Cheerful Marigolds (Tagetes erecta, Tagetes patula)

Tagetes erecta, Tagetes patula (Marigold, African/American Marigold, French Marigold)

African and French Marigold species: Tagetes erecta 'Antigua Yellow' and Tagetes patula 'Inca Orange' in our tropical garden, July 2008Though we don’t quite fancy annuals, Marigold like Butter Daisy and Globe Amaranth are the few exceptions that we favor to adorn our tropical garden every once in a while with bright intense colors. Colorful, stunning and inexpensive too! ;)

In the tropics, Marigold is a year-round bloomer with large pompon-like flowers, usually seen in sunny and cheerful colors of yellow and gold to orange.

An old favorite bedding plant in gardens and parks, it has retained its popularity even till today, bringing sunshine and smiles with its reliability and constant flowering.

Marigolds are also popularly grown in containers as ornamental plants to decorate halls for social and religious functions and ceremonies.

Plant Profile, Culture and Propagation :

  • Botanical Name: Tagetes erecta, Tagetes patula
  • Common Name: Marigold (for both species), African/American/Aztec Marigold or Tall Marigold (for T. erecta), and French Marigold (for T. patula)
  • Family name: Asteraceae (also named in the Compositae family)
  • Plant type: Herbaceous ornamental annual plant, though native to Mexico and Central America, it has been naturalized in many other warmer regions worldwide. (The first marigolds introduced into Europe and India in the 16th century came from Northern Africa, hence the common name African Marigold)
  • Features: Tagetes erecta / patula 'Inca Orange' in our garden border, February 2007Tagetes erecta and Tagetes patula are species of the genus Tagetes. Commonly known as Marigolds, they are rapid-growing annual flowering plants with heights ranging from dwarfs of 6-8 in, to medium and taller ones that grow from 9 in to 3 ft tall or more.
    Herbaceous, upright and branching, they bear medium to dark green leaves that are fern-like with narrow toothed segments. Leaves of most cultivars and varieties are strongly scented and rather unpleasantly too.
    Above this lovely greenery are displayed stunning and attractive flowers that come in various sizes, forms and colors due to hundreds of varieties and cultivars developed over the last few centuries. Bloom sizes range from 2-5 inches across, may be single, double or crested and come in marvelous hues and intensity of yellow, gold, orange, red, maroon, mahogany, white and bicolors too. They bloom non-stop through the growing season, hence perfect for any garden spot with splashes of bright colors.

    These two major Marigold species are defined as follows:
    1) Tagetes ereta (African Marigold, also known as American Marigold) – taller and erect-growing plants with height from 10 in to 3 ft, bearing large pompon-like double flowers up to 5 in across and has a shorter flowering period from midsummer to frost;
    2) Tagetes patula (French Marigold) – small and bushy plants with height from 6-18 in, bearing single or double flowers up to 2 in across and has a longer flowering period from spring until frost.
    Also, there is the Triploid or Mule Marigold which is the sterile hybrid and a cross between the tall African and dwarf French Marigolds, resembling the French Marigolds but have larger flowers.

    Another species, less known is Tagetes tenuifolia/signata (Signet Marigold) which is a compact plant with finer leaves and smaller, single flowers that are edible and colored yellow, orange or rust-red, best suited for window boxes and as an edging.

    The name Marigold also refers to Pot Marigold (Calendula officinalis) of the genus Calendula, which is not a true marigold of the genus Tagetes.
  • Culture (Care): Marigolds are hardy and non-fussy annuals, easy to grow and rewards generously with non-stop flowering.
    Light: Full sun and heat. Thrives best in hot climates.
    Moisture: Water regularly, especially during hot and dry seasons.
    Soil: Prefers organic-enriched, moist and well-drained soil. Nevertheless, it is adaptable to any soil type.
    Others: Snip off the first flowers before they open to induce more flowering. Deadhead regularly to encourage more flowers and prolong the blooming period. Potash fertilizer can be added occasionally to prolong the flowering period too. Fertilize sparingly as an excess may encourage luxuriant foliage at the expense of flowers. The taller and large-flowered Marigolds may need some staking. Relatively pest free but do check for slugs and snails, and watch out for powdery mildew, whiteflies and spider mites.
    For subtropical regions: Hardiness: USDA Zones 9-11. These are tender tropical plants that are killed by frost, but can be grown as annuals anywhere.
  • Propagation: Easily propagated from seeds (black and needle-like) sown directly into the garden ground or started early indoors and transplanted outdoors when there’s no danger of frost. Germination usually takes 5-7 days at 65-75 degrees F.
  • Usage: Marigolds are excellent for borders or beds, edging, in mass or mixed plantings and landscaping. The taller marigolds can be trained as a standard specimen. Marigolds are very ideal for container gardening, with pots at porches, decks or windowsills and even as decoration at social and religious events and ceremonies. An added bonus is their attraction to bees, butterflies and birds. It is said to be a natural insect repellent against certain garden pests but some have disprove this myth (?).
    Tagetes erecta and Tagetes patula are good as cut or dried flowers. In South Asia, the colorfully bright yellow, orange and red flowers are used by the thousands as garlands and to decorate religious icons and buildings. Hence, they are cultivated commercially as flower crops (floriculture) and cash crops in India and Pakistan.
    They contain lutein, a carotenoid pigment that can be extracted and used as a natural food colorant for livestock and pet food.
    T. erecta is used as a South Asian traditional medicine, where the leaves and flowers are well-known for blood purification, reduce blood flow and inflammation. And, it is claimed that these African and French Marigolds contain certain other beneficial compounds and essentail oils for cosmetic, health and medicinal uses. More at Plant Cultures and Plants For A Future.

Other External links:

More photos of Tagetes erecta / patula, grown in our garden:

Tagetes erecta 'Antigua Yellow' (African Marigold) in our garden, August 2008
Tagetes erecta ‘Antigua Yellow’
Tagetes erecta 'Antigua Yellow' (African Marigold) in our garden, August 2008
Tagetes erecta ‘Antigua Yellow’
Tagetes patula 'Safari Tangerine' in our garden, February 2007
Tagetes patula ‘Safari Tangerine’
Tagetes patula 'Safari Tangerine' in our garden, February 2007
Tagetes patula ‘Safari Tangerine’

Last edit: June 1, 2016

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