Marigolds grow quickly and easily in any zone and are very drought-tolerant. Be careful with them if you don’t want to spread.
This plant can be easily grown by seeds either indoors in a pot, or in the garden. But once they grow, they enjoy the sun very much.
|Origin||North and South America|
|Type||Herbaceous annual or perennial plant|
|Height||6 to 25 inches|
|Watering||Maintain moist, well-draining soil|
There are over 40 species of marigold in existence that we know of, but most of those found in gardens come from just four main types.
American marigolds – Tagetes erecta
This upright species is the tallest of the marigolds, growing to heights of 4 feet. They are native to Central America and do well in hot and dry conditions. The flowers of these marigolds resemble large frilly pom poms and come in various colors, including deep orange and vibrant yellow. Due to their height, they often need staking and can demand a lot of space in the garden, often pushing aside other plants to ensure they get their requirement of full sun. They are sometimes also commonly referred to as African marigolds.
French marigolds - Tagetes patula
Growing anywhere from 6 inches to 2 feet tall, these marigolds are a more compact variety. They produce delicate-looking flowers in multicolor. The blooms of these species are smaller than others, and the plant often spreads to make it wider than it is tall (The Old Farmers Almanac).
Signet marigolds – Tagetes tenuifolia
These marigolds are the shortest of the three types, usually reaching less than 1 foot in height. They have a dainty appearance but actually have an aggressive growing habit. They will spread far and wide, ending up appearing in areas of the garden you didn’t intend them to be. They have an almost weed-like nature, clinging on to their spot for dear life. For this reason, they are the least popular type of marigold, but they do have their place in some gardens.
English marigold – Calendula officinalis
This plant is actually not a true marigold, but it is commonly called the English marigold or the pot marigold. It has different care requirements of true marigolds, and the flowers are actually edible, appearing of salad dishes for decoration.
Caring for Your Marigolds
Marigold plants are best grown from seed, as they germinate easily and are cheaper than buying ready-grown plants. You can sow the seeds directly in the ground, or you can get a head start by sowing them in trays indoors around 6-8 weeks before the final frost is expected.
To sow the seeds indoors, fill a tray half full with potting mix, ideally peat moss or perlite. Dampen the potting mix, then scatter the seeds over the top. Add another thin layer of potting mix over the top of the seeds, then cover the tray over with plastic wrap. The plastic cover helps to increase humidity and recreate the environment of a greenhouse.
Set the tray in a warm position, and germination should occur in just 2 or 3 days. Once seedlings have appeared, you need to remove the plastic wrap and set the tray in a position where the seedlings will receive at least 5 hours of sun each day. The potting mix should be kept moist but not wet; an occasional spritz of water spray should be sufficient.
Once seedlings have two sets of leaves each, they will need to be moved to their own pots. Continue to grow the seedlings indoors with 5 hours of light daily until the last frost has passed, at which point they can be transplanted to the ground outside. To ensure the seedlings survive, the ground will need to be warm, a minimum of 40 °F. The seedlings should be planted around two feet apart to allow enough growing space.
Alternatively, you can sow your seeds directly in the ground outside. Many gardeners prefer this option because marigolds germinate so quickly and grow so easily that there isn’t a huge benefit to growing them indoors. To grow marigolds outside, you will need to ensure that the final frost has passed and that the soil is warming up. Dig a hole for each individual seed, planting them around an inch from each other, and covering them over with soil.
Moisten the soil and aim to keep it damp but do not allow it to become soggy. In a few days, seedlings will appear. Once they are a few inches tall, they will need to be transplanted further apart from each other to allow for growing space. They should flower within around six weeks.
If you have purchased ready grown marigolds from a nursery, you can plant them any time during the summer, but earlier is better so that they can develop strong root systems that will help them cope with the winter.
When you remove your marigold plant from the plastic pot it has been growing in, you will probably find that it is fairly root bound, as marigold roots develop quickly. If this is the case, you’ll need to break up the roots before you plant the marigold. It might seem counterintuitive to inflict damage on the plant, but it will recover from the distress and be better for it. If you don’t break up the roots, they will struggle to take hold in the soil, and the plant will not thrive.
Dig a hole a little bigger than your root system to plant the marigold in, then set it in and backfill the hole. Gently press down the soil and water the plant generously to help it settle.
Marigolds like to be kept in moist soil, but they are susceptible to root rot and so will not do well in wet or soggy soil. To prevent the soil from becoming waterlogged, it’s important to ensure it drains well. If you do not have well-draining soil, you can improve its drainage quality by working sand or grit into it before planting your marigolds (Iowa State University).
When marigolds are first planted, they will need a generous drink to help settle them into their new soil and also to help jump-start their growing process. However, after this, marigolds don’t require much watering. They will thrive in moist soil, but they are also drought-tolerant when established and can often survive on rainfall alone.
In hot, dry summers, they will benefit from a generous soak once a week. Marigolds grown in containers are also drought-tolerant but will benefit from a watering every time the top of the soil dries out. When watering your marigolds, whether that be in a container or directly in the ground, always check that the topsoil is dry before watering.
These plants don’t like their soil to be wet, so this simple test will prevent you from inadvertently overwatering your marigolds. You should also water these plants at the soil level rather than overhead. The flowers have a tendency to transform into soggy brown mush if the petals get wet, and overhead watering can also lead to fungal growth in these plants.
Marigolds fare best in full sun. They are well-equipped to cope with very hot temperatures and can thrive in full sun all day long. It is only in the most extreme heat that marigolds will show any signs of struggling. If you do plant your marigolds in partial shade, they will adapt to this environment, but they will never bloom as profusely as those grown in full sun. Marigolds growing in shade are also prone to fungal diseases and rot.
If you are growing your marigolds in a container, you have the benefit of portability, so on very hot afternoons, you could move the container to a shaded position to give the plant some relief. This isn’t essential, and your plants will cope just fine in full sun, but some gardeners believe it helps to keep their marigolds in their best condition during especially hot weather.
Marigolds are hardy throughout all of the USDA zones, making them an accessible, easy-maintenance plant that can be grown almost anywhere. They will flower in warm temperatures, typically from spring right through until the first frost in October or November. They cope exceptionally well in high heat but will appreciate some shade if possible in these conditions.
It is recommended to not fertilize your soil when marigolds are in their growing season. Fertilizer would encourage dense foliage growth at the expense of flower production. Instead, if you wish, you can improve your soil quality by adding well-rotted compost to the topsoil around your marigolds in late fall. This will give the compost time to infiltrate the soil over winter, and by springtime when the marigold enters its growing phase, the soil will have benefitted from a top-up of nutrients.
Compost is a better idea to use on marigolds than fertilizer because it contains very low quantities of nutrients, helping to slightly boost plant growth without causing excessive growth in any one area.
Marigolds don’t strictly require pruning, but you can pinch their stems early in their growing season to encourage fuller and bushier growth rather than leggy stems. It’s also beneficial to deadhead the flowers once they are spent, as this will result in renewed blooms.
Do you have any questions about growing marigolds? Ask in the comments! And don’t forget to share this page with other interested growers!