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    How to Grow Marigolds – A Gardener’s Best Friend

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    How to Grow Marigolds - A Gardener's Best Friend

    They are vibrant in color and easy to grow and maintain, and their scent attracts pollinators and deters pests. You even can cook with some varieties! Marigolds may just be a gardener’s best friend. This article shares how to grow marigolds and the many benefits these little beauties offer your home garden.

    Marigolds are annual plants that germinate and grow quickly and need little care. Their bold colors range from creamy white to golden orange and reddish rust, and their fernlike leaves add interest and texture to the garden all summer long.

    The three main types of marigolds are French, African, and Signet.

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    1. French Marigolds (Tagetes patula)

    French Marigolds
    French Marigolds

    French Marigolds are usually between six and 12 inches tall. They come in double and single flower varieties, with the double variety being the one you are most likely to see. Blooms can range up to two inches in width.

    2. African marigolds (Tagetes erecta)

    African Marigold
    African Marigold

    African Marigolds are the largest marigolds, sometimes reaching three to four feet in height. They produce double flowers that can be up to five inches wide.

    3. Signet marigolds (Tagetes tenuifolia)

    Signet Marigold

    Signet Marigolds are the smallest of the marigold varieties. They can grow to a maximum height of six inches, and they tend to mound as they grow. This type of marigold has blooms that are only about an inch wide and feature a single row of petals. Signet blooms are edible, and chefs often use them as a colorful garnish on plates and in salads.

    You can get a head start by starting your marigold seeds indoors about four to six weeks before the typical last frost. Or you can sow them directly in the ground when the danger of frost has passed.

    Plant your seeds about a half-inch deep and 10 inches apart. For best results, plant seeds in well-draining soil that falls within the 6.0 to 7.0 range on the pH scale. Your seedlings should emerge within about five to seven days.

    Starter plants from the nursery are another option. You can choose between compact varieties that grow to be about 10 to 12 inches in height or taller ones that can reach as tall as four feet high! The spacing of your plants depends on which variety you select.

    Compact marigold varieties should be planted (or thinned out) about eight to 10 inches apart, while taller plants need to be spaced 10 to 12 inches apart. Proper spacing helps the plants have the airflow they need to ward off powdery mildew. Also, marigolds prefer to be in areas that get full sun exposure.

    Keep your young marigolds moist until their roots are established. As they grow, the plants will require less water and little maintenance. Many become drought tolerant . However, frequent deadheading helps the plants boast continuous blooms.

    Marigolds make useful companion plants

    Companion planting
    Companion Planting Marigolds in a Vegetable Garden

    Interplanting marigolds with your vegetables and flowers can improve the health and productivity of your garden.

    Here’s why. Marigolds have a scent that rabbits and other nighttime nibblers don’t like. This scent also helps mask the smell of your other crops and flowers, providing another plus.

    Additionally, the smell of marigolds and the chemical they release into the soil helps deter the following pests:

    • Aphids
    • Japanese beetles
    • flea beetles
    • potato beetles
    • squash beetles
    • corn earworms
    • nematodes (microscopic worms)

    Here are some fruits and vegetables that do well alongside marigolds:

    • potatoes
    • peppers
    • beans
    • tomatoes
    • corn
    • cucumbers
    • squash
    • melons
    • strawberries
    • basil

    Other benefits of marigolds

    Ladybug on Marigold

    Marigolds also help your other plants – and the planet — by attracting beneficial pollinators like bees and butterflies, which are necessary for plant reproduction. Ladybugs also like to be around marigolds, and while they are there, ladybugs will munch on destructive aphids.

    The colorful annuals also attract slugs, and many gardeners appreciate it when slugs feast on their marigolds rather than the fruits and veggies planted nearby.

    In addition to helping your garden, marigolds also help the humans who live and work near them by keeping mosquitoes at bay.

    Did you know that the petals of certain marigold species are edible and provide medical benefits?


    The Calendula officinalis – more commonly known as “calendula” or “pot marigold” – has been used for centuries to make healing ointments, tinctures, and teas. Calendula is native to Egypt and other parts of the Mediterranean but is now grown throughout the world.

    Here is a video that shows how to make stomach-soothing marigold tea. And here are instructions for making a healing marigold salve.

    As the end of the growing season approaches, stop deadheading your marigold blossoms. Instead, allow the blooms to dry on their stems so you can collect their seeds, dry them, and store them for next spring.

    Here’s how to harvest and store marigold seeds:

    Marigold seeds
    • Remove the blossoms when their base is still slightly green.
    • Gently pluck off the petals and leaves to expose the seed pod.
    • Peel open the pod to find the slender bi-colored bundles of seeds inside.
    • Separate the seeds and spread them out on a paper towel to dry out for about a week.
    • When the seeds are dry and firm, store them in an envelope in a cool, dry place.

    Here’s a video that demonstrates the process.

    For more on the colorful marigold and how it can become your best friend in the garden, here are a few more resources:

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