If you enjoy fluffy blooms with warm, sunny colors, marigolds are the perfect addition to your garden.
The benefits of marigolds go far beyond their delightful appearance; however, they are also incredibly beneficial for your garden’s ecosystem due to their marvelous ability to repel harmful insects.
In this guide, we will explain how you can grow marigolds easily and successfully. Jump to any section in the advanced jump below, or read on for the full marigold grow guide.
- What Are Marigolds?
- Are Marigolds Annuals or Perennials?
- Marigold Basics
- Where Do Marigolds Grow?
- Why Grow Marigolds?
- When Do Marigolds Bloom?
- How Long Do Marigolds Bloom?
- When to Plant Marigolds
- Ideal Growing Conditions for Marigolds
- How to Plant Marigolds
- How to Propagate Marigolds
- How to Care for Marigolds
- Recommended Planting Combinations for Marigold
- Marigold Landscaping Ideas
- Recommended Marigold Varieties
- Frequently Asked Questions About Growing Marigolds
- Where to Buy Marigolds
What Are Marigolds?
The term “marigold” is ambiguous. It does not refer to just one type of plant. It can refer to plants across a few genera.
Frequently, the word “marigold” refers to plants that are in the genus Tagetes, which has around 50 species in all.
Some Tagetes are classified as perennials, while others are sold as annuals (see the section below for more details).
Tagetes is part of the Asteraceae family, which is the aster family. You can learn more about asters by checking out our Asters Full Growing Guide.
The name “marigold” is actually a short form of “Mary’s Gold.” This name sometimes is used to refer to a plant in a different genus, Calendula officinalis.
In fact, Calendula officinalis is also sometimes called the “common marigold” or “pot marigold” or “Scotch marigold.”
Even though Calendula is a separate genus from Tagetes, it is also part of the aster family, so they are related.
Calendula itself has about 15-20 species in it.
Calendulas, in particular, are considered to have importance in a number of different religious traditions, including Christian, Aztec, Greek, Roman, and Hindu. Indeed, the name “Mary’s Gold” is a reference to the Virgin Mary from Christian lore.
Curious about the origin of the name Tagetes? North Carolina Extension Gardener Plant Toolbox says, “The name Tagetes comes from the name of an Etruscan seer supposedly born from the plowing of the earth and refers to the ease with which plants of this genus come out each year either by the seeds produced in the previous year or by the stems which regrow from the stump already in place.”
Here is a quick breakdown of the plants we commonly call “marigolds” that are part of Calendula:
• Field marigolds
• Wild marigolds
• Madeiran marigolds
• Sea marigolds
• Scottish/pot marigolds
There are some species of calendulas that are not as often called “marigolds” as well.
Most other plants that are called “marigolds” belong to Tagetes.
We should note that there are also several plants called “marigolds” that are not part of Tagetes or Calendula. Examples include the marsh marigold, the desert marigold, and the corn marigold, all of which belong to other genera.
In this guide, we will be discussing both Tagetes species as well as Calendula species. We will not be dwelling on the other types of marigolds that are in other genera.
Are Marigolds Annuals or Perennials?
Some marigolds are classified as perennial plants, while others are classified as annual plants.
A couple of examples of perennial marigolds include pot marigolds and Mexican marigolds.
Some examples of annual marigolds include French and African marigolds.
Your climate zone, as well as whether you choose to keep your marigolds outdoors year-round, can also impact whether or not marigolds are considered to be “annual” or “perennial.”
North Carolina Extension Gardener Plant Toolbox explains, “Depending on their environment and whether they are grown as an outdoor or indoor plant, Marigolds can be annuals or perennials.”
In other words, if you have an “annual” marigold, you may be able to grow it as a perennial and have it come back to bloom in future years if you can protect it from your winter climate. You could do that by overwintering it indoors or keeping it indoors year-round.
If you have a warm enough climate zone, then you might even be able to get away with growing these types of marigolds outdoors all year without them dying.
Even “annual” marigolds self-seed quite well, however, so do not despair—even if your marigolds do die during winter, chances are good you will see new ones the following year.
In fact, many people mistake their new marigold plants for their old ones.
|Zones:||2-11 (overwintering required in cooler zones)|
|Blooming season:||Summer through fall|
|Expected height:||Up to 3 feet|
|Soil:||Loamy, well-drained soil|
Where Do Marigolds Grow?
Tagetes marigolds are native to Mexico. Calendula marigolds are native to Western Europe, the Mediterranean, Macaronesia, and southwestern Asia.
Because marigolds are such popular plants, they are now cultivated around the world.
Again, they are often marketed as annuals, but with the right care during winter or a suitable climate, you may be able to keep them as perennials (a wider range of climate zones will be suitable if you purchase marigolds that are always considered to be perennials).
Why Grow Marigolds?
Marigolds are arguably some of the most useful plants you can grow! For this reason, we recommend them to all gardeners, whether beginning or advanced. Here are some of their many benefits:
• Potted marigold plants can work as indoor-outdoor plants that you take outside during the growing season and back inside during winter, or you can grow them as indoor houseplants.
• Marigolds are drought-resistant. You need to give them extra water while establishing, but after that, they will stand up to hot, dry climates nicely.
• These plants actually repel pests. Expect fewer problems with mosquitoes and other unwanted garden guests after you strategically plant marigolds. Indeed, they are the vegetable gardener’s best friend.
• Marigolds are quite popular as cut flowers. Cared for properly, they can last quite a while.
• The sunny blooms bring a cheerful mix of colors to your garden. They also are some of the best plants you can pick for borders.
• Despite the fact that marigolds tend to all fall within a limited range of hues, the appearances of their petals can vary dramatically. So, two different marigold cultivars may look far more distinct from each other than you would guess.
• Marigolds are low-maintenance and easy to care for, making them a breeze to grow even for novices.
• Attract pollinators to your garden with marigolds. Hummingbirds cannot get nectar out of them, but you will draw butterflies and bees aplenty.
• Marigolds have some additional household uses. Certain types can be used in the kitchen, and calendula can lighten the hair.
When Do Marigolds Bloom?
The bloom season for marigolds starts in summer and ends in fall.
How Long Do Marigolds Bloom?
Marigolds typically bloom for several months. While each flower lasts a short time, they blossom continuously, producing many blooms before the season is over.
When to Plant Marigolds
Regardless of the type of marigold you are growing, you will have the best results if you plant them in spring.
Ideal Growing Conditions for Marigolds
Below, we go over the sun, soil, and water requirements for keeping marigolds happy.
How Much Sun Do Marigolds Need?
Full, direct sunlight is important for marigolds. They do not produce abundant blooms in shady conditions. So, if you are growing them outdoors, find a sunny spot in your garden for them. If you are growing them indoors, they will do best in a sunny window.
There are a couple of exceptions to the “full sun” rule. The first is if you live in a really hot location where light afternoon shade might be beneficial. The second is if you are planting Calendula specifically, which has a wider tolerance range than Tagetes marigolds for shadier conditions.
What Type of Soil is Right for Marigolds?
Well-draining soil is important no matter what type of marigolds you are planting. Average soil is suitable, as is rich soil. Poorer soils may need amendments to provide ideal growing conditions. Beyond that, these plants are pretty tolerant of a variety of soil types.
What should the pH be? Tagetes appear to be fine regardless of whether your soil is neutral or slightly acidic, and Calendula varieties can likewise thrive in this same pH range.
How Much Water Do Marigolds Need?
Check the soil around your marigolds to see if the top 1 and a half inches or so have dried out. When they have, it is time to water them. Water them from the bottom so as to avoid getting their leaves wet. That way, you are less likely to have problems with rot.
Do not overwater marigolds! It is easy to do, and they will not appreciate it.
Be aware, however, that the marigolds in your pots may need more water than those in your flower beds since they will dry out more quickly. Be especially alert to this during the hottest times of the year.
How to Plant Marigolds
Although many people use seeds to propagate marigolds, it is common to purchase them first as nursery plants. Below are instructions for planting marigold starter plants in your flower beds or as outdoor container plants.
Here are the directions for planting bedding marigolds in the ground in your flower garden:
1. After selecting a suitable spot in your garden, prepare the soil. You probably can leave it alone if it is well-draining and average to fertile soil, but if it is poor soil, then consider mixing in a bit of compost to enrich it. Doing so will also push the pH toward acidity, which may be helpful as well if your soil happens to be alkaline. The drainage will improve as well.
2. Dig holes for your marigolds. You should place them 8-18” apart, depending on how large the varieties are that you have chosen. Note that in pots, they do not need nearly this much space (around 3-5” is suitable).
3. Backfill the soil and gently tamp it down.
4. Water well.
As your marigolds are establishing, they will require some extra water. But once they are done establishing, you should be careful not to over-water them.
Here is how to grow marigolds in containers:
1. Choose a container with drainage holes for your marigold. Many marigolds are quite compact, so you do not necessarily need a particular large container, but it depends on what type you are growing.
2. Fill the container with potting mix.
3. Add the marigold to the container and continue filling in the potting mix around it.
4. Water well.
It is that simple! Do give your potted marigolds some extra water while they get established.
How to Propagate Marigolds
Marigolds can be propagated using either seeds or cuttings. Below are instructions for both methods.
Starting Marigolds from Seed
It is easy to grow marigolds from seeds whether you start them indoors or outdoors. Indeed, even if you are not trying to propagate them this way, do not be surprised if your outdoor marigolds end up propagating themselves with no intervention on your part.
The exact directions for marigold propagation by seed depend on the type of marigold you are planting as well as whether you start them indoors or outdoors. But to give you an example, here is how to grow French marigolds from seed outdoors.
1. Scatter the marigold seeds on the ground.
2. Sprinkle ⅛ inch of soil on top of the seeds.
3. Water the flower bed where you planted the seeds.
4. Label the seeds so you do not forget about them.
5. When the seedlings germinate, you will need to thin them so they can continue to grow without crowding together.
Continue to water the marigolds extra while they are growing and establishing.
Starting Marigolds from Cuttings
Here is how to propagate marigolds from their cuttings:
1. Use sanitized scissors to trim off some stems. Each should measure 2-6”. Target stems that do not have flowers, and try to get three sets of leaves on each.
2. Keep the top leaves for all the stems, but remove the lower leaves.
3. Add potting mix to a tray with drainage holes. Then, use a spray bottle to get the potting mix moist.
4. Use a chopstick or something similar to make holes in the potting mix where you will plant the cuttings.
5. Dip the ends of the cuttings in the rooting hormone.
6. Insert the cuttings into the potting mix. Packing the potting mix around the bases of the stems enough to hold them upright.
7. Cover the trays with clear plastic bags to simulate the conditions in a greenhouse. Do not allow the bags to touch the stems.
8. Find a warm spot with sunlight or grow lights where the cuttings can root.
9. The plastic bag will help keep the potting mix moist, but it will dry out if you do not routinely add more water with the spray bottle. So, keep checking on it and moistening the potting mix.
10. Continue monitoring the cuttings for the next few weeks. By then, they will have rooted, and you can consider transplanting them.
11. If you are transplanting the marigolds outdoors, harden them first.
How to Divide Marigolds
We don’t see a lot of evidence that people divide their marigolds. If you are growing them as annuals, obviously, there is no point in doing this.
What if you have perennial marigolds? We still do not see any indication that dividing these plants is a thing.
In fact, American Meadows states that calendula plants are averse to division. Given that is the case, we expect what they are saying here covers even the most likely candidates for division when it comes to marigolds.
In conclusion, do not plan on dividing marigolds.
How to Care for Marigolds
Marigolds are pretty easy to take care of, requiring minimal care in the areas of fertilizing, mulching, staking, and pruning. Let’s learn more about each.
How to Fertilize Marigolds
It is up to you whether you want to fertilize marigolds when you plant them. Amending poor soil with compost is often sufficient, but a slow-release 5-10-5 granular fertilizer is also a good choice at this stage.
Should you fertilize marigolds during the growing season? Not according to Almanac, which says that this can get in the way of abundant blooms—especially if there is a lot of nitrogen in the formula.
Almanac does say that when you get around to deadheading Tagetes, however, you should fertilize them, particularly annual varieties.
What if you are growing Calendula marigolds rather than Tagetes? Utah State University Yard and Garden Extension say you should do the following when planting:
“Before planting, determine fertilizer needs with a soil test and then follow the test report recommendations. If fertilizer applications are warranted, work the fertilizer into the top 6 inches of soil. If you fertilize with compost, apply no more than 1 inch of well-composted organic matter per 100 square feet of garden area.”
What about later on? The site says, “Calendula needs little additional fertilization. Side dress plants every month with a complete soluble fertilizer to insure optimal growth and constant bloom development.”
How to Mulch Marigolds
Marigolds can benefit from mulch, since it can help to lock moisture into the soil while also keeping weeds from encroaching on your plants.
Over the winter, however, mulch is not sufficient to protect marigolds from cold weather. Instead, you will need to bring them indoors if you want them to survive.
How to Stake Marigolds
While a lot of marigolds are fine without staking, if you have taller varieties, especially in windy, unsheltered parts of your garden, it can be helpful to stake them. This will also help them to stay upright if you get a lot of rain. Fabric ties and relatively short stakes (about 2’) are perfect. Attach the plants loosely and carefully.
How to Prune Marigolds
If you want your marigold plants to branch out more, you should prune them early in the growing season. As the season unfolds, you can proceed to deadheading (see below).
How to Deadhead Marigolds
Deadheading marigolds is highly beneficial, since these plants may produce more flower buds if you remove the spent blossoms.
Along with enjoying a greater abundance of blooms throughout the growing season, deadheading will help you to keep your marigolds’ appearance nice and tidy.
When to Cut Back Marigolds
Aside from pruning during the growing season, do you need to cut back marigolds when the season ends?
If you are treating the marigolds as annuals, then you can either trim them back or remove them to discard once their foliage dies. You shouldn’t leave the dead foliage around since it might harbor pests in your garden.
But if you want to keep marigolds as perennials, what you should do with them depends on how you plan to keep them alive.
If you are in a warm climate zone, you might get away with leaving them outdoors.
But if you have cool winters, you will have to overwinter your marigolds indoors. That means that you will have to dig them up and move them inside in pots. Rather than trimming them back, put them under grow lights.
Are Marigolds Vulnerable to Diseases or Pests?
Some diseases that marigolds may sometimes contract are stem rot, wilt, leaf spot, aster yellow virus, and botrytis blight.
In terms of insects, you usually do not have a lot to worry about since marigolds repel quite a few of them (see the section below). But sometimes, Japanese beetles and spider mites may still attack them. Slugs and snails can also cause problems.
What about rabbits and deer? There, your mileage may vary. Some gardeners report that marigolds repel deer and do not get munched on by mammals. But others report that deer and/or rabbits (especially rabbits) may be undeterred and still try to eat the marigolds.
Do Marigolds Repel Garden Pests?
You may have heard that marigolds can help keep pests out of your garden. Is it true? Actually, yes!
This research paper explains, “Several species of marigold (Tagetes spp.) are known to contain phytochemicals with pesticidal activity. For example, numerous studies have shown insecticidal activity associated with Tagetes erecta L. (African marigold), T. minuta L. (Mexican marigold), or T. patula L. (French marigold) against mosquitoes [15–20], sand flies , a leaf hopper , grain/seed beetles [23–26], termites , human head lice , bed bug , an aphid , and several caterpillars [31,32]. These marigold species have also shown activity as acaricides [33,34] and nematocides [35–37].”
That is quite an extensive list! So, if you want to reduce the pest population in your garden, marigolds will help you do it.
Recommended Planting Combinations for Marigold
Given the effectiveness of marigold in repelling a wide range of pests, it is wise to use marigold as a companion plant in your vegetable garden. It can help protect potatoes, cucumbers, cabbages, corn and more.
That said, there is a specific way to go about this if you want to be effective. Almanac says, “To take advantage of this effect, don’t plant marigolds directly alongside vegetables. Instead, plant a mass of marigolds in the spring in the area where you intend to grow a fall crop. In mid-to-late summer, remove the marigolds and plant vegetables and greens for a fall harvest.”
What about floral companions for marigold? Quite a few different plants can thrive alongside marigold, with examples including lavender, salvia, roses, allium, geraniums and more.
Other flowers that have yellow or orange hues can complement your marigolds, while those in blue and purple hues can provide a beautiful contrast.
Marigold Landscaping Ideas
Here are some of the top ways to make use of the fiery color of marigolds in your landscaping.
• Border garden: This is one of the most popular uses for marigolds. You can either plant a border that is entirely comprised of marigolds, or you can plant a mixed border. You can do this by alternating clumps of marigolds with other plants, or by intermixing marigolds and other small flowers with contrasting colors.
• Formal garden: You will discover that marigolds are ideal for creating that formal garden look where you plant flowers in parallel rows to create bands of vivid color.
• Container garden: Marigolds are very happy in containers, and keeping them in pots is convenient for overwintering. So, that is an excellent use for marigolds in your landscape. Use them to dress up your deck or patio with sunny hues.
• Herb garden: Calendula, in particular, has some handy herbal uses (for example, you can use it to lighten your hair). So, it has a place in an herb garden.
• Pollinator garden: If you want to attract butterflies and bees to a particular part of your garden, that is the perfect area for planting your marigolds.
• Around doors and windows: By planting marigolds around openings to your home, you may help to prevent mosquitoes and other pests from coming inside.
Recommended Marigold Varieties
Let’s give a quick breakdown of some of the different types of marigolds you might want to consider planting in your garden.
Mexican marigolds are classified as perennial or annual plants, and are part of the Tagetes genus. The name actually refers to four different species:
• Tagetes erecta
• Tagetes lemmonii
• Tagetes lucida
• Tagetes minuta
In Mexico, all of these plants may collectively sometimes be called cempasúchil. Another common name for them is the Aztec marigold or American marigold. As suggested by that name, they were part of Aztec ceremonies, in particular, Dia de los Muertos.
All four of these species of marigolds have very different appearances. It may interest you that Tagetes erecta sports fluffy blooms, similar to those found on many types of marigolds that are marketed as annuals. Sometimes this type of marigold is referred to as African marigold, but note that it does not come from Africa.
You will find a wide variety of cultivars of Mexican marigolds for sale. One cultivar of Tagetes erecta called “Inca Orange” is a winner of the Award of Garden Merit from the Royal Horticultural Society.
Another fabulous marigold to think about planting is the Hawaii cultivar. This one features massive 5” double blooms with really densely packed ruffled petals. They stand 3’ tall as well, so they stand out in your garden. They would look particularly beautiful interspersed with alliums.
Some other popular cultivars of Aztec marigolds include French Vanilla, the Gold Coin series, the Jubilee series, and the Safari series.
If you want to grow some pot marigolds (Calendula marigolds), here are a few popular cultivars you might enjoy:
• Citrus Cocktail: This cultivar is compact and ideal for container planting. It sports blooms in orange and yellow.
• Touch of Red: As the name suggests, this fiery cultivar features some red on the petals together with orange.
• Pink Surprise: These blooms can be described as having a pinkish apricot hue.
• Greenheart Orange: As suggested, these orange blooms feature green centers.
• Golden Princess: For yellow flowers with black centers, try this variety.
There are many other types of pot marigolds you can plant in your garden, so research online to discover the diversity of these lovely plants.
Here are some of the top cultivars of French marigolds:
• Hero: This series of marigolds produce large double blooms in orange, maroon, and yellow. The plant can grow up to 10” high.
• Little Hero: Here is a variation on the Hero cultivar that produces somewhat shorter plants, topping out at around 7”.
• Aurora: This cultivar produces orange, maroon, and yellow flowers similar to anemones.
• Bonanza: Another option for double blooms is this cultivar. The flower colors are similar to those found on the Hero cultivar, and they top out at around 8”.
• Boy O’ Boy: This series of marigolds is only around 6”, making it relatively compact. Nevertheless, it produces a great abundance of blooms.
• Brocade: For an especially classy type of marigold, get this cultivar, which looks regal and delicate.
• Colossus Red Gold: The name of this cultivar perfectly describes its 3” blooms, which feature gold and burgundy hues.
• Court Jester: One of the most striking cultivars of marigold, this one features distinct stripes of maroon and yellow on its petals.
• Daisy Wheel: These flowers appear similar to daisies, and have a light yellow color.
Remember, this is not an exhaustive list of all the different types of marigolds or their cultivars. There are many other marigold varieties for you to explore.
Frequently Asked Questions About Growing Marigolds
To conclude our guide to how to grow marigolds, let’s answer a few questions that gardeners tend to ask about these delightful sunny blooms.
There are a couple kinds of insects that can eat marigolds, and sometimes rabbits or deer may eat them. But the most likely culprit is slugs. You will want to be diligent in keeping them away from your marigolds.
No, marigolds are quite easy to grow, regardless of what types you want to plant.
Yes, you may be able to eat some types of marigolds; Burpee explains, “Signet marigolds appear on many lists of edible flowers. The petals from their tiny flowers add bright color and a spicy tang to tossed salads. Chopped, the petals make a tangy garnish for boiled eggs, steamed vegetables, or fish dishes. Use only homegrown flowers to insure they are free of chemical pesticides. Use caution if you tend to be allergic to various grasses and other plants.”
Almanac seems to contradict this by stating that Calendula flowers can be eaten, but Tagetes flowers cannot (signet marigolds are part of the Tagetes genus). So, it probably just depends on what type of Tagetes flowers you have. Look up the culinary uses (or otherwise) for your marigold species before you attempt to eat it, just to make sure you do not eat something you shouldn’t.
Yes, some types of marigolds are effective at keeping away mosquitoes. This is one of the reasons they make a great container plant for your deck or patio. If you eat out there, then surrounding your table with potted marigolds may help you relax and enjoy your outdoor meals without becoming a meal to mosquitoes yourself.
Calendula officinalis is listed as non-toxic to dogs and cats. But we have seen multiple sources say that Tagetes species are mildly toxic to animals. Contact may result in irritation to the skin, while ingestion can lead to GI symptoms. Thankfully, these symptoms tend to be mild.
For this reason, marigolds seem to be among the safer options for planting in your garden if you have a pet that wanders around your yard.
The answer to whether marigolds are deer-resistant or not seems to depend on whom you ask. In general, deer do not like their scents. But some particularly persistent deer will try to eat them anyway.
No, marigolds are affordable. If you grow perennial marigolds, you can enjoy them for years. If you grow the annual ones, they are still pretty affordable since you can propagate them and enjoy new flowers the following season.
Where to Buy Marigolds
If you want to grow marigolds in your outdoor or indoor garden, you will find the best selection of cultivars online. Enjoy the pest-fighting, pollinator-attracting benefits of these yellow and orange flowers.