Marigolds get a bad rap.
They are often a reluctant last-minute addition to the garden or considered too common to be attractive.
Here is a secret experienced gardeners know – adding marigolds to your garden is a smart move. These golden blooms have value and can be a wise addition to garden beds and containers.
Marigolds are annuals, meaning their life cycle is one season. It’s a long season. They bloom from late spring until the first frost of fall. Although there are many varieties, three are the most wildly known.
Signet marigolds (Tagetes tenuifolia) grow to 12 inches tall and have small single blooms. These dainty flowers are edible and often used as a garnish on dinner plates.
African marigolds (Tagetes erecta) can reach 4 feet tall and have blooms 5 inches across. The sooner after frost that this variety is planted, the better. The extra time will allow this large plant to reach its full size and produce large flowers.
Another planting tip for the African marigold is to dig the planting hole deeper than six inches, then after stripping leaves from the stem, place in ground, making sure to cover the nodes of the stripped leaves. This allows the plant to establish a robust root system, something the plant will need to withstand heavy wind and rain.
The French marigold (Tagetes patula) is the most common and widely used variety, growing 8-10 inches tall and 6 – 8 inches wide. They are easily recognized with the double flowerheads in yellow, orange, and deep burnt red colors.
Marigolds like full sun. If their spot is too shady, the plants will become leggy and produce fewer blooms. They are easy to grow from seed and germinate quickly, often producing flowers in eight weeks.
Take a trip to any nursery, and you will see trays of marigolds a few inches tall and ready to be transplanted into your garden. When getting the soil ready to plant, loosen it up before placing the marigold (really any plant) in the ground. Be sure to water after planting.
Don’t be shy about using this plant in container arrangements. They are a dependable bloom that adds intense color to floral designs.
Marigolds not only add a shot of long-lasting color to the garden, but they also fight off insects. Their magical powers include acting as a mosquito repellant – a good reason to add them to containers near outdoor seating areas.
Try adding French marigolds near your vegetable gardens. They will reduce tomato hornworms, cabbage worms, aphids, and white flies. I add a row or two to the edges of my raised beds. This is a fun and purposeful way to add color to the vegetable garden.
Oh, did I mention deer and rabbits don’t like marigolds? Planting them near vegetables or other deer favorites might add a bit of protection – no guarantees, but the smell and taste may cause the deer to move along to another area.
Once established, marigolds are easy to care for. They do need water while young, but mature plants can handle a few dry days. Fertilizing is not necessary, especially if planted in the ground.
To keep the blooms coming strong all season, deadhead the spent flowers. This gives the plant more energy to produce new flowers. You might even try pinching back the tops of the young plants, so they grow bushier.
As fall approaches, let a few spent blooms dry on the stems, then collect them to save seeds for next year. Be sure to keep them cool and dry – and share them with friends.
Marigolds are golden treasures that should be added to all gardens. Their reliable color and easy care make easy work for gardeners, and if they keep even one deer away from my tomatoes, or one mosquito from feasting on unsuspecting gardeners they earn their spot in my designs.