One of the simplest – and most beautiful – flowers to grow, marigolds guarantee a reliable splash of color all summer long.
Sunlight: Full sun
Maturity: 50-80 days from seed to flower
Height: 6 to 18 inches
Spacing: 8 to 18 inches apart in all directions
Marigolds (Tagates erecta) are an easy-to-grow, compact flower ranging in color from pale yellow to deep orange and rust. They make a spectacular addition to containers and borders or scattered throughout the garden. Also, great for dried blossom arrangements.
Marigolds tolerate a wide range of soil and climate conditions, but especially love heat. There are many varieties of this cheerful garden favorite from miniature to giant. Try growing marigolds in and around vegetable plants to repel insect pests. Hardy annual.
Note: In Macer’s Herbal, a 10th century manuscript on the healing properties of plants, marigolds were said to draw evil humours out of the head and strengthen the eyesight.
Marigolds are not fussy and will tolerate most conditions. However, give them rich, well-drained soil and plenty of sunshine and plants will thrive. Generous amounts of organic compost or well-aged manure mixed in to the garden prior to planting will greatly improve the health of flowers (see Springtime Garden Soil Preparation). Keep the soil moist, but not wet.
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How to Plant:
Sow marigold seed directly in the ground and cover with about 1/4 inch of soil. Water thoroughly. Thin to 8-18 inches apart after seedlings have sprouted. Marigolds can also be started early indoors under grow lights for transplanting outdoors about six to eight weeks before the last frost date (see Starting Annual Flowers Indoors).
Once established and healthy, marigolds will continue growing easily, even if left unattended. Water to keep the soil moist.
Provide nutrients monthly with a bud and bloom booster once plants have started flowering. Pinch off the spent blossoms to extend the flowering season. Mulch to prevent weeds, conserve moisture and improve aesthetics. Marigolds will not survive a hard frost or freeze.
Insects and Disease:
Marigolds have few problems with insect pests. In fact, the flowers can be planted around cabbage and broccoli plants to help deter and repel cabbage moths. Keep an eye out for slugs, which can decimate the plants overnight. Monitor closely and treat with Sluggo Bait or diatomaceous earth if damage is found. Spray soft-bodied pests, like aphids and spider mites, with a strong stream of water to reduce pest numbers or spot treat heavily infested areas with Safer’s Soap for immediate control.
Seed Saving Instructions:
Marigolds will produce lots of seed in a similar fashion to zinnia or calendula. When the blooms dry out, cut them off and hang upside down in bundles. The seeds are contained in the heads and, once dry and crisp, can be hand-crushed and winnowed from the seed chaff.