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African marigolds are sure to brighten up a garden space, thanks to their large pom-pom blooms in bright colors. Despite their common name of African marigolds, these plants are actually native to the Americas. These classic annuals are easily grown from seed and are much taller than their cousins, the French marigolds, and have some of the largest blooms of the marigold family.
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Marigolds have long been planted as an easy-to-grow annual that requires very little maintenance. Coming in warm colors of creamy white, yellow, orange, and rusty red, African marigolds can add a welcome pop of color all season long. Even without the blooms, they have appealing deep green foliage.
African Marigold Care Must-Knows
Marigolds have been grown for ages, all the way back to the Cherokee tribe and Day of the Dead celebrations in Mexico. Whether it's being used for its ornamental appeal or because it is part of a time-honored tradition, there are so many uses for African marigold.
African marigolds need well-drained soils that won't stay too wet for long periods because most marigolds are susceptible to rot and other soil-born fungal issues. Make sure your plants have a good amount of organic matter, as well. They greatly benefit from regular applications of fertilizer or a single application of a slow-release fertilizer.
Marigolds also perform best in full sun, which will keep tall plants sturdy and help form large, dense, blooms and foliage. In part shade or more, all parts of the plant are more susceptible to fungal diseases, such as powdery mildew. Avoid wetting the foliage, especially later in the day, to help prevent problems with this. Marigolds are also susceptible to spider mites in the dry heat of the summer, so watch for fine webbing and treat with insecticidal soap as needed.
As marigolds finish blooming, deadheading the plants will encourage them to continue blooming for a longer period of time. Deadheading also helps the plants focus their energy on flower production versus seed production. At the end of the year, if you want to collect seed for next spring, leave some spent blooms and allow them to fully ripen, dry, and drop into the soil to seed. Take note that the seeds will produce plants that are genetically different from the parents, so there may be some variability in flower color and over plant growth.
Since marigolds have been grown for such a long time, there are always new varieties being introduced with improved plant growth. Many new varieties of African marigolds have focused on creating denser plants with larger, frillier blooms. There has also been increased production of marigolds for use of lutein, their yellow compound. This is an important chemical for eye health, and some companies have bred marigolds specifically to produce blooms rich in lutein. Lutein also a major component in feed for chickens to encourage rich yellow egg yolks and golden skin of chicken meat.