How to Grow and Care for Marigolds

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As a child, I always helped my mother tend to the garden, and one of the flowers that I always remember planting is marigolds. They are bright orange or yellow annual flowers that are very easy to grow. They are often planted in the front of a garden because they tend to be a bit on the short side, which means that they can also make nice borders for your garden. In this guide, we are going to take a look at some of the different varieties of marigolds and discuss how to grow and care for the plants in your garden as well as in your home.

Growing Zone and Facts

Marigolds are very hardy plants that can grow in nearly any location. In fact, they will grow with ease in zones two through 11 with blooms that brighten your garden in the spring, summer, and fall of the year. Since they are annuals that need to be planted again each year, they typically only grow to be about four to six inches tall, but there are some varieties of this plant that can grow to nearly triple this size. Here are some facts about marigolds that you may not be familiar with:

  • Marigolds are a great source of nectar, which means that it will attract butterflies and honeybees to your garden.
  • These plants release a pungent odor that will actually repel bees from that area of your garden. Of course, this does not include pollinators, but hornets and yellow jackets will head the other way.
  • Marigolds are a natural repellent that you can use to get rid of pests in your garden so that produce can thrive. It will also keep rabbits and other small animals from eating the leaves off of your plants.
  • In tropical areas, the Mexican Sunflower, which is a marigold tree, can grow up to eight feet tall.

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How to Plant and Care

Marigolds are plants that are very tolerable to different growing conditions, so you will find that they do not require a lot of care to thrive. These flowers are readily available as plants at garden centers across the nation, but they are also easy to grow from seeds. If you decide to plant the seeds, you will need to put the seeds on the top of the soil and cover them in about 1/8th of an inch of soil. The seedlings need to be about eight to 18 inches apart in your garden, so make sure to plant the seeds accordingly, and then give them a good amount of water to help them grow. Continued care for the plant requires:

  • Soil – Most varieties of marigolds will grow well in any well-draining soil that you use in your garden. The only thing to ensure is that the soil is not too acidic, so make sure that the pH of the soil is above six, which will make the soil neutral or alkaline.
  • Sun – These plants like heat, so it is important that you plant them in a location where they get full exposure to the sun. They will grow in partial sun, but they will be the healthiest in full sun.
  • Water – These are plants that should be watered regularly, but they will tolerate a lack of water from time to time, which is why they are a durable option for most gardens. When you water your plant, make sure to water it at the base so that the blooms do not become damaged.
  • Fertilizer – In most cases, you will not need to fertilize marigolds. The only reason to use a fertilizer is when they are planted in extremely poor soil that is lacking nutrients.

Growing in Containers

Marigolds can easily grow in containers, but it is important to remember that some varieties of the plant grow quite tall, which will make growing in a container more difficult. They will need plenty of sun and water, but one of the main things to remember when planting a marigold in a container is that they need air to grow, so they cannot be planted close together. In fact, you should limit a six-inch pot to one plant. In addition, the plant should have at least six hours of sun a day.

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Pruning

When you find that there are a lot of dead or used up blooms on the plant, you should prune the plant to encourage growth. With a marigold, this does not mean trimming the plant in any way, you will most likely only need to pinch the dead bloom from the stem. The more you remove these dead blooms, the more new blooms will begin to grow on the plant. Once you remove the blooms, hang them upside down so that they dry fully. This is where the seeds are held, and once they are dry, the seeds can be retrieved.

Wintering

Marigolds are not really able to grow year-round outdoors, but you can overwinter them during the cold month. If the plant is outside during the first frost of the year, it is very likely that the plant will die. When you take the plant inside, it will go into a dormant state, which means that it will not be actively growing in your home.
During this time, you will still need to provide the plant with plenty of light. The room that they are positioned in should be relatively cool so that the plant remains dormant. In fact, the temperature should be between 50 and 60 degrees during this period of time. In addition, watering the plant should be done, but only when the soil is completely dry. Once spring arrives, the plant can be watered more and moved to a warmer location that has plenty of sun. At this point, you can also plant the marigolds in your garden so that they will continue to grow through the entire spring, summer, and fall.

Propagation

For marigolds, propagation is done using the seeds of plants that you already have growing in your garden. When you deadhead the spent blooms from the plant, you will need to dry them out fully so that you can retrieve the seeds that are located inside the blooms. The seeds will then need to be planted about a month before the last frost of the year is expected. For the seeds to germinate, you will want the temperature to be between 70 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit. With warm and moist soil, you can expect to see seedlings in about two weeks. These plants can be moved outdoors when they grow to a height of about three inches. If frost is in the forecast, wait to transplant them for another week or so.
Marigolds can also grow from cuttings. The cutting that you take from a plant that you are already growing should be about four inches long and taken from a softwood growth that has not flowered. Once you make the cutting, remove the lower leaves. Plant the cutting, but do not go more than two inches into the soil. Water the cutting and place in a plastic bag to create a humid environment. Water the plant every few days, and roots should begin to form in a few weeks. Then, the plant can be transplanted to your garden.

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Common Problems

During moist and humid summers, marigolds can get a powdery mildew substance on their leaves. This is because the plants are not getting enough airflow, so to prevent the problem, you can simply create more space between the plants. If they are not located in an area with full sun, more warmth could help dry the leaves as well.
Because of the pungent odor that is released by this plant, many insects do not bother the plant, but caterpillars may chew on the leaves, which can stunt the growth of the plant. Dry marigolds can also attract spider mites, but an infestation can typically be avoided by keeping your plants watered properly. Be careful not to overwater the plants because root rot can form, and make sure to water the plants at the base so that crown rot does not form on the blooms.

Plant Varieties

There are over 50 different species of marigolds that you can choose to plant in your garden, but some of the most common varieties include:

  • African Marigolds – This type of marigold has a pompom flower that is about five inches in diameter. This variation can grow to be two feet tall.
  • French Marigolds – This is one of the most common types of marigolds. They grow to be about five to 18 inches in height, and they often have a double flower head that is yellow and orange.
  • Signet Marigolds – This is a marigold that has a single bloom that resembles that of a daisy. These blooms are often orange or yellow or a combination of the two colors.


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