Give your garden and outdoor living spaces a shot of steady, season-long color by planting marigolds. This popular annual flower is a garden favorite because they are easy to care for, grow well from seeds, and attract pollinators. Many varieties of marigolds can also help repel root-knot nematodes, microscopic worms that live in the soil and can damage vegetable and fruit plants. Here is everything you need to know to grow marigolds.
How to Choose Marigolds
Before planting marigolds, decide which type you want to grow. The most commonly grown marigolds are African (also called American or Aztec) and French types. African marigolds have large flower heads (up to 5 inches across) on plants that grow from 10 to 36 inches tall, making them good for fresh cutting. French marigolds are smaller and bushier, with flowers up to 2 inches across on plants that are 6 to 18 inches tall. They are excellent for planting among taller plants in need of pollination.
Where to Plant Marigolds
When planting marigolds, choose a spot in full sun. In warmest regions, provide protection from the sun during the hottest part of the day. As you ponder where to plant, understand that these annual flowers crave fertile, well-drained soil. Marigolds planted in heavy clay soil that doesn’t drain well are usually not productive.
What Kind of Soil to Use for Marigolds
If you’re growing marigolds in planting beds, improve soil drainage and add nutrition by mixing 3 inches of Miracle-Gro® Garden Soil for Flowers into the top 6 to 8 inches of native soil. For best results when growing marigolds in containers, choose Miracle-Gro® Potting Mix, which is lightweight, fast-draining, and full of nutrition. In raised beds, blend equal parts garden soil and potting mix for just the right soil composition, or make it easy by using Miracle-Gro® Raised Bed Soil.
How to Plant Marigolds
When planting marigolds, you have two choices: seeds or young plants. Whichever you choose, be sure to wait to plant until after all danger of frost has passed. Marigolds grow quickly from seed sown directly into planting beds, but you can get a head start by sowing seeds indoors in Miracle-Gro® Seed Starting Potting Mix about 6 to 8 weeks before the average last spring frost. It’s important to get African marigolds into the soil as early as possible once the weather warms, because they take longer to mature and flower than French marigolds do. In planting beds, space African marigolds 10 to 12 inches apart, while French marigolds should be 8 to 10 inches apart. If you’re planting marigolds into containers, use a pot that’s at least 10 inches across for African and larger French types. Dwarf French marigolds can grow in a 6-inch container or even a traditional strawberry jar with pockets. Immediately after planting marigold seedlings, water plants thoroughly.
How to Water Marigolds
When growing marigolds, check soil weekly: When the top inch is dry, it’s time to water. (Marigolds growing in containers may need more frequent watering.) Each time you water, be sure to drench the soil, and aim the nozzle or spout of your watering device toward the base of the plants.
How to Mulch Marigolds
Apply a mulch layer after planting marigolds to help keep soil moist and help prevent weeds by blocking growth and access to sunlight. Form a 2- to 3-inch layer using Scotts® bagged mulch, shredded leaves, pine straw, or some other locally available material.
How to Feed Marigolds
A month after planting, begin feeding your marigolds to provide the nutrition they need for lots of colorful blooms. Miracle-Gro® Water Soluble Bloom Booster® Flower Food is easy to mix and apply while watering. Check the instructions on the label to find out how much to use, and how often you should feed your plants.
How to Care for Marigolds
While growing marigolds, you may discover Japanese beetles on the blooms, especially the larger blossoms of the African types. Knock the beetles into soapy water to drown them, or spray plants with Ortho® Insect Killer Rose & Flower. You will also want to keep an eye out for spent flowers, and remove them as soon as you see them. This process is called deadheading, and it encourages plants to form new flower buds. Marigolds stand up to heat and humidity, but in the hottest regions, plants can enter a rest period during summer’s most sizzling days. Keep plants well-watered during this time. As soon as intense heat lifts, plants should resume blooming.
How to Use Marigolds
In the garden, French marigolds create a colorful edging that beckons butterflies and other pollinators. African marigolds are ideal for picking for fresh arrangements. In addition to the beauty they offer, marigolds can also be planted as pest control in the vegetable garden or flower beds. They contain a chemical (thiophene) that helps control nematodes in soil. Marigold flowers make great additions to bouquets and dry well. You can also eat the petals, which have a slightly peppery flavor. Put them in salads or on baked goods, or add them to stir-fries.
How to Pick Marigolds
If you’re picking marigolds for bouquets or drying, cut blossoms in the morning or late afternoon. Harvest flowers for either use when they are fully open. Choose newly opened flowers for edible uses.
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