Marigold Flowers: Planting, Growing, and Caring for Marigolds

How to Grow Marigolds: The Complete Marigold Flower Guide

orange and red french marigold flowers with green foliage
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Botanical Name
Tagetes spp.
Plant Type
Sun Exposure
Soil pH
Bloom Time
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Planting, Growing, and Caring for Marigolds

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Marigolds are the ultimate companion flower. This cheery annual attracts all manner of pollinating insects into the garden. They’ll bloom for months, too. Learn all about sowing and growing marigolds.

An annual flower, marigolds (Tagetes) are the spendthrifts among annuals, bringing a wealth of gold, copper, and brass into our summer and autumn gardens.

Marigolds are a great companion flower to tomatoes, especially greenhouse-grown tomatoes, as their scent helps to deter whiteflies. Dwarf types make good edging plants that may deter rabbits, so include marigolds when you plan your garden.

Some varieties are known for their ability to starve out root-knot nematodes when planted the year before, macerated, and then plowed into the soil, where the chemicals that affect the nematodes are then released.

About Marigolds

Marigolds have daisy- or carnation-like flowerheads produced singly or in clusters. Although there are some 50 species, most marigolds we see in the garden are one of the following:

  • Tagetes erecta (aka African marigolds, American marigolds, or Mexican marigolds): This species is the tallest and most upright marigold, reaching 3 to 4 feet in height and producing large, full flowers. They’re native to Mexico and Central America and will thrive even under drought-like conditions.
  • Tagetes patula (aka French marigolds): French marigolds tend to be smaller, bushier, and more compact than T. erecta. They are often wider than they are tall. Elegant and eye-catching, they have relatively demure flowers and usually grow from 6 inches to 2 feet tall. They are better suited to rainier conditions than the other Tagetes species.
  • Tagetes tenuifolia (aka signet marigolds): These petite marigolds do well in hot, dry sites and make for a beautiful edging plant. They rarely reach more than a foot in height.

Marigolds have been stereotyped, but they offer tremendous variety. Both the American and French marigolds are generally aromatic, too, although some folks find the scent to be a bit overwhelming. Keep that in mind when choosing a planting site.

Calendula: Not a True Marigold!

Calendula officinalis (aka pot marigolds or English marigolds) are native to southern Europe. Although often called a “marigold,” this plant is not a true marigold. However, it is still an attractive companion plant! Additionally, its bright flowers are edible—with a tangy, peppery taste—so it is often grown alongside herbs in kitchen gardens. Learn more about growing Calendula!


Marigolds thrive in full sunshine and can often withstand very hot summers. African and signet marigolds are drought tolerant, while French marigolds are more tolerant of wet conditions. If planted in shade and cool, moist areas, marigolds are prone to powdery mildew and won’t bloom well. 

Though they grow in almost any soil, marigolds do best in moderately fertile, well-drained soil. Prepare the soil by digging down about 6 inches to loosen it, then mix in compost to add fertility and improve consistency.

When to Plant Marigolds

  • Young French and signet marigolds can be planted from spring through midsummer, but the tall African marigolds are best planted right away in the spring (after the danger of frost has passed) because they are slower to mature and produce flowers. Find local frost dates here.
  • Sow seeds directly into the garden once the soil is warm in the spring. You can start seeds indoors, but they germinate so easily outside that there’s really no advantage. The exception is African marigolds, best bought as young plants or started indoors about 4 to 6 weeks before your last frost date.
  • Marigolds sprout within a week in warm weather and plants typically produce blooms in about 8 weeks.

How to Plant Marigolds

  • French marigolds can easily be started from seed, while African marigolds are best purchased as young plants (when started from seed, they can take a long time to flower).
  • Optional: If soil is nutrient-starved, add some slow-release (granular) fertilizer in the planting hole. A 5-10-5 works fine.
  • Moisten the soil, then sow seeds 1 inch apart and no more than 1 inch deep.
  • While still small, thin the seedlings. Space French and signet types 8 to 10 inches apart. The larger African marigolds should be at least 10 to 12 inches apart.
  • If planting transplants, thoroughly water each plant after planting in the garden.
  • If planting in containers, use a soil-based potting mix. Either mix in slow-acting granular fertilizer at planting time or plan to water with diluted liquid fertilizer periodically. Take care to space them properly; marigolds grown in containers can become crowded.

Yellow marigolds in a garden


How to Grow Marigolds

  • Once the marigolds have established themselves, pinch off the tops of the plants to encourage them to grow bushier. This will keep the plants from becoming leggy and will encourage more blooming.
  • Marigolds don’t require deadheading, but if dying blossoms are regularly removed, it will encourage the plant to continue blooming profusely.
  • When you water marigolds, allow the soil to dry somewhat between waterings, then water well and repeat the process. Water more in high heat. 
  • Do not water marigolds from overhead. Water at the base of the plant. (Excess water on leaves can lead to powdery mildew.)
  • Do not fertilize marigolds during growth. A diet that’s too nitrogen-rich stimulates lush foliage at the expense of flowers. 
  • The dense, double flowerheads of the African marigolds tend to rot in wet weather.
  • Add a layer of mulch between plants to suppress weeds and keep the soil moist, especially when plants are young.

How to Deadhead Marigolds

Deadheading is about removing faded flowers by pinching off the flower head. For some plants, including marigolds, pinching off the dead flower heads encourages them to produce more blooms rather than wasting their energy on forming seeds, extending the flowering season.   Marigolds also look so much better after deadheading.

Deadheading marigolds is very simple. When a blossom starts to go bad, pinch (cut) its stem back to the nearest set of leaves.

Whether you’re deadheading your annuals, be sure to fertilize as well. Annuals are very heavy feeders and will respond well. 

Field of orange marigold flowers

  • In flower arrangements, strip off any leaves underwater in the vase, discouraging the overly pungent odor.
  • Marigolds can be dried for long-lasting floral arrangements. Strip foliage from perfect blossoms and hang them upside down.
  • You may see “marigolds” listed as edible flowers. In fact, it’s the flowers of Calendulanot Tagetes—that make great additions to a summer dish. Flowers from Tagetes marigolds may be irritating to the skin, so we do not recommend ingesting them.
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Wit and Wisdom
  • In the late 1960s, Burpee president David Burpee launched an energetic campaign to have marigolds named the national flower, but in the end, roses won.
  • For years, farmers have included the open-pollinated African marigold ‘Crackerjack’ in chicken feed to make egg yolks a darker yellow.
  • Marigolds are one of the October birth flowers.

Marigolds have few pests or problems overall, but spider mites and aphids sometimes infest the plants. Usually, a spray of water or the application of insecticidal soap, repeated every other day for a week or two, will solve the problem. Occasionally, marigolds will be affected by fungal diseases such as powdery mildew if conditions are too wet. To prevent fungal issues, avoid getting water on the marigolds’ leaves, keep weeds down, and plant in well-drained soil. 

Marigolds as Companion Plants

Farmers and gardeners have long known that marigolds make important companion plants everywhere.

  • The underground workings of the French marigold, in particular, are known to repel harmful nematodes (microscopic worms) that attack the roots of garden vegetables—especially root-knot and lesion nematodes. Crops most impacted include tomatoes, cucumbers, strawberries, snap beans, squash, onions, and garlic. 
  • To take advantage of this effect, don’t plant marigolds directly alongside vegetables. Instead, plant a mass of marigolds in the spring in the area where you intend to grow a fall crop. In mid-to late summer, remove the marigolds and plant vegetables and greens for a fall harvest. 
Cooking Notes

The flowers of Tagetes marigolds are NOT edible, but those of Calendula are. The bright petals of Calendula add color and a spicy tang to salads and other summer dishes.

  • The flower petals are sometimes cooked with rice to impart saffron’s color (but, unfortunately, not flavor).
About The Author

Catherine Boeckmann

Catherine Boeckmann loves nature, stargazing, and gardening so it’s not surprising that she and The Old Farmer’s Almanac found each other. She leads digital content for the Almanac website, and is also a certified master gardener in the state of Indiana. Read More from Catherine Boeckmann

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