Height 15-75cm (6-30in)
Planting distance 30-45cm (12-18in)
Flowers mid summer to autumn
Open sunny site
French and African marigolds are without doubt two of the most popular sources of orange and yellow colour in summer bedding schemes. And they are also among the easiest to cultivate.
Theare single, semi-double or double and come in every shade of orange, yellow and mahogany-red. They are excellent for cutting as well as for garden decoration. When crushed, the deeply cut green leaves give off a pungent smell.
Three species and their varieties are generally available.
Tagetes erecta, African marigold, has given rise to numerous varieties, many of which are Fl hybrids of uniform vigour and flower size. Popular tall types (60-75cm/2-21/2ft) with double flowers up to 15cm (6in) across, include ‘Crackerjack Mixed’ (orange, gold and lemon); ‘Doubloon’ (primrose-yellow); and the ‘Jubilee’ series (a ‘ mixture of yellow, orange and gold). Dwarf, double-flowered varieties (25-45cm/10-18in) include the ‘Inca’ series (mixed or single colours of gold, bright yellow and deep orange); and ‘Sun-spot Mixed’ (yellow, gold and orange, frilled petals).
Afro-French varieties are hybrids between African and French marigolds. They grow 30cm (12in) high and bear a profusion of frilled, double blooms. Popular types include ‘Caribbean Parade’ (lemon-yellow to deep orange, often bicoloured); and ‘Seven Star Red’ (mahogany-red).
Tagetes patula, the French marigold, is a dwarf plant and excellent for edging and window-boxes. The numerous varieties range in height from 15cm (6in) to 25-30cm (10-12in). The majority bear double or crested flowers, and dainty, single-flowered types are also available. Double-flowered varieties include the ‘Boy O’Boy’ series (mixtures or single colours of yellow, gold, orange and mahogany-red); ‘Goldfinch’ (golden-yellow, crested); ‘Goldie’ (golden-yellow, red-blotched); ‘Honeycomb’ (red and yellow, crested); ‘Queen Bee’ (interlaced red and yellow); ‘Royal Crested’ (mixed colours, crested); and ‘Tiger Eyes’ (red and deep orange, crested).
Single-flowered French marigolds include ‘Naughty Marietta’ (golden-yellow, maroon blotches); ‘Fantasia’ (clear lemon, orange and combinations of red and yellow); and the ‘Mischief series (available as a mixture or in yellow, gold, mahogany and red and gold).
Tagetes tenuifolia pumila, the signet marigold, is a more delicate plant with slender growth and finely divided, light green, sweet-smelling leaves. Its yellow flowers are much smaller than those of the other marigolds. Varieties include ‘Lemon Gem’ (pale yellow) and ‘Golden Gem’ (golden-yellow).
Sow the seeds under glass in early to, just covering them with compost and keep at a temperature of 18°C (64°F). When the seedlings are large enough to handle, prick out into boxes and harden off before planting out in late spring to early summer. Most varieties should be set 30cm (1ft) apart, the taller African marigolds 45cm (18in) apart.
Marigolds grow in any garden soil – even poor dry conditions – though a moderately rich soil is ideal. Give them an open sunny site, and dead-head regularly.
Pests and diseases
Foot rot may make the plants collapse and grey mould can rot the flower heads. Slugs and snails eat the plants.