Marigolds: the Fuss-Free, Bug-Repelling Summer Annual

July 20, 2017
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how to plant marigolds
Photo: SURROUNDS Landscape Architecture + Construction, original photo on Houzz.

There are numerous kinds of marigolds, but French marigolds and their taller cousins, African marigolds, are what most gardeners think of when the name comes to mind, thanks to their quick-growing habit and bright blooms. These favorite summer annuals add a punch of color to garden beds and containers, and help repel bugs when planted in the vegetable garden. They’re naturally hardy and pretty much carefree — just provide water and deadhead periodically, and you’ll enjoy their colorful presence well into fall.

Name: French marigold (Tagetes patula) and African, aka American, marigold (T. erecta)

Origin: Native to central Mexico and Central America

Where it will grow: As an annual in all USDA zones 

Water requirements: Regular to moderate water

Light requirements: Full sun

Mature size: French marigold, 6 to 18 inches tall and wide; African marigold, 1 foot to 3 feet tall and 1 foot to 2 feet wide

Benefits and tolerances: Sturdy plants with spicy fragrant blooms; tolerates wide range of soils and some drought; extremely pest-resistant; attracts bees; reputedly repels mosquitoes, nematodes and whiteflies.

Seasonal interest: Blooms through summer into fall; produces more blooms if deadheaded regularly.

When to plant: Sow seeds or set out seedlings in spring when danger of frost is past; you can continue to sow seeds for French marigolds into the summer and set out both types of marigolds well into summer to extend the bloom through the fall.

Distinguishing Traits

French marigolds feature lacy, dark green leaves with single or double blooms in single and mixed colors ranging from yellow and orange through red to maroon. Favorites include the Aurora series, the Bonanza series, Boy O’ Boy, China Cat Mix, Disco Flame, Disco Queen, Durango Red, Harlequin, the Janie series, Little Hero, Naughty Marietta, Queen Sophia, and Striped Marvel.

African marigolds top their dark green foliage with rounder flower heads in shades of yellow, gold, orange and cream. Favorites include Antigua, Climax, the Discovery series, French Vanilla, Gold Coin, Guys and Dolls, the Inca series, the Jubilee series, the Safari series, Sweet Cream, and Tashian Gold.

How to Use It

Use as an edging, a border or in drifts in flower beds. Incorporate into edible gardens to add color and repel whiteflies. They also work well planters and flower boxes.

African marigolds can handle hotter, drier conditions, so they’re a good choice in arid climates.

Planting Notes

Sow seeds in spring in a sunny spot with well-draining soil, adding a 5-10-5 granular fertilizer to the planting hole. Water thoroughly after planting. Thin seedlings to 8 to 12 inches apart once they emerge. Water regularly, but let the soil dry out between waterings. 

Deadhead African marigolds regularly to encourage repeat blooms. You also may need to stake them.

Marigolds are seldom bothered by pests, but if aphids or mites attack, spray them with water or an insecticidal soap for a few days.

"Enhance Edibles and Brighten Gardens With Sunny Marigolds" by Marianne Lipanovich originally appeared on, a source of more planting notes on marigolds and outdoor benches for a relaxing summer garden. Photo credit: SURROUNDS Landscape Architecture + Construction, original photo on Houzz.

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