Friday, September 5, 2014

In Praise of the Out-of-Fashion Marigold

The marigold has been out of fashion for 150 years. In 1858, the New England Agricultural Warehouse and Seed Store Catalogue deemed marigolds “old-fashioned.”

Yet you’d be hard-pressed to find another annual that’s as covered with bloom for as long a season, let alone one that’s so trouble-free as modern hybrid marigolds. Plus, they're cheap. Any nursery will sell you a six-pack in colors ranging from yellow to maroon and all sorts of blends for under $5. And the supreme varieties are available by seed, which you can buy for roughly a dime a piece. 

Which varieties to plant? 
Garden marigolds are either French of African. French marigolds grow 8-12” tall with 1-2” flowers. Africans are 10”-20” tall with 2-4” flowers. I prefer Frenchies both because of their more exotic coloration and because their flowers are less likely to rot in the rain.
Here are highly-rated varieties: 

French marigolds 
Boy Spry


Credit: Ball Horticultural Co.


Credit: Park Seed Co.


Credit: National Garden Bureau

Credit: NetPS Plant Finder

Cresta Spry (a bit larger than Boy Spry)


Credit: Harris Seeds

African marigolds



Credit: All-American Selections

Growing marigolds 
Easiest is to buy six-packs or 4" pots in any nursery or even supermarket. Just pop ‘em into average soil in a sunny location. Add fertilizer and regular water and, voila!

In relatively warm climates, you can plant them as late as early September and get a month or three of bloom before cold weather sets in.

You may be less likely to find the above varieties in pots or six-packs. You’ll more likely see unnamed varieties or, Bonanza Yellow, Gold, or Orange and the Durango series of Frenchies and Antigua or Inca II Yellow, Gold, and Orange Africans, which are all just fine although perhaps a notch below those above.

Fortunately, marigolds are among the easiest plants to grow from seed. Most experts advise you to simply sow them directly in their permanent sunny home as soon as frost has passed. Just cover them with ¼” of soil and keep them moist.
Especially if you live in a humid climate, to prevent or reduce fungal disease, water just the soil, not the leaves, for example, with drip irrigation or by watering the soil next to the plant, not the plant itself.

Not essential. But to maximize rebloom, pull off the dead flowers.

And that’s it!

Of the hundreds of plants I’ve grown, I find marigold to give the most pleasure for the least cost and effort. I think it’s time for them to come back into fashion.


Anonymous said...

I LOVE it when you talk gardening!


The marigold may be old-fashioned, but it evokes my fonder memories of the gardens of my childhood, alive with marigolds and zinnias of all colors. Much more pleasant memories than weeding the lawn, digging out dandelions with a steak knife fora penny each. I still enjoy the summer color bursts of marigolds in my garden…and as a pest barrier among vegetable. I also really enjoyed the play THE EFFECT OF GAMMA RAYS ON MAN-IN-THE-MOON MARIGOLDS.