There’s more to sunny marigolds than meets the eye.
These brightly colored annual and perennial flowers add gold, yellow, white, red, and copper to the landscape through summer and fall. The simple daisy shapes or full to bursting carnation-like blooms, related to sunflowers, are able to thrive in our scorching hot summers long after fainter hearts have collapsed. If that weren’t reason enough, there is magic in marigolds!
The magic of marigold lies in its scent. While we may (or may not) enjoy it, many animal and insect pests really don’t like it. These makes marigolds an excellent natural deterrent to pests that will attack your tomatoes, eggplant, potatoes, and sweet peppers. Deer, rabbits, moles, and voles are also said to dislike the scent enough to forage elsewhere. Chemicals in the roots even attract and then kill nematodes. While nothing works 100%, marigolds can help reduce some nematode populations as they give your edibles a lovely floral border!
Types of marigolds
Marigolds used to only be available in yellow carnation type blooms. Now, the range of colors and bloom shapes is astounding. As you shop for marigold seeds or seedlings, keep in mind that there are three main types of marigolds:
Marigolds can be grown in containers, on windowsills, or in any sunny spot in the landscape or garden, as long as they are not near legumes. Some people claim that marigolds should not be grown near legumes. They say that the chemicals that make marigolds beneficial, can also interrupt the nitrogen-fixing capabilities of legumes, such as peas and beans, but I don’t know if this is true. Larger varieties of marigolds should be placed 2 to 3 feet apart, while the smaller, lower growing varieties can be one foot apart.
Seeds can be started indoors before the last frost, but they will want a site with plenty of sunshine. While they prefer full sun, marigolds can also be grown in partial shade. Marigold seeds germinate quickly. As they start growing, seedlings will benefit from a layer of mulch placed around them. This mulch will shade the soil, add nutrients, and reduce competition from weeds. After that, they never need fertilizer. In fact, too many nutrients encourages leaf growth, rather than flowers.
Flower production can be encouraged by removing, or deadheading, spent blooms. Do not use overhead watering. Instead, water near the base of each plant, allowing the soil to dry out between waterings.
Marigold pests & diseases
Damping-off disease can be a problem when seeds are started indoors. Marigolds are quite hardy and drought tolerant. Too much moisture can cause bacterial spot, powdery mildew, gray mold, Alternaria leaf spot, and root rot. Aphids and mites may try infesting your marigolds, but a quick spray from the hose early (in the morning), or brushing the pests off with a soft brush, is all the treatment that is needed.
Cooking with marigolds
Marigold flower petals add color and tang to salads. If you add marigold flower petals to rice, while cooking, the rice will turn yellow. Chopped petals can be used to garnish deviled or scrambled eggs, fish dishes, or steamed vegetables. In fact, farmers have fed marigolds to chickens for years to make the yolks a deeper yellow! One variety of marigold, ‘Mexican Mint’, has the flavor of tarragon. It is also known as Texas tarragon.
Many butterflies are attracted to marigolds, and they make excellent dried flower arrangements. Add marigolds to your garden shopping list and spread some beneficial color!
You can grow a surprising amount of food in your own yard. Ask me how!