How to Grow Marigolds for a Splash of Sunny Garden Color

By Alexa Erickson


Beautifully bright marigolds are low-maintenance annuals that deserve a place in every garden. They sprout quickly, reliably bloom within two months, last all summer and into fall, and have very little disease and insect issues. For these reasons, marigolds make for a colorful and satisfying addition to the yard that both gardening newbies and aficionados can appreciate. Plus, even though they’re technically annual flowers, it’s almost guaranteed that they’ll come back and bloom year after year without you having to lift a finger. Dig into this breezy how-to guide to grow the cheerful flowers yourself.

how to grow marigolds

Photo via Plastic What You Preach


About Marigolds

Marigolds (Tagetes species) are easy-to-grow plants that have pom-pom, daisy-like, or anemone-shaped flower heads and bloom colors range from yellow and gold to orange, red, and mahogany. Knowing a little bit about marigold history makes growing them even more exciting: Marigolds date back to the Aztec people, who valued them for their magical, religious, and medicinal properties. By the 1920s, marigolds had become a popular garden choice, and breeding had produced hundreds of new varieties—with even more variations hitting the market each year in the present day.


There are an estimated 50 species of marigolds, with most identifying as annuals, though a few are perennials. It’s easy to confuse the types, however, since marigolds self-seed, meaning the plants produce seeds that fall back into the ground every year to replant themselves. So while they appear to be perennials, they’re actually just growing back from their own seeds.

African marigolds

Photo via Carasia Landscaping


Types of Marigolds

There are two main species of marigolds you’ll come across at the garden nursery: French marigolds (Tagetes patula) and African marigolds (Tagetes erecta). French marigolds have a compact structure and small flowers in comparison to African marigolds, which have blooms up to four inches across. You’ll also see African marigolds sometimes referred to as American marigolds and Mexican marigolds.


When to Plant Marigolds

Plant African marigold varieties in early spring, once the chance of frost in your hardiness zone has dissipated. Since African marigolds are taller, planting them earlier in the season gives them time to grow, since they are slower to mature and produce flowers. You can plant French marigolds any time from spring through midsummer.


For most marigolds, you can sow seeds directly into the garden come spring, once the soil is warm enough—about 70-75 degrees Fahrenheit (investing in a soil thermometer will help you figure out its temperature). You can also start seeds indoors about two months prior to the last anticipated frost date. Once the seeds germinate and start to sprout, transplant them outdoors after the last frost.


Where to Plant Marigolds

The majority of marigold varieties thrive in areas with full sun, but they can tolerate some shade—which is especially appreciated if you live in a hot climate. Due to their tall, lanky structure, African marigolds will benefit from being planted in an area protected from harsh elements, like strong winds and heavy rainfall. Marigolds can grow in just about any soil, but they’ll flourish in moderately fertile, well-drained soil.

If you’re planting a veggie garden, you’re in luck: According to the Old Farmer’s Almanac, French marigolds are particularly known for repelling harmful nematodes (microscopic worms) that attack the roots of garden vegetables. If you’re planning a vegetable garden with a fall harvest, consider planting marigolds where you intend to grow fall crops. When late summer approaches, remove the marigolds and plant your vegetables and greens.

how to plant marigolds from seed

How to Plant Marigolds

Depending on the type of marigold you choose to plant in your garden, there are two ways to plant: from seed or by transplants. French marigolds can easily be started from seed since they germinate so quickly. On the other hand, African marigolds are best purchased as young plants, since they can take a long time to flower. 


Planting Marigolds from Seed

If you plan to grow marigolds from seed, start seed shopping in the winter. As we mentioned earlier, it’s best to start marigolds from seed about two months before your region’s anticipated frost date, but check the directions on the back of the seed packet just to be sure.


Tools and Materials Needed

  • Hose or watering can
  • Garden rake
  • Garden gloves (optional)
  • Marigold seeds


Step 1: Wet Soil

Wet the soil lightly several hours before sowing. The soil should be moist to the touch but not soggy when planting.


Step 2: Rake and Level Soil

Rake back some of the soil to use for covering the seeds. Level out the soil and pat down until firm. 


Step 3: Plant Seeds

Sprinkle some seeds into the palm of your hand, then place groups of three to four seeds on the patted down soil, spacing 6-12 inches apart (depending on whether you chose a smaller or larger variety of marigold—check the back of your seed packet for a recommendation). Gently press the seeds into the soil, then cover lightly with the saved soil. The seeds should be buried ½-inch deep.


Step 4: Water

Pat and smooth the soil gently, then water with a gentle setting on your hose (or watering can). Water daily until seedlings sprout. Once sprouted, begin to taper off watering and give plants one inch of water per week. 


Planting Marigolds from Transplants 

Marigold transplants will likely hit garden nurseries at the beginning of the summer. When it comes to planting these young plants directly in the ground, aim to do that once the soil has reached 70 degrees F.


Tools and Materials Needed

  • Hose or watering can
  • Garden rake
  • Garden gloves (optional)
  • Compost
  • Garden knife
  • Young marigold plants


Step 1: Prepare Bed

If beginning with marigolds purchased at a nursery, prepare a bed for the plants two weeks prior to transplanting them. Choose a sunny site and one where water drains well. Break up the soil to a depth of 6-8 inches. Add a 3-inch layer of compost into the bed. 


Step 2: Water the Transplants

Water the plants well and let them dry to a damp state before planting.


Step 3: Dig the Holes

Dig a planting hole for each marigold, making sure each hole is slightly larger than the rootball that will be placed within it. Space each hole 8-10 inches apart for French marigolds and 10-12 for African. 


Step 4: Transplant the Marigolds

Remove the marigolds from their containers. Inspect each rootball, slicing the outermost layer of any that appear pot-bound (when the roots are matted in thick layers around the rootball). Lightly tug on the roots until they freely hang. Place the marigolds in the planting holes, splaying the roots out. 


Step 5: Backfill and Water

Backfill with soil and press firmly into place, then water the base of each marigold thoroughly.

how to care for marigolds

Photo via Plastic What You Preach


How to Care for Marigolds

You’ve put the work into growing your marigolds, now it’s time to properly care for them so that they’ll have a long bloom season and self-seed to come back next year. Here are a few marigold care tips to keep these bloomers strong all season.


Watering

Water marigold plants well at the base, then ensure the soil is moderately dry before watering again. In extreme heat, you’ll find that the soil will dry quicker and that you’ll have to water more often.


Pinching and Deadheading

There’s no need to deadhead marigolds, but once the blooms have wilted, pinch off the tops of the plants. This will encourage more blooming and bushier growth later in the season and will keep the plant healthy.


Fertilizing and Mulching

Avoid fertilizing marigolds during growth, as the nitrogen in the soil will boost foliage but can hinder flower production. You can add mulch around the marigolds once planted to prevent weeds from growing around them—as a bonus, mulch will also help keep soil moist for longer, which will be helpful in hotter months.


Pest and Disease Control

Compared to other plants, marigolds have few pests and diseases, so you should sleep well knowing there won’t be many unwanted visitors near them. Marigolds may occasionally suffer a spider mite or aphid infestation, but this can easily be cured by simply spritzing the plants with water or an insecticide soap every other day until the pests are gone (it usually takes a week or two).


Fungal diseases like powdery mildew can take form on marigold leaves if they’re exposed to too much water. For this reason, it’s best to water at the base of the plant and to space marigolds out at their recommended lengths so they’re not on top of each other.


Have you grown marigolds in your garden? If so, give us your best tips and tricks below!

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  • Thomas hogan Thomas hogan on Oct 05, 2021

    Have grown marigold once , but it was a disaster lol , will try my best to learn more from here and to be able to grow it well again , thank u


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