Growing Marigolds in the Home Garden

They may be small, but marigolds are mighty annuals in the garden and landscape! Marigolds are noted for their cheerful yellow,  golden, and coppery flowers and their durability in the landscape. 

Marigolds are native to mostly Mexico and Central America. Close to 50 species of marigolds are known, but only a few are grown widely in the U.S. The common name marigold comes from their use in festivals and religious celebrations. They were once called Mary’s golden flower (after the Virgin Mary). The name was later shortened to marigold. They also resemble and were initially confused with Calendula officinalis, also called marigold, specifically pot marigold. 

Marigolds are common decorations in Day of the Dead celebrations in the Americas. Each year, on November 1st and 2nd, marigold petals are scattered along pathways and used to decorate family alters as a way to aid the souls of the deceased in finding their way home. In Nepal, marigolds are called  “hundred-leafed flowers,” which refers to the many petals per blossom. These blossoms are used in garlands and decorations for weddings and festivals.

Species & Cultivars  |  Care  |  Interesting Facts  |  Potential Problems  |  More Information

Species and Cultivars

Mexican mint marigold or Spanish tarragon is a species of marigold (Tagetes lucida) that is sometimes used as a culinary herb. It is a good substitute for French tarragon with a hint of licorice. Another species called the Mexican marigold (Tagetes lennonii) is a perennial shrub in Mexico. It reaches 4 feet tall and is covered with dainty yellow flowers. It is hardy in zones 8-11. In Peru and Ecuador, another species (Tagetes minuta) is grown primarily for the foliage sold as black mint paste. 

However, the African, French, and signet marigolds are the most popular ornamental species in the U.S. Notably, the species called African and French marigolds originate from Mexico and Central America – not Africa or France.

picture of yellow African marigold flower

African Marigold 

African marigold (Tagetes erecta), sometimes called American or Aztec marigold, is often the largest of the species commonly grown with heights from 10-36 inches. Flowers are the largest as well, usually reaching 5 inches in diameter. Flowers are typically double, and colors include yelloww, gold, orange, and white. African marigolds benefit from deadheading, keeping plants tidy and re-blooming throughout the summer.


Recommended African Marigolds for the Garden
Series NameHeight/Spread (inch)Flower ColorFlower size (inch)
Antigua10-12/10-12Primrose, yellow, gold, orange3
Marvel II 16-18/10-12Yellow, gold, orange
Taishan10-12/8-10Yellow, gold, orange 
Inca II12-14/12-14Primrose, yellow, gold, orange
Crackerjack24-30/8-12Primrose, gold, orange4
Vanilla16-18/10-12Creamy white5
Orange Hawaii30-36/8-12Orange

 French Marigoldpicture of orange French marigold

French marigold (Tagetes patula) is the most common marigold sold in the U.S. It is smaller than African marigold, ranging from 6 to 18 inches tall. Flowers are smaller as well, rarely exceeding 2 inches in diameter. Flower colors include yellow, gold, orange, maroon, white, and bicolors. Flowers are available in single, semi-double, and double forms. French marigolds do not require deadheading to rebloom throughout the summer. However, many gardeners deadhead them to keep plants tidy. French marigolds tend to be the most adaptable to soil type and will tolerant moist soils better than other commonly grown species.

Recommended French Marigolds for the Garden
Series NameHeight/Spread (inch)Flower ColorFlower size (inch)
Bonanza 10-12/6-8 Yellow, gold, deep orange, maroon bicolors2  
 Janie8-10/6-8Yellow, orange2  
Queen Sophia10-12Dark orange petals outlined in gold2-3  
Flamenco10-12/6-8Yellow with red tips2  
Durango10-12/6-8Yellow, gold, orange, rusty red, maroon bicolors
Hot Pak6-7/6-8Yellow, gold, orange, maroon bicolors2  
Super Hero10-12/10-12Yellow, orange, maroon bicolors2
Happy6-8/6-8Yellow, orange, maroon bicolors 
Strawberry Blonde8-10/6-8Multiple colors on each plant; red, orange, peach, to yellow
Safari10-12/6-8Yellow, orange, maroon, bicolors 

Hybrid Marigolds

There are hybrids between African and French marigolds that often have the larger flowers of African marigolds on compact plants, longer bloom times, and are durable in the landscape. Look for Endurance and Zenith series of hybrids. 

Signet MarigoldPicture of orange Signet marigold

Signet marigold (Tagetes tenuifolia) is less common than the other types of marigolds. Flowers are tiny, often less than an inch in diameter. Flowers are typically single or semi-double and available in yellow, gold, or orange. The foliage is smaller, too, giving the plants a finer texture in the landscape. Signet marigolds are typically less than a foot tall. Signet marigolds are noted for their more delicate habit and “lemony-marigold” fragrance to the flowers and foliage. Deadheading is rarely required as the spent flowers drop quickly.

Notable Cultivars of Signet Marigolds
Series NameHeight/Spread (inch)Flower Color
Red Gem10-12/8-12Red/orange with yellow centers
Lemon Gem10-12/8-12Bright yellow
Tangerine Gem10-12/8-12Bright orange
Lemon Star12-18/8-12Yellow with maroon centers

Care of Marigolds

Marigolds have a strong, distinctive fragrance of the flowers and foliage. They are also noted for their durability and drought tolerance in the home landscape. Most marigolds prefer full sun with well-drained to dry soils. Once established, they are drought tolerant, making them great performers in containers, beds, and borders. 

Interesting Facts

Marigolds have a couple of interesting compounds in the plants and flowers. The bright yellow flowers of marigolds are an abundant source of lutein, a yellow plant pigment or carotenoid. Lutein is used in many applications in the food and health sector. It is sometimes sold as a nutritional supplement to improve eye health. It is also an additive in chicken feed to improve the yolk color of laying hens. In Europe, lutein is a common food or beverage dye or colorant.

Certain types of French marigolds release a chemical called alpha-terthienyl in their roots that is highly toxic to root-knot nematodes. It prevents nematode eggs from hatching, disrupting their lifecycle. This has been shown to work well when marigolds are used as a cover crop for at least 2 months before planting vegetables in the same space.

Potential Problems

Marigolds are typically pest and disease-free. Japanese beetles, spider mites, aphids, thrips, and other insects will occasionally attack marigold flowers and leaves. While these insects may cause plants to be unsightly for a while, they rarely destroy the plants. Insecticides are generally not warranted in the home landscape. 

Diseases such as root rots in moist soils can be more damaging to African marigolds and can ultimately lead to the death of the plants. Well-drained soils are preferred for all marigolds. Aster yellows is another disease that can be detrimental to marigolds. Aster yellow is a disease caused by a phytoplasma (similar to a virus) transmitted by a leafhopper that shows up as deformed flowers. There is little a gardener can do to prevent or control aster yellows. It is recommended that infected plants be removed to prevent the spread of the phytoplasma to marigolds or other Aster family members. 

Nutritional disorders are not uncommon in marigolds grown in soilless media. Low pH soils may lead to iron and manganese toxicity, as evidenced by bronze speckling of the lower leaves. Nitrogen-deficient soils will lead to overall yellowing of the leaves. Phosphorus deficiency is noted by the purpling of lower leaves. Fertilizing occasionally with a complete fertilizer during the growing season often prevents or reduces these issues.

More Information


  • Ploeg, A.T. 2002. Effects of Selected Marigold Varieties on Root-knot nematodes and Tomato and Melon Yields. Plant Disease 86(5):505-508.
  • Owen, W.G., J Henry, and B.E. Whipker. 2017. Nutritional Monitoring: Marigolds. E-Gro Alert 6(41). 
Last reviewed:
June 2024