Marigold flowers blooming on plant
Organic Gardening

How to Grow, Care, Harvest, and Save Marigold Seeds

Marigold flowers blooming on plant
Marigold Blooms

Learn step-by-step how to grow marigold flowers, care, harvesting, and seed saving for the next crop.

Marigold Flowers in the Garden and Their Uses

Marigold flowers are a common flower to the garden and it is related to sunflowers and daisies. Its history goes back 2,000 years and is a symbol in various cultures and the garden. In Latin America, the flowers are traditionally used during celebrations of Dià de los Muertos (Day of the Dead). In India, they are used to honor Bathukamma, a floral festival. Their blooms are used during Diwali, the Festival of Lights. In gardens, they are popularly known for deterring pests in the garden since some varieties emit a potent fragrance. They deter whiteflies, kill bad nematodes, and keep away rabbits. I also found that the deer stay away from them as well, which is always a bonus since they’ll eat pretty much anything. Pro tip: not many plants are deer resistant, even if the tag says it is. If they are desperate enough, they’ll eat plants they normally don’t. This post will marigold plant care, harvesting, and seed saving so you can plan to have your next crop!

Overall, they are a great addition to the garden if you are growing organically. Use them as companion plants for tomatoes, chili peppers, eggplants, and potatoes. For more information on other plants commonly used for deterring pests in the garden, visit the Missouri Botanical Garden’s page on Pest Repelling Plants. Stores usually sell one type of marigold but there are over 50 species of marigold flowers that come in all sorts of colors! Colors range from gold to orange, red to maroon, whitish yellow, or a mix. The tallest variety is known African or American marigolds (Tagetes erecta). They can grow up to five feet (152.4 cm, or 1.524m) tall.

  • French marigolds (Tagetes patula) – a small, bushy variety that grows between 6 inches to 2 feet tall. They are well-suited in rainy environments.
  • Signet marigolds (Tagetes tenuifolia) – (also known as golden or lemon marigold) small marigold variety that is well-suited for hot, dry environments. It grows in the wild Mexico, Central America, Columbia, and Peru. Its flowers are edible.
  • Pot or English marigolds (Calendula officinalis)is a flower from southern Europe and not actually a marigold. Its flowers are edible and have a tangy, peppery taste.
  • Sweet-scented marigolds (Tagetes lucida) – (edible) Common names are: sweet mace, Mexican mint marigold, and Spanish tarragon. It can be used in place of French tarragon and smells like anise.

Other Uses for Marigold Flowers

Marigolds are used as a natural dye because of their color. It is also helpful for the butterfly population since butterflies love their nectar. In homeopathic medicine, the flowers are used for contusions, burns, bruises, varicose veins, wounds, rashes, and help reduce inflammation.

marigold plant with kale and zinnia
marigolds zinnia kale

Marigold Plant Care and Growing Tips

Marigold flowers are typically easy to grow and do not require a lot of care. In my garden, I do not really tend to them and let them grow wild. Once they are planted, they continue to bloom up until the first frost in fall. Here are some general tips to know about marigold plant care:

Soil Requirements

These flowers can grow pretty much anywhere because they are not particular about their soil conditions. Our soil is pretty hard between the amount of clay that it has, along with a lot of rock. The marigolds grow extremely well in these conditions. The varieties we grow reach about a foot high and filled with blooms. They do not like to sit in water and prefer well-draining soil. Once they established, they are drought tolerant. I haven’t paid any special attention to watering them during the winter. They were tolerant during our rainy parts of the summer here in New Jersey, and they were quick to adapt when it was super hot and dry.

Light Needs

Like many plants, marigolds love the sun. It’s best to plant them in full sun. I have been successful with a shadier spot, but it still received eight hours of sun each day.

Temperature (frost sensitive)

Marigolds usually associated with the fall. However they grow throughout the summer and into the fall. There are two ways to incorporate them in your garden. You can start them from seeds indoors at least 4 to 6 weeks before the first frost, or they can be directly sown into the garden after the threat of frost has passed. I have not started any of mine indoors and have been directly sowing them when I plant my seedlings towards the end of spring.

Where can you grow Marigold Flowers

Besides not liking frost, marigolds are typically a hard flower, which is why many in the United States associate them with being a fall flower. They can grow in zones 2 to 11.

How to Prune Marigold Flowers

Pruning marigolds is super easy, but important to have continuous blooms up until fall. They only require deadheading (pinching off of old, spent blooms).

Marigold Plant Care: Diseases and Pests

Although marigolds are helpful to the gardener in deterring pests and animals, look out for the following diseases and pests that can affect marigolds:

Diseases:

  • Fungal diseases, such as powdery mildew, or “damping off”

Pests:

  • Thrips
  • Spider mites
  • Aphids
  • Snails
  • Slugs
  • caterpillars

There are not too many pests or diseases that affect marigolds. In fact, I haven’t had any of the above mentioned issues.

Paper plate with spent marigold blooms on one side and marigold seeds on the other`
Seed saving marigolds

How to Harvest Marigold Flowers for Seed Saving

Harvesting marigold seeds is quite simple. Follow these quick and easy steps:

  1. After a flower has finished blooming and begins dying off, the bottom portion of the bloom will look like a seed pod. Actually, it IS a seed pod! Wait for the seed pod to start to wither and brown on the plant. 
  2. Once the seed pod has browned, it’s now time to harvest it. There are no special tools to harvest them. Simply pinch off the pods.
  3. Next, I place the seed pods on a paper plate and spread them out. The pods may leak a little so using a paper towel during the drying process may not be sufficient. Place the paper plate on a table in the sun. Spread the pods out so they can dry easier.
  4. Once the pods have dried, it’s now time to take out the seeds! Carefully start separating the skin of the pod. You’ll immediately see the seeds inside as they are black on one end, and beige on the other. Carefully pull them from the pod.
  5. Lay the seeds out just to make sure they’re dry for about a week. This will prevent the seeds from developing any mold if they are still slightly damp from being in the pod.
  6. Store the seeds in a paper envelope. Storing them in a plastic bag can capture moisture and cause them to mold.

spent blooms drying on paper plates
spent marigold blooms drying

Marigold Flowers FAQs

Do marigolds come back every year?

Yes, marigolds can come back every year. Marigolds are annuals, which means that they fulfill their entire life cycle from seed to flower within a single growing season. If you allow the plant to flower and leave the spent blooms, it will self-seed.

What month do marigolds bloom?

Marigolds can bloom from late spring until fall, depending on where you are located.

Are marigolds good for bees?

Yes, marigolds attract pollinators, which include bees. The flower’s pollen and nectar attract the pollinators. It is important to keep in mind the type of variety so they have open centers that the bees can access.

Will marigolds grow back?

Yes, as long as you allow the plant to seed, the marigolds will come back. However, it will not be on the same plant as the previous year. The plant will die off. If the blooms self-seed a new plant will grow the following year.

Why plant marigolds with tomatoes?

Marigolds and tomatoes are garden friends, also known as companion plants. Studies have shown that marigolds protect tomato plants from root-knot nematodes. Marigolds deter pests, which includes ones that may harm your tomato plants.

Why are my marigold leaves turning purple?

If the leaves are turning purple, it may be a sign that they are deficient in phosphorous. Check out my post about phosphorous deficiency in tomato plants as it contains a lot of pertinent information about this.

Can marigolds grow in pots?

Yes, they can grow pretty much anywhere and they are a good addition to borders of gardens, patios, etc. even in containers. As long as they have good, well-draining soil your plant will thrive!

Conclusion

Overall, marigolds are a simple flowering plant to take care of. They have minimal amount of pests and very few diseases. They are a great way to deter animals, bugs, and even nematodes. By adding to them to the perimeter of your garden or implementing companion planting, it is an easy way to incorporate organic growing practices.

Plant Apps that are useful:

  • Seed to Spoon (available in the App store) – The app is full of information about different types of vegetables and fruits. By setting up your zipcode in the app, it will tell you what zone you are located in for planting. It will also tell you the friends and foes of each plant for companion planting.
  • PictureThis (available in the App Store) – The app helps identify plants based on foliage and flowers.

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