Marigolds are one of the most popular annual bedding plants. Available virtually everywhere garden plants are sold, they're one of the most-grown annuals in America.
Two different types of marigolds are commonly grown in gardens and container gardens: French and African. French marigolds, Tagetes patula, grow 6 to 12 inches high with small flowers which bloom until killed by frost. African marigolds, Tagetes erecta, grow to about 3 feet high with larger flowers than the French type. African marigolds have a shorter blooming season than French; they stop producing in the cooler temperatures of fall.
There are dozens of varieties available as bedding plants and even more varieties available as seeds. You can direct-seed marigolds, but they will bloom earlier if you start seeds indoors and transplant when danger of frost is past.
Marigolds come in a wide variety of sizes so consult the seed package or info tag to determine correct spacing. Marigolds like full sun, but will still produce a few flowers in part-shade.
Grow marigolds in rich soil, similar to other blooming annuals. Remember to dead-head your marigolds (remove faded flowers). If you do, they will reward you with many, many blooms per plant right up until they are killed by frost. You can prolong their season by covering them when frost threatens, just as you do the tomatoes you want to ripen on the vine at the end of the growing season. With protection from nighttime frosts, as long as the days are warm marigolds will continue to bloom.
Marigolds have a place in the vegetable garden, as well as the flower beds. Both the flowers and leaves of marigolds have an unusual fragrance. Planted at the perimeter of the garden, they can deter small animals from invading your crops. The scent also repels insects that may attack your vegetables.
Marigolds have so many sizes and varieties available, my yard has featured an entire bed of different sizes and colors of marigolds more years than it has not. They have rewarded me with bouquets of blooms from spring through the first hard, killing frost of fall. Marigolds will always have a place in my garden.
Copyright Sharon Sweeny, 2011
Sharon Sweeny specializes in all things gardening, as well as self-sufficient, do-it-yourself lifestyles. Read more about intensive gardening at http://moxiegardener.com and decorative garden structures at [http://egardenobelisks.com].