Tagetes, the ever popular marigold, are more than a classic summer blooming annual. These lovely flowers attract beneficial pollinators, are edible, can be used to make natural dyes, and in the case of specific species, have insecticidal properties that make them a favorite for companion planting in the vegetable garden.
Tagetes erecta, commonly known as African / Aztec / American Marigolds are known for their bushy upright form (up to 18”) and have a variety of flower forms ranging from simple to lush pom-poms.
Tagetes patula, also called French Marigold, varieties range from 6 to 18 inches. Flowers range from single to fully double and in colors from bright yellow to mahogany brown. These deeply colored flowers may also be used as natural dye source. Interestingly, though this species is native to Mexico, it earned it’s common name by making its popular debut in France before spreading to gardens across Europe.
Tagetes tenuifolia, also known as Signet Marigold, have simple bright orange or yellow flowers, usually about an inch wide. Their finely cut, lacy foliage is a distinguishing feature.
A note on companion planting and insecticidal properties: The roots of certain Tagetes species have been found to exude a substance that minimize soil borne pests (such as certain nematodes), but only after being established for at least three months.
A few varieties available at Portland Nursery:
Tagetes patula 'Bonanza'
A double French marigold growing 6-10” tall by 10-12”wide. Comes in colors of yellow, orange, gold, red with gold highlights and gold with red highlights.
Tagetes patula 'Disco'
Single French marigolds growing 12”tall by 8-10” wide. Available in yellow, red, orange, and bicolor. An improved version of other single French marigolds.
Tagetes patula ‘Safari Mix’
Extra-large blooms on compact plants make a bold statement as the flattened large lower petals work their way up to ruffled centers. Grows 10-12’’ tall.
Tagetes tenuifolia ‘Tangerine Gem’ and ‘Lemon Gem’
These two are a favorite for edible flower lovers! With their bright citrusy scent, darling flowers and fringy foliage,
Tagetes erecta 'Inca'
Huge 4” round blooms in shades of yellow or orange. Grows 12-14” tall and wide. A garden classic.
Tagetes erecta ‘Day of the Dead’
These varieties celebrate Marigolds’ place in the traditional Mexican Day of the Dead holiday. It is believed that the spirits of the dead visit the living during this holiday, and Marigolds vibrant color and scent help guide the spirits to their altars. ‘Day of the Dead’ produces large flowers good for fresh and dried arrangements. Grows 24-36’’ tall. (Not always available)
Tagetes erecta ‘Jedi’
Jedi features bold ball-shaped flowers at the ends of the stems from early summer to mid fall. The flowers are excellent for cutting. It's fragrant ferny leaves remain dark green in color throughout the season. Grows 4 feet tall! (Not always available)
Tagetes erecta ‘Vanilla’
Tagetes ‘Vanilla’, with their creamy pom-pom flowers, are a refreshing departure from the conventional marigold orange and yellow. Vanilla's subtle shade blends beautifully with its marigold cousins and equally well with pastel and jewel tone flowers. Grows about 16” tall.
Origin: Mexico and Central America
Culture: Tagetes are a classic summer blooming annual in our region. Marigolds need full sun (6-8 hours a day), average to well-drained soil and regular watering to thrive.
Maintenance: Plant marigold seedlings about 6”-12” apart depending on variety, adding compost to the area if the ground is particularly dense or nutrient depleted. Apply a favorite flower fertilizer as directed throughout spring and summer t o keep Tagetes performing at their best. As they mature, overhead watering can cause branch breakage, especially with taller and larger-bloomed varieties, so opt for watering at the base of plant instead. The flowering period can extend to frost if withered blooms are removed regularly.
Propagation: Tagetes seeds germinate quickly - often in less than a week in warm, moist soil. Once seedlings appear, these plants grow rapidly and are typically ready to bloom in 45 to 50 days.
Many gardeners start marigold seeds indoors in trays or pots of soil six to eight weeks before the last expected frost in their location, so they will be ready to bloom in late spring when moved outside. Seedlings grow quickly and require little care - other than watering and occasional pinching to force dense compact foliage. In general, Tagetes adjust quickly to transplanting and resume growing almost immediately as long as the soil is moist. Tagetes seeds can also be direct sown in the soil in the spring as soon as the danger of frost passes, but keep in mind they will not produce blooms for nearly eight weeks.
Many gardeners prefer to save their own seed from marigolds by allowing the final flush of blooms to 'go to seed' on the plant. It should be noted, however that hybrid seeds will not reproduce true to the parent plant and some may fail to germinate. Saving your own seed comes with some risk, but even hybrid seeds may produce interesting varieties in color, shape or size.
Pests and Disease: Tagetes are fairly pest and disease resistant, however young plants are susceptible to slugs, snails and botrytis.