Marigolds are known as a fall flower because of their significance in Mexican culture surrounding día de los muertos. While I am half Mexican, I don't celebrate día de los muertos; but I still appreciate this beautiful flower and its striking fragrance.
I have always grown marigolds on the farm, partly because they make great companion plants to tomatoes, just like calendula. I have also grown them because of my heritage and the Mexican culture from which I come. Finally, I like marigolds as a flower. They dry well, they work well in bouquets, and they are a happy flower.
Over the years, I have grown different kinds of marigolds. I started out with French marigolds and moved over to growing African marigolds this last year for their big pompom blooms. African marigolds dry well, like French marigolds, but are much more arresting because of their size.
This year, in my excitement over marigolds, I planted them early and ended up with the same issue I had with my zinnias the last few years. They grew well, they were big and beautiful, and then it started raining. With all the rain, disease started and spread. I still got beautiful blooms. It just meant that the plants were not as healthy as they could have been, and I had to rip them out earlier than anticipated.
Next year, I will be starting the marigolds around the same time as I start zinnias, mid-June. This means they will get all the rain while they are seedlings and then more sporadic rain when they have grown and are producing flowers.
Care and Maintenance
Plant your marigolds in a sunny spot with well draining soil. Direct sow your seeds after danger of frost has passed or wait until mid summer to ensure you get blooms in the fall. You can also sow seeds indoors. Seeds need light to grow, so press seeds into the soil or soil medium and lightly cover with vermiculite or soil.
Space plants 12" apart in flower beds. Make sure to pinch seedlings to promote lateral growth in plants.
Deadhead plants to ensure that they continue to produce blooms. Water regularly (but not too much).
Marigolds love to be harvested. The more you cut them back, the bigger they get. Harvest flowers when they are 1/3 to 2/3 open. Cut deep into the plant and harvest the stem just above a leaf or side stem. This will promote growth from the sides where you cut. Cut off side growth from the stem and use it if it has a flower that is beginning to open or discard it.
Harvest into a clean bucket with clean water. Harvest in the mornings or evenings. Use sharp snips to harvest.
Other things to consider
Marigolds dry really well and work well in arrangements, especially African marigolds. Hang them upside down after harvest in a cool, dry, dark room. Hang them until they are dry to the touch and store them in cardboard boxes until you are ready to use them.
Marigolds are deer and rabbit resistant; they tolerate drought, poor soil, and heat; and they are hardy from zones 1-10.
This post is part of a year-long series on flowers and plants that we love and grow on the farm. Check out other flowers that we love. Calendula | Dahlia | Grasses | Hibiscus | Herbs | Perennials | Statice | Lisianthus | Strawflower