates. Marigolds can be sown directly in the garden when danger of frost has passed, or they can be started indoors for earlier blooms. Space the plants 8-16 inches apart depending on the variety. Water deeply and regularly, especially in hot weather. Mulching between plants will help to conserve moisture. Sidedress monthly once plants are established. If given an early start, they will bloom throughout summer and autumn. Some will flower into winter in warmer areas. Marigolds are sometimes attacked by whiteflies and mites. Regular hosings will keep these pests from becoming established.

Type: annual

  • Propagation
  • Light
    full sun
  • Flower Color
    orange and yellow, also mahogany and crimson for French marigolds
  • Bloom Time
    summer and autumn, into winter for some varieties
  • Height
    8-16 inches for French; up to 40 inches for African
  • Width
    12 inches
  • Soil Requirements
    well drained
  • Zones
    all but the coldest areas
  • Uses
    massed displays, pots

Read more: Marigold | Garden Guides


October 31, 2008

Varieties of Marigolds

         Varieties of Marigolds   

A native of Mexico, marigolds have been grown in gardens throughout the world for hundreds of years. Today, they are one of the most popular bedding plants in the United States. Marigolds are easy to grow, bloom reliably all summer, and have few insect and disease problems. The marigold’s only shortcoming (for some people) is its pungent aroma. There are numerous marigold varieties available to home gardeners. Many of the commonly grown marigolds are varieties of African and French marigolds. Less known are the triploid hybrids and the signet marigolds. The African marigolds (Tagetes erecta)   have large, double, yellow-to-orange flowers from midsummer to frost. Flowers may measure up to 5 inches across. Plant height varies from 10 to 36 inches. African marigolds are excellent bedding plants. Tall varieties can be used as background plantings. Suggested African marigolds for Iowa include varieties in the Inca and Perfection series. (A series is a group of closely related varieties with uniform characteristics, such as height, spread, and flowering habit. The only characteristic that varies within a series is flower color.) African marigolds are also referred to as American marigolds.
The French marigolds (Tagetes patula)  are smaller, bushier plants with flowers up to 2 inches across. Flower colors are yellow, orange, and mahogany-red. Many varieties have bicolored flowers. Flower heads may be single or double. Plant height ranges from 6 to 18 inches. The French marigolds have a longer blooming season than the African marigolds. They generally bloom from spring until frost. The French marigolds also hold up better in rainy weather. French marigolds are ideal for edging flower beds and in mass plantings. They also do well in containers and window boxes. Queen Sophia and Golden Gate are excellent French marigold varieties. Varieties in the Boy, Early Spice, Hero, Janie, and Safari series also perform well in Iowa.

The triploid hybrids  are crosses between the tall, vigorous African marigolds and the compact, free-flowering French marigolds. Triploid hybrid marigolds are unable to set seed. As a result, plants bloom repeatedly through the summer, even in hot weather. One problem with the triploids is their low seed germination rate. Average germination is around 50 percent. Since the triploid hybrids are unable to produce viable seed, they also know as mule marigolds.

Signet marigolds (Tagetes tenuifolia)  are quite different from most marigolds. Signet marigold plants are bushy with fine, lacy foliage. The small, single flowers literally cover the plants in summer. Flower colors range from yellow to orange. They are also edible. The flowers of signet marigolds have a spicy tarragon flavor. The foliage has a pleasant lemon fragrance. Signet marigolds are excellent plants for edging beds and in window boxes. The varieties Golden Gem and Lemon Gem do well in Iowa.

There are basically three planting options available to home gardeners when planting marigolds. Marigold seed can be sown directly outdoors when the danger of frost is past or started indoors 6 weeks prior to the last frost date. Marigolds are also available as bedding plants at garden centers.

Planting site requirements for marigolds are full sun and a well-drained soil. Plant spacing varies from 6 to 9 inches for the French marigolds and up to 18 inches for the taller African marigold varieties.

Summer care of marigolds is simple. Water occasionally during dry weather and pinch off faded flowers to encourage additional bloom. Tall African marigolds may require staking to prevent the plants from falling over or lodging during storms.

While marigolds are seldom bothered by insects and diseases, they are not problem free. Spider mites can devastate marigolds in hot, dry weather. Grasshoppers can also cause considerable damage. Aster yellows is an occasionally disease problem. In a related matter, some gardeners plant marigolds in their vegetable gardens to repel harmful insects. While the marigolds are an attractive addition to the garden, research studies have concluded they aren’t effective in reducing insect damage on vegetable crops.

Horticulture & Garden Pest News


Varieties of Marigolds

Bradford C. Bearce

WVU Professor — Horticulture

Family: Compositae
Scientific Name: Tagetes sp.
Origin: South America-Argentina and New Mexico
Classification: Annual, herb
Use: Bedding plants, pot culture, edging, cut flowers
Height: 6 inches to 4 feet
Spread: 6 inches to 3 feet
Hardiness: Tender
Stems (Bark): Herbaceous
Flowers: Orange, yellow, mixed, red, cream and maroon; rounded or flat heads
Fruit: Ineffective
Foliage: Lacy, feather-like, finely dissected, opposite, often pungent odor
Texture: Medium to fine
Growth Rate: Rapid
Form: Rounded
Soil Requirements: Good garden loam, moist, well drained
Maintenance: Keep soil moist but not wet. Remove spent flower heads for continuous flowering
Situation: Sun; flowering delayed if planted in shady areas
Insects & Diseases: Spider mites, spittle bug, aster yellows, wilt
Remarks: Propagate from seed sown indoors in March, April, or direct seed outdoors in May after danger of frost has passed.


Marigolds require approximately 45 to 50 days to flower after seeding, therefore seeding indoors should be done in late March or early April. The plants should be ready for planting outdoors after the danger of frost has passed,about May 15.

  1. Seed may be planted in seedbeds, coldframes, flats, clay pots, or peat pots.
  2. Pulverize the soil. Place the seed on the surface or in furrows and cover with 1/4 inch of perlite or vermiculite.
  3. Keep the soil moist and warm. The seed will germinate within a few days.
  4. When true leaves appear, the individual plants may be transplanted into individual 3-inch containers. Shade for a few days until the plants become established.
  5. Give the plants full sun.
  6. Plants will be ready to plant in the garden after the danger of frost has passed. Marigolds may be seeded directly into the garden after the danger of frost has passed. Follow the directions above as to preparing soil and seed depth. Seedlings may be thinned if necessary.

Other Varieties: There are many varieties of Marigolds and new ones are introduced each year. Various references group the species and varieties in many different ways, such as by size, (large, semi-dwarf, dwarf) or flower shape, such as chrysanthemums or pompon types, peony types and singles. However, for simplification, here, Marigolds are divided into four basic species: African Marigolds–Tagetes erecta; French Marigolds–Tagetes patula; Triploids–a hybrid (Tagetes erecta x Tagetes patula); Single Marigolds–Tagetes tenuifolia (signata) pumila. Within each of these species there are many hybrids producing variations in color and size.

African Marigolds–Tagetes erecta

Large flowered “African” or “Aztec” Marigolds— Plants are compact, erect, 12 to 14 inches tall; flowers to 3 1/2 inches across, blooms two to three weeks earlier than tall varieties, most flowers are doubles with flat or ball-like flower heads; colors range from primrose yellow through pumpkin-orange, no bicolors; used primarily as dividers; do not need to be staked as do tall varieties.

Tall–“African” or “Aztec” Marigolds–Large flowers in late summer to fall (short days determine flowering time), orange or yellow; plants attain heights of 3 feet or more and spread 3 feet; space plants 1 foot apart in groups of threes; should be staked or enclosed with wire up to 2 feet in height; used primarily for cutting.

French Marigolds Tagetes patula

Large-flowered “French” Marigolds–Used primarily as a divider or bedding plant; medium height (12 to 16 inches and same width) spacing 8 to 12 inches; flowers are large, up to 2 inches in diameter; varieties include flowers which are doubled, large single daisy-like or supercrested.

Dwarf “French” Marigolds–Small plant up to 12 inches; flowers small (1 to 1½ inches across) in colors of yellow, gold or orange; continuous flowering from early summer to late fall, blooms may be crested, tufted, button or single types; some varieties are bicolored, yellow marked with brownish-red; two plantings may be needed as flowering becomes sparse during hot summer “dog days” from planting date.

Triploids (Tagetes erecta x Tagetes patula) hybrid

Triploids– a cross between “French” and “African” Marigolds; flowers about 2½ inches across and flower well during hot weather; flowers may be bicolored.

Single Marigolds –  Tagetes tenuifolia (signata) pumila Single marigolds- simple, daisy-like blooms and long stems; some varieties of merit are Cinnabar, Burgundy, Ripples and Chippendale Daisy.                


Marigolds Bold and Beautiful

  Marigolds Bold and Beautiful 

Hey y’all, my name is Rita Jacinto and I love to garden. I love and respect plants, and deeply appreciate all the gifts they bring to the world. The more I learn about various plants and their habits, uses and lore the deeper my appreciation grows. I write in hopes of touching those chords in others. I hope you enjoy this article and hope that it inspires you to go out and plant a few seeds or take a walk around your neighborhood and appreciate the plants in your part of the world.

It seems that each year I plant fewer and fewer vegetables and more and more flowers and herbs. This is a real change for me. Just a couple years ago I considered flower gardening frivolous. We should be growing our own organic food, becoming more self sufficient, blah, blah, blah. Flowers take up space where vegetables could be planted, can’t eat flowers so what good are they. I was very into things having to be utilitarian, if it can’t be eaten or used as a medicine then it was a waste of valuable space. I can be ridiculous like that at times. Fortunately I don’t usually hold to such extreme positions. Now the humblest of flowers can excite me.

Marigolds are pretty humble and have become one of my favorite flowers. Ordinary, common, boring old Marigolds? Yes, yes, yes, let me tell you about these bold beauties from Brazil. Actually they are native to the Western Hemisphere’s subtropical regions, from Arizona down to South America. Portuguese explorers discovered them in the wilds of Brazil in the early 16th century. Apparently they were so impressed by the plant that they carried seed to India, where it adapted well becoming so beloved by the Hindus that they made it one of their sacred herbs. That’s right, it is actually an herb, although certain “authorities” dispute this definition. Mean while in Africa the plant adapted so well it became known as the African Marigold, Tagetes erecta. Today these are sometimes called Aztec Marigolds. They are the same plant as the African Marigold, T. erecta. Later a dwarf variety showed up in fancy Parisian gardens, voila, the French Marigold, Tagetes patula is born. Today we can choose cultivars from the tall T. erecta, or dwarf cultivars from T. patula. There are several other species available for cultivation. One is Tagetes tenuifolia a signet type called Gem Marigold. It is only about 6 inches tall but it has really pretty finely cut foliage and is loaded with tiny gold or yellow blooms all season long. Also available is a wild perennial from Arizona called Tagetes lemonii, one of the most fragrant of the Tagetes. I’m working my way through all of them but the one that caught my interest first is the big guy, T. erecta.

My interest in Marigolds was kindled several years ago while reading about the ‘Day of the Dead’ in Mexico. I was fascinated to learn that they use the petals of marigolds to decorate the graves of departed loved ones. I had a visual image of these bold and vibrant colors strewn over the graves of the dead and wondered why something so visually beautiful was used to represent something so sad.

In Mexico the wild Marigolds, T. erecta, grow three to four feet high and just as wide. They have flowers that are two to four inches across and are very fragrant. The plant has been used for centuries as a beverage, dye, and flavoring as well as medicinally. The rich yellow or orange color is accentuated by splashes of red. It was a sacred herb of the Aztecs who used the flowers to decorate their shrines and temples. Upon arrival of the Spanish in the early 16th century the flower took on a whole new significance. It became a living symbol of the Spanish massacre of the Aztec people. The red blood of the Aztecs splashed over the yellow gold the Spanish stole. Marigolds are sometimes called, flor de muerto, flower of death, and represent pain and grief.

It is from Europe that we get the common name of Marigold with an entirely different meaning. The Europeans were familiar with an orange flowered plant native to its southern regions known as Calendula or Calendula officianalis. The bright gold flower was called Mary’s Gold in honor of the Virgin Mary. Because of the flower’s heavenly association it was thought to be a bringer of good luck and to ward off evil and witchery. Mary’s Gold, shortened to Marigold, referred to the Calendula plant also known as Pot Marigold. Our South American native must have seemed similar enough to their Calendula that both plants were referred to as Marigolds. Most of the European folklore about Marigolds is actually about Calendulas, which is too bad because it is especially rich, but that’s for another article.

All of this was interesting and I was willing to try a few Marigolds in the garden but it wasn’t until I discovered the seed of a wild Mexican variety that I really got excited. Yes, I get excited by plants, I admit it and I’m proud of it too. Anyway, this wild variety is called Cempoalxochitl, (pronounced Zem-pul-so-chee-tul), I found it in the Seeds of Change catalog, Their web site is very cool, full of info and they even have a free e-newsletter. What got me was that this variety of T. erecta grows 4 feet tall and 3 feet wide, or so they said in the catalog.

So I ordered it, started the seeds (very easy to start) and in a couple months I had plants that proved the catalog description true. All of this even though the weather we had last summer was cool and wet. These were really great plants that flowered profusely, had few pests, no disease and a wonderful fresh fragrance. They tell me some people don’t like the smell of Marigolds. I can hardly believe it. The best part is that this variety is open pollinated, which means you can save seed and expect them to produce plants much like their parents. The seed I saved had a high germination rate and it looks like I’ll have enough to plant a hedge of Marigolds this year.

This year the catalog listed several more cultivars of T. erecta that I just had to try. I’ll let you know how they do. So far I’m impressed, they were some of the first flowers I started way back in February. Temperatures in my greenhouse dipped into the high 30’s on most of those nights and these tough plants germinated anyway. In fact they had some of the highest germination rates of all seeds I started. In other words, they are very easy to start and do well in our cool early spring, which means they will do well on the other end of the season when we are trying to keep as much color in the garden as possible for as long as possible.

Hopefully I’ve piqued your interest. If not here are a few more bits of info that just might do the trick. For the utilitarians among us this just might be the info that changes your mind. I mentioned earlier that Marigolds are actually herbs that have been used medicinally for various complaints. It is said to strengthen the heart when taken as a tea. Lutein is a compound that is naturally extracted from T. erecta. It acts as an anti-oxidant that protects the eye from free radical damage. In India the Marigold is known as Gendu the leaves of which are used to heal conjunctivitis, cuts and scratches and bruises. The fresh leaf is ground up, the juice is squeezed and applied a few drops at a time to the affected part. The flowers are also used as an offering to the Lord Vishnu.

Marigolds have a long history of everyday use as beverages and condiments and are famous for the quality and color of the dye they produce. The rich yellow/gold color has been used to enhance the color of cheese, the yolks of eggs and the color of chicken skin. Yep, that’s right that nice yellow color on the chicken skin is because the little guys are eating Marigold petals in their chow. Try it sometime to flavor your rice, it imparts a slightly spicy, pungent flavor or toss a few plucked petals in your salad for a little pizzazz. Any of you who have had problems with soil nematodes may already know that by heavily planting Marigolds in the area you can rid yourself of nematodes forever.

See what I mean, you thought they were just Marigolds. Common, boring even, yet look how much more there is to them. All you have to do is look a little closer and a whole new wonderfully magical world reveals itself. Its just waiting for us to pay attention.                  

Where Can I Buy Marigolds?

  Where Can I Buy Marigolds? 

That will depend on whether or not you want to plant seeds or seedlings and the varieties you want to plant.

For such varieties as the regular African, French and/or dwarf very often the seed stores (and even dollar stores) will have racks of seed packets 8 or 10 for $1.00.  Now I have used these inexpensive packets for over thirty years with excellent results.

The fancier varieties such as will require you switch up to some of the better known brand names.

You can also order through various seed catalogs which I will cover in  another page.  I have ordered seeds and plants from these catalogs for over thirty years with excellent success and have received great customer service as well.


You may choose to purchase seedlings, instead of planting seeds.  Usually these are available through any good flower/home and garden center.  You can buy some packets of six flowers or entire flats with dozens of seedlings in them.

Here are some tips on purchasing seedlings:

When starting a new garden, or adding to an existing one,
it is absolutely vital to choose only the healthiest plants from the best sources. While many gardeners prefer the control that can only be had by growing plants directly from seed, others prefer to buy seedlings or seed packs from a reputable nursery or garden center.

When buying seedlings to transplant,
it is essential that the gardener choose only the healthiest and most robust plants. If you are new to the gardening world, be sure to seek advice from more experienced gardeners with regards to the best places to buy healthy plants. Knowing where to buy, and what to look for once you get there, will give you a great start toward gardening success.

Be sure to look over the nursery or garden center
carefully and make an assessment of the health of the plants for sale. Do they have a robust look, with lush foliage and strong stems? Are they free of insects and disease? Be sure to look for any signs of disease, including spots on the leaves, holes, or scarring on the branches or stems.

Each flower variety you buy should come with instructions
for how to best transplant and take care of the plant. If such instructions are not provided, be sure to ask the staff at the nursery for recommendations. Following the recommendations and tailoring your care to the needs of each individual plant is the best way to succeed.



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