In the wonderful gardening world, some plants can be easy to grow, some finicky, and some require an expert’s touch. But few are as easy and rewarding as the marigold flower. Many of us remember them as our first experience in gardening.
However, not all marigolds are created equal, and many plants bear the name without being actual marigolds.
But when it comes to the real deal, knowing when to plant can make a huge difference in the health and bloom times of these wonderful plants.
Today, we’ll look at true marigolds (Tagetes spp.), although most of this information applies to the common marigold (Calendula officinalis).
Five Types Of Marigolds
Before planting your marigolds, it’s a good idea to choose the type that best suits your tastes.
Here are the four most common marigolds (plus the common marigold):
African Marigold (Tagetes Erecta)
Sometimes also referred to as Aztec marigolds or Mexican marigolds, this species bears fluffy heads of up to 250 petals, foliage with 11 to 17 leaves per stem, and gives off an aromatic scent when bruised.
This is also one of the tallest species, reaching nearly 3′ feet tall when in bloom.
French Marigold (Tagetes Patula)
Perhaps the most beautiful of all marigolds, this flower is famous for its brightly-colored, velvety petals, and there are many French marigold cultivars to choose from.
Mexican Mint Marigold (Tagetes Lucida)
Proving that marigolds have a lot of variety, this species has clusters of golden yellow flowerheads, a sweet scent, and shiny leaves.
Signet Marigold (Tagetes Tenuifolia)
Boasting multiple heads, each bearing five gold and orange ray florets, this species is edible and has a lemony flavor.
They grow to around 20″ inches tall, and their use in salads makes them a great addition to any vegetable garden.
Common Marigold (Calendula Officinalis)
While not a true marigold, Calendula officinalis tend to have very similar care needs and often goes by the name “pot marigold” due to its high compatibility with life in flowerpots.
The plant is fully edible with a nice spicy flavor and may have either ray florets or disc florets in various shades ranging from yellow to red, with a wide range of sizes to choose from thanks to a booming cultivar industry.
When To Plant Marigolds
As a general rule, marigolds should be planted soon after the final frost.
However, this rule varies depending on whether you start them indoors or plant them directly in the garden.
Marigold plants don’t like frost conditions, so you should either plant when the danger of frost is over or plan to transplant at that time.
Another thing to remember is that marigold seeds require temperatures between 70° and 75° degrees Fahrenheit to germinate properly.
The third important thing to remember is that all marigolds varieties tend to bloom approximately 8 weeks after planting.
When planting marigolds outdoors, you will need to wait for the danger of frost to pass.
You’ll want the garden soil to be fairly warm and avoid poorer soils when possible (although marigolds are very tolerant of most soil conditions).
In more northern zones, it’s usually best to aim for April to May as your planting time and plant each seed 1/4″ inch deep.
Germination will likely take 14 days or slightly longer since you have less control over outdoor conditions.
Once the seeds have germinated, you can insulate them with a 1″ to 2″ inch layer of mulch, but keep in mind that you won’t be able to insulate the ground in this manner before germination.
Most marigold lovers prefer to get started indoors, regardless of the type of marigold they want to grow.
You can plant up to two months before the expected final frost using a seed tray filled with almost any commercial potting soil.
Each seed should be planted approximately 1/4″ inches deep, and you will want to ensure they have consistently damp soil (but not wet).
Place the seed tray in a bright, indirect light spot; you should see sprouts in around 7 to 14 days.
Once they’ve germinated and have two leaves, you will want to thin them out, so they’re at least 1″ inch apart.
At this point, you may also choose to transplant them to their permanent container or into the garden (provided the chance of frost has passed).
When transplanting, it’s often a good idea to add a layer of mulch if your area is known to get the occasional late frost.
Some Additional Marigold Tips
Planning ahead is a major part of growing any plant from seeds, and marigolds are no different.
Consider where you want these annuals to grow and do a little prep work.
Before planting, loosen the soil in your planting area and add an aggregate, if necessary, to ensure the flowers will have well-drained soil to grow in.
Also, think about the role your marigolds will play in the garden.
They make nice border plants, and their shallow roots allow them to be interspersed closely with many other crops and ornamental garden plants.
This is important since marigolds do far more than just look good in a border garden.
In fact, while it’s not something most people notice, the smell of marigolds repels several plant-damaging insects and pests, while the blooms attract beneficial insects and pollinators.
As the blooms will last from late spring through late summer and often until the first frost (especially if you deadhead), deciding when and where to plant these lovely marvels can make all the difference.