How to Grow and Care for Marigolds

French marigold
French marigold, Tagetes patula

Tagetes–commonly called marigolds–bear yellow, orange, red, or mahogany flowers from summer to early fall. The marigold is a tender annual.

African marigolds and French marigolds are commonly grown in summer gardens. African marigolds grow 2 to 4 feet (61-122cm) tall. French marigolds grow just 6 to 12 inches (15-30cm) tall.

Marigolds flowers can be simple and daisylike or full and camellia-like. Single and semi-double varieties will attract butterflies and other insects. The foliage is fine and ferny.

Marigolds can have a sharp odor; these can be used to repel pest insects in the garden. Some newer cultivars are odorless.

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African marigold
African marigold, Tagetes erecta; also called Mexican marigold

Get to Know Marigolds — Tagetes

  • Plant type: Tender annual
  • Growing Zones and range: All zones
  • Hardiness: Tender; Thrives in heat, withstands cool weather above freezing
  • Height and width: 6 to 48 inches (15-122cm) tall; 4 to 24 inches (10-61cm) wide, depending on the variety
  • Foliage: Mid- to dark green almost fern-like leaves are usually opposite
  • Flowers: Daisylike or camellia-like flowerheads 1 to 4 inches (2.5-10cm) across.
  • Flower colors: Yellow, gold, orange, russet, deep red, cream
  • Bloom time: Summer until frost
  • Uses: Beds, borders, and containers
  • Common name: African marigold, French marigold, Signet marigold
  • Botanical name: Tagetes spp.
  • Family: Asteraceae
  • Origin: Dry slopes and valleys from New Mexico to Argentina; one species occurs in Africa

Where to Plant Marigolds — Tagetes

  • Plant Tagetes in full sun in Zone 2-6; grow marigolds in sun or light shade in Zones 7-11
  • Grow Tagetes in humus-rich to average soil that is well-drained.
  • Tagetes prefer a soil pH of 6 to 8.

Marigolds — Tagetes Uses

  • Grow Tagetes marigolds in annual beds and borders.
  • Tagetes can be used in foregrounds, bedding, edging, window, boxes, and other containers.
  • Yellow-tinted Tagetes fit into any garden scheme.
French marigold, Tagetes patula
French marigold, Tagetes patula

When to Plant Marigolds — Tagetes

  • Set Tagetes in the garden in spring after all danger of frost has passed.
  • Start seeds indoors 4 to 6 weeks before the last expected frost. Germination usually takes five days.
  • Sow seeds outdoors when they will grow a week after the last frost in spring or later.
  • Set container-grown plants in the garden after all danger of frost has passed after hardening them off in shade for a few days.
Africa marigold
Tagetes erecta is commonly known as Mexican marigold or African marigold

Planting and Spacing Marigolds — Tagetes

  • Sow seeds in small pots or six-packs in moist potting soil; cover seeds with 1/8 inch of soil. Water and keep at 60° to 70°F (15.6°-21°C) until seeds germinate in about 5 days.
  • Set seedlings in a bright spot or a few inches below fluorescent lights until seedlings have four to six leaves.
  • Sow seeds outdoors in smoothly prepared beds; cover seeds with 1/8 inch soil.
  • Thin outdoors-grown plants when they are 4 inches (10cm) tall.
  • Set container-grown plants in the garden when all danger of frost is passed.
  • Space Tagetes 4 inches to 18 inches (10-45cm) apart depending on the variety.
Lemmons marigold, Tagetes lemmonii
Lemmons marigold, Tagetes lemmonii

How to Water and Feed Marigolds — Tagetes

  • Tagetes need moderate water; keep the soil evenly moist.
  • Fertilize Tagetes occasionally. Boost blossoms by applying low nitrogen, high phosphorus, and potassium fertilizer when plants are 5 to 6 inches (12.7-15cm) tall.

Marigolds — Tagetes Care

  • Mulch around Tagetes to conserve soil moisture.
  • Trim off spent blooms to ensure long-blooming.
  • Blooms slow when temperatures reach 90°F/32°C.
  • Marigolds are susceptible to botrytis, root rot, fusarium wilt, rust, leaf spot, slugs, and Japanese beetles.

Marigolds — Tagetes Pests and Diseases

  • Tagetes are prone to gray mold, bacterial leaf spot, powdery mildew, fungal leaf spot, damping off, and root rot.
  • Leaf miners, spider mites, and whiteflies can attack Tagetes, especially in the greenhouse.

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Marigolds — Tagetes Propagation

  • Sow seed in the garden in late spring, earlier if the soil is warm.
  • Seeds are large and should be planted 1/4 inch deep.
  • Seeds germinate in about 7 days at 75° to 80°F (24°-27°C).
Signet marigold, Tagetes tenuifolia
Signet marigold, Tagetes tenuifolia

Marigolds — Tagetes Varieties to Grow

  • African marigold (Tagetes erecta) is also called Mexican marigold; it is not from Africa; it is from Central America; this marigold can grow to 2 to 4 feet (1.2m) tall; flowers are 4 inches (10cm) or more across. African marigolds are used for bedding and borders; camelia-shaped varieties are available. ‘Inca’ and ‘Perfection’ are cultivars widely available.
  • Irish lace marigold (Tagetes filifolia) bear numerous small flowers above lacy foliage; the flowers are often considered less showy than the leaves.
  • Tagetes lemmonii grows in arid, desert regions; it is covered in small golden flowers.
  • French marigolds (Tagetes patula) is a low-growing cultivar 6 to 12 inches (15-30cm) tall; there are many vivid colors, and some are banded or splotches with contrasting reds or gold; these are the most pest-resistant.
  • Signet marigolds or Mexican marigolds (Tagetes tenuifolia): this plant bears 1-inch (2.5cm), single or double flowers in a full range of colors; plants form mounds about 6 inches (15cm) tall; the foliage is feathery and threadlike.
  • Triploid marigold: Triploid marigolds (T. patula x erecta).are a cross between the African and French. These are low to medium-growing plants. They grow well in very hot summer regions.

Marigolds — Tagetes Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What are French marigolds and African marigolds?

A: African marigolds (Tagetes erecta) are tall plants with double flowers including carnation-flowered, chrysanthemum-flowered, dahlia-flowered, and peony-flowered. Use these tall marigolds at the back of a bed or border. French marigolds (T. patula) can have single, crested, anemone, carnation, or double flowers. Use these smaller plants at the front of a border. A third type of marigold is known as triploid and is a cross between the African and French (T. patula x erecta). These are low to medium-growing plants.

Q: I’ve read that triploid marigold (T. patula x erecta) is the best. Is that true?

A: Triploid marigolds are low to medium-growing plants that bloom all summer even in the hottest regions. They do not set seeds so the dead flowers drop cleaning from the plant. The best-known triploid at the Nugget series includes Red Seven Star and orange and yellow Mighty Marietta.

Q: Can marigold seeds be planted directly in the garden?

A: Seeds of French marigolds can be sown directly in the garden. They will germinate quickly. Seeds of African and triploid marigolds must be started indoors 4 to 8 weeks before the last frost in spring.

Q: What causes marigolds to not blossom?

A: There are a number of reasons marigolds may not bloom: too late sowing seed, too much rain, soil too heavy or too rich, pests and disease attacks, insufficient sun, overfeeding, overwatering, and failure to remove faded flowers.

Q: What is the benefit of planting marigolds in the vegetable garden?

A: Marigolds repel certain beetles and nematodes that attack some vegetables.

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