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Growing the best Marigolds for summer color splash

Updated on October 4, 2015
Patsybell profile image

I inherited my love of gardening from my mother and grandmother. I am a garden blogger, freelance writer, and Master Gardener emeritus.

Marigolds grow in any garden

Marigolds are good companion plants. The bright flowers attract pollinators to the garden.
Marigolds are good companion plants. The bright flowers attract pollinators to the garden. | Source

Texas Tarragon

Wait until seed pods are dry before collecting them. Sometimes called Mexican Taragon.
Wait until seed pods are dry before collecting them. Sometimes called Mexican Taragon. | Source

Seeds or Plants?

Looking at all those garden catalogs in your mail and online? Marigolds are a good choice for any garden.

Sow Seed or buy plants?

Marigold seed can be started indoors or, you can wait for warmer weather and sow directly into the garden. Starting plants indoors gives you the opportunity to see the plant in it's intended garden location sooner. That may help you with planning, planting and orientation of your early garden.

Sowing seed directly may take longer at first. You may see blooms on the early, sown indoors plant first. Eventually, the plants will catch up with each other. Either method shows no advantage to seed starting or buying small starter plants.

The best reason to start from seed

The best reason to start from seed is the greater variety of choices. Next best reason is money. Growing marigolds from seed will mean more plants for the same amount of money.

Pot marigold or calendula

Dead heading Calendula will bring on more blooms.
Dead heading Calendula will bring on more blooms. | Source

Quick start tips for growing marigolds

  • All types of marigolds are drought-tolerant and easy to grow. Choose the varieties that appeal to you.
  • Seedlings emerge in 7-14 days. Do not fertilize.
  • Small varieties - sow seeds sparingly, about 4” apart. Lightly cover to about ¼” deep, gently firm soil with the palm of your hand. Keep soil moist, not wet.
  • Large varieties - sow seeds about 6" apart and cover with 1⁄4" of fine soil. Firm lightly and keep evenly moist.
  • Thin seedlings to stand 9-12" apart when seedlings are 1" high. Thinned seedlings are easily transplantable.
  • Marigolds are frequently planted among vegetable crops to prevent infestations and diseases.
  • Add marigolds to sunny containers, herb gardens, flowerbeds or borders.
  • Plant marigolds with both sun-loving annuals or perennials in your garden. Their bright golden colors never clash.
  • It is not necessary, however deadheading marigolds will produce even more flowers.

Summer Splash

Summer Splash marigold. Beautiful blue-green foliage coninously covered with bright yellow single blooms.
Summer Splash marigold. Beautiful blue-green foliage coninously covered with bright yellow single blooms. | Source

How to grow

from starter plants

Loosen the soil where you will plant the marigolds. Plant the little starter plants at the same depth as they were growing in the pot. Keep well watered until the roots are established. Plants can take up to 20% shade but grow best in full sun.

from seed

Choose a full sun location. Loosen the soil and then smooth it out, breaking up any clods. Sparingly plant seed 4-6" apart. Marigolds aren't particular about soil quality. They will actually bloom better in poor soil. Rich soil or over fertilizing will just make more foliage, not more flowers.

What kind to grow

Marigolds are easy, not fussy about soil and, can't get too much sun. So, choose what you like or grow several varieties from seed.

There are several varieties of marigold. You may be familiar with the genus, Tagetes .

  • Calendula is called pot marigold, very different from common marigold but also able to withstand heat and drought. Pot marigold comes in yellows and rusty or golden colors. Flower petals are used as garnish on soups, salads and as food coloring. These are big plants and big blooms. An herb garden must have.
  • Mexican marigold, Tagetes erecta, in hotter climates, where tarragon won't grow, gardeners often substitute Mexican marigold for tarragon. It is a native to Mexico and Central America making it an ideal alternative herb in south Texas, for example. Other common names include Mexican marigold, Mexican mint marigold, Mexican tarragon, Spanish tarragon, and Texas tarragon. This variety is small and dainty.
  • French marigold, Tagetes patula is native to the Americas and South Europe. Varieties include flowers which are doubled, large single daisy-like or supercrested/ Up to 2 inches in diameter. These are like common marigolds, only much bigger.

Seed Sources

Marigolds, both plants and seeds, are easy to find in big box stores, garden centers and online. I start marigolds from seed because I believe you can never have too many marigolds. Almost all seed catalogs carry marigolds. These are seed sources I have used. Seeds were promptly delivered, had high germination rates and performed as advertised.


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