How to plant and grow marigolds

One of the best-known and most delightful, easy to grow annuals, marigold flowers add a splash of yellow, orange, maroon and copper to your summer garden.

What you need to know about marigolds

Name: marigold, French marigold, African marigold, signet marigold, Tagetes erecta, Tagetes patula, Tagetes tenufolia – not to be confused with the calendula genus, which are frequently called marigolds but are actually in the daisy family.

Height: varies according to variety, from 10cm to 1m

Foliage: pale green feathery leaves.

Climate: all except tropical.

Soil: moderately fertile, well-drained soil.

Position: full sun or part shade.

Flowering: daisy-like or carnation-like flowers in gold, orange or bronze shades in summer, autumn and spring. Remove spent flowers.

Feeding: feed with liquid fertiliser monthly, don’t overfeed.

Watering: water well during hot periods.

Appearance and characteristics of marigolds

Marigold comes in a range of varieties, including the tall upright African marigold with big bold flowers, Tagetes erecta; the elegant, eye-catching and quite compact French marigold Tagetes patula, and the dainty signet marigold Tagetes tenufolia, massed in rockeries or containers. All have edible flowers, and in many countries these are often used in garlands and decorations for festivals and religious events.

Uses for marigolds

Marigold is great for massed displays in flower beds, in pots or as an ‘indicator plant’ to detect powdery mildew, or repel nematodes in vegetable and herb gardens.

Planting marigolds

Planting marigold seeds

1. Sow seeds directly into a sunny, well-drained garden bed once the soil is warm in spring, or get a head start and sow into pots in late autumn.

2. Keep them protected, and move them into the sun once the plants have grown.

Planting marigold punnets or pots

1. Remove the plants from the punnets or pots.

2. Separate them if they were in punnets.

3. Plant the marigolds in the garden 20–30cm apart.

4. Water well.

Close-up of Marigold flowers

Growing marigolds

Marigold plants germinate from seeds quickly, so you should see flowers within a few weeks. They thrive in full sunshine, so all you need to do is give them a sunny spot and let them do their thing!

An added bonus of planting marigolds is that they can be used for companion planting. Marigolds are a natural insect deterrent, so can increase the growth and health of fruits and vegetables such as broccoli, kale, cucumbers, eggplant, melons or tomatoes.

Caring for marigolds

Give your marigolds a deep drink when the top few centimetres of soil are dry. They hate to be wet and soggy, so never overwater, particularly in pots. If they’re allowed to stay wet they may develop root rot. Feed them with a liquid fertiliser once a month according to directions, but be careful not to overfeed. If the soil is too rich, your marigolds may become weak and not flower well. Pinch out spent blooms to keep plants bushy and to prolong flowering.

Diseases and pests affecting marigold

If rust or powdery mildew becomes a problem, treat with an appropriate fungicide. Look out for aphids, too. If the infestation of these sap suckers is small, you can hose them off or squash them, but if there are too many, spray them with an appropriate insecticide. Snails love nearly all seedlings, and marigold plants are no exception, but there are plenty of great deterrents such as snail and slug barrier.

If you like this then try

Petunia: hardy summer annual in a rainbow of colours.

Zinnia: an old favourite annual with big, bright, double flowers ranging from white to pink, red to orange and many more.

Gazania: a tough, fast-growing evergreen groundcover in a range of flower colours.

Salvia ‘Blaze of Fire’: a striking annual with large red flower spikes in summer.

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