In an October garden, marigolds are the maracas. Bright citrus and red button heads dot the landscape, a sassy, brassy counterpoint to the browns and fading yellows of the season. This beloved annual (Tagetes spp.) blooms through the summer, but builds to a crescendo as the weather turns colder. Fragrant, fernlike foliage stays deep green and the blooms are lovelier and bolder than ever as falling leaves pile up in drifts nearby. The marigold’s festival rhythm reluctantly grows faint only when the first heavy frost hits.
Common name: Marigold
Botanical name: Tagetes spp.
Plant type: Annuals and perennials
Zones: Most garden marigolds are grown as annuals.
Height: 6 inches to 4 feet, depending on species and cultivar
· Sun: Full sun
· Soil: Average, well-drained
· Moisture: Average
· Mulch: Mulch to preserve moisture in the soil.
· Pruning: None needed.
· Fertilizer: None needed.
· By seed
Pests and diseases
· Vulnerable to powdery mildew, gray mold, leaf spot, and root rot.
· Spider mites, leaf miners, and whiteflies may cause problems.
· There’s a huge variety of marigolds. Choose white, yellow, orange, red, or bicolor; look for short or tall; combine with purple asters, burgundy mums, or yellow sneezeweed for an autumn rainbow.
· Plant marigolds where you want spots of bright, cheery color. Great for containers as well as fall borders.
· Though it’s an annual, the marigold will reseed prolifically if conditions are right. If you don’t want to leave it to chance, gather seeds once the pods have dried and plant them directly in the ground in spring. Be aware, though, that the seeds of cultivars may not come true to their parents. If you planted seeds from bicolor marigolds, for example, you may get a plant with all-yellow blooms.
· Give a kid a packet of marigold seeds and a milk carton filled with soil. It’s one of the easiest plants to grow from seed—and with a little care and some luck, maybe you’ll grow a gardener.
· T. erecta ‘Antigua’ has 3-inch flowers and grows 12 to 16 inches tall.
· T. patula ‘Bonanza’ grows 8 to 10 inches tall and has flowers in combinations of mahogany, yellow, and orange.
· T. tenuifolia ‘Lemon Gem’, about 8 inches tall, has tiny bright yellow flowers and lemon-scented leaves.
All in the family
· Two of the most popular marigold species in gardens are African marigolds (Tagetes erecta) and French marigolds (Tagetes patula)—both of which are misleading common names. Marigolds are native to subtropical America and were first cultivated in western Mexico more than 2,000 years ago.
· Marigolds are used in traditional Day of the Dead (Día de los Muertos) celebrations in Mexico.
(Text by Elizabeth Noll, photo courtesy of Missouri Botanical Garden’s Kemper Center for Home Gardening)