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How to Grow Marigolds — Tagetes

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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 the 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) low-growing cultivars 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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Written by Stephen Albert

Stephen Albert is a horticulturist, master gardener, and certified nurseryman who has taught at the University of California for more than 25 years. He holds graduate degrees from the University of California and the University of Iowa. His books include Vegetable Garden Grower’s Guide, Vegetable Garden Almanac & Planner, Tomato Grower’s Answer Book, and Kitchen Garden Grower’s Guide. His Vegetable Garden Grower’s Masterclass is available online. has more than 10 million visitors each year.

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