Thanks to their large pom-pom blooms in bright colors, African marigolds are sure to brighten up any garden space. 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.
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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.
Related: How to Control Powdery Mildew
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.
It seems like there are always new varieties of African marigolds being introduced with improved plant growth. Breeders have focused on creating denser plants with larger, frillier blooms. There has also been increased production of marigolds for use of lutein, a yellow compound that is an important chemical for eye health. Lutein is also a major component in feed for chickens to encourage rich yellow egg yolks and golden skin of chicken meat.
More Varieties of African Marigold
'Discovery Orange' marigold
Tagetes erecta 'Discovery Orange' bears bold orange flowers that reach 3 inches wide on compact, 1-foot-tall plants.
'Discovery Yellow' marigold
Tagetes erecta 'Discovery Yellow' bears big, 3-inch-wide bright yellow flowers on compact, 1-foot-tall plants all summer long.
African Marigold Companion Plants
Just as you'd expect from something called French, these marigolds are the fancy ones. French marigolds tend to be frilly and some boast a distinctive "crested eye." They grow roughly 8-12 inches high with a chic, neat, little growth habit and elegant dark green foliage. They do best in full sun with moist, well-drained soil and will flower all summer long. They may reseed, coming back year after year, in spots where they're happy.
One of the longest bloomers in the garden, coreopsis produces (usually) sunny yellow daisylike flowers that attract butterflies. Coreopsis, depending on the variety, also bears golden-yellow, pale yellow, pink, or bicolor flowers. It will bloom from early to midsummer or longer as long as it's deadheaded.
Attract butterflies and have fun doing it with big, bold, beautiful Mexican sunflower. Plant it from seed directly in the ground and watch it soar. It can hit up to 5 feet in just weeks with big, lush foliage and smaller but still showy flowers in sunset colors that butterflies love. Put a cluster of these bodacious beauties in the back of the border to give it height and drama. Many of the taller types need staking to keep them upright. Plant them outdoors after all danger of frost has passed in a sunny spot with well-drained soil.