Marigolds (Tagetes spp.) are commonly used in borders, beds, and window boxes, but did you know they’re far more than just good-looking?
Companion planting (also sometimes referred to as complimentary gardening) is an underappreciated aspect of gardening that reduces or eliminates the need for herbicide and pesticides by grouping plants with strengths to make up for a related weakness in other plants in the group.
For example, the smell of lavender is pleasant to humans. Still, it repels many pests, so planting it beside a plant vulnerable to that pest can help protect the latter plant while creating a visually attractive display.
Weed control is achieved by mixing plants with different root depths.
By planting something with shallow roots beside something with medium-depth roots, weeds have no room to germinate, and water that the external plant doesn’t absorb will go to the deeper one.
But what does all of this have to do with growing marigold plants?
Well, it turns out that marigolds are great for repelling some pests, attracting others, and can even improve the help of other nearby plants.
Here’s what you need to know about the power of marigolds, what plants they protect, and which plants provide mutual benefit while adding additional visual appeal.
What Are The Best Marigold Companions?
Companions for marigolds can be broken down into three categories: crops, ornamentals, and mutually beneficial plants.
Mixing these different categories might surprise you at how much you can achieve in even a tiny space.
Benefits Of Planting Marigolds
Marigolds have a scent that humans can enjoy but is offensive to many pests’ proverbial noses.
A few pests, such as slugs and snails, will be attracted to the marigold, allowing it to serve as a sacrificial plant so more vulnerable crops won’t get nibbled on.
Some of the pests marigolds will help keep away from your garden include:
- Cabbage maggots
- Corn earworms
- Cucumber beetles
- Flea beetles
- Japanese beetles
- Nematodes (the harmful ones)
- Potato beetles
- Rabbits (to some extent)
- Squash bugs
Another benefit to marigolds is the way they attract many beneficial insects, including pollinators.
When paired with other plants that can attract beneficial insects and repel pests, you can create a fortress of attractive blooms around the perimeter of your garden that keeps your valuable plants safe and sound.
But there’s a third benefit to marigolds that you might not even notice.
Marigolds, as with many complimentary plants, give off chemicals that encourage growth in other nearby plants.
This can result in many of your food crops being bigger and fuller come harvest time.
The Best Companion Crops
While pests can be annoying in any garden, let’s face it: your edible crops are the ones most at risk.
But something you might not be aware that marigold blooms in both the Calendula and Tagetes genera are edible and can be used in salads, garnishes, or as a food coloring.
Between their physical beauty, ability to protect crop foods from pests, attract pollinators, and even be used as a crop plant, marigolds are a perfect addition to any crop garden.
Some of the many crops your marigolds will protect include:
*Note that some believe marigolds can stunt the growth of pole beans and may also harm cabbage.
However, there is no conclusive evidence regarding this, and marigolds are known to repel pests targeting these plants.
If you’re worried about potential side effects but still want the benefits, plant your marigolds, so they aren’t directly beside your beans or cabbages.
The Best Companion Ornamentals
Of course, most people in the US aren’t used to eating flowers, but they still like to look at them.
Marigolds work well with many other flowers with similar care needs, sometimes in front and sometimes behind, depending on the height of the other plant.
Once you see the wonderful complimenting or contrasting colors that marigolds bring to a floral garden, i’s’ tough to figure out why you didn’t mix them before.
Here are some plants that not only look great with marigolds but will be protected from pests in the process:
- Bachelor Button
- New England Aster
Mutually Beneficial Plants
As mentioned, many other beneficial plants out there can boost the effectiveness of your marigolds while also adding to your garden’s visual appeal.
One of the best benefits to these plants is that they often attract predators that feed on the very pests marigolds will attract or repel, providing double the defense of your garden.
Here are just a few of the great companions you can choose from.
- Sweet alyssum (Lobularia Maritima) are lovely flowers that attract predatory wasps and other beneficial insects. At the same time, the shallow roots help prevent the soil from drying out too quickly in the summer heat.
- Cilantro (Coriandrum sativum) is not only a great kitchen herb, but it also attracts natural predators such as ladybugs and beneficial wasp species.
- Cleome (Cleome hassleriana) attracts Nesidiocoris tenuis, a natural predator of spider mites that will compliment your marigold blooms and help protect your garden.
- Cosmos (Cosmos spp.) is an excellent visual companion to marigolds that attract many beneficial insects.
- Creeping thyme (Thymus praecox and Thymus serpyllum) is another beautiful kitchen herb with additional benefits, this time providing a thick blanket that chokes out weeds without harming your garden.
- Dill (Anethum graveolens) attracts parasitic wasps while making for a surprisingly versatile kitchen herb and has blooms that complement marigolds.
- Garlic chives (Allium tuberosum) and other alliums have attractive white and purple blooms that work wonderfully with marigolds while simultaneously increasing your garden’s protection from spider mites.
Rosemary (Salvia Rosmarinus) is an essential kitchen herb that compliments marigolds and helps repel aphids and other pests.