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How to Grow Marigolds

Marigolds have a special place in my heart. The first time I saw the seeds from a crumbled, dry marigold bloom, it seemed like magic (it still does!). Then, when I started a garden, marigolds were one of the first plants I successfully grew from seed.

Marigolds are easy to grow, have abundant blooms, and are excellent companion plants. Learn how to grow marigolds with these five tips.


How to Grow Marigolds

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Learn how to grow marigolds with these five tips: 


1. Grow marigolds from seed or transplant 

Start seeds indoors 4-6 weeks before planting outside. To plant, press the pointed end of the seed into the soil until just the end sticks out. Cover lightly with soil. Transplant outdoors when the plant is 3-5 inches tall. 

When purchasing transplants, look for young, bushy transplants with few (if any) blooms. If blooms are present, I cut them off before planting the transplants.

Marigold transplants
Marigold transplants

Marigold grows very well from seeds planted directly in the garden.

There are two main types of marigolds – African and French. African varieties grow larger. French types are smaller. 

Marigold varieties to try: (click on the seed name for seeds)

  • Sugar & Spice – African marigold with large yellow, orange, and white flowers.
  • Moonlight – African marigold; giant, light lemon color; excellent cut flower.
  • Court Jester – French variety with yellow and mahogany striped. 
  • Bolero – French marigold; excellent companion plant. 

2. How to plant and care for marigolds correctly

Marigold seedling ready to plant
Marigold seedling ready to plant

In the low desert of Arizona:

Start seeds indoors:

JanuaryApril

August September

Plant seeds or transplants outside:

FebruaryMay

SeptemberOctober

Here are a few guidelines:

  • Plant marigolds outside once the danger of frost is past.
  • Plant seeds ¼ inch deep and transplants at the same level as the nursery pot.
  • Follow spacing directions for the type of marigold, generally between 6-18 inches apart. 
  • Marigolds grow best in well-draining soil; they grow equally well in containers and raised beds.
  • Give marigolds plenty of sunlight. Afternoon shade in hot summer climates is preferred. 
  • Marigolds need regular water to grow well. 
  • Mulch the soil around marigolds well. 
  • Taller varieties of marigolds may benefit from staking.
  • Don’t overfeed marigolds—excess nitrogen results in fewer blooms. 
  • Remove spent blooms to encourage more flowers. 

Flowers to Plant Outside & Seeds to Start Indoors Each Month in the Low Desert of Arizona.
• PLANTING GUIDE: Each month lists annual flowers and bulbs to plant outside & seeds to start indoors.
• BLOOMING GUIDE: Photos show what may be in bloom that month.


3. Plant marigolds as a companion plant

Marigolds are one of many beneficial insects and pollinator-friendly flowers that are simple to grow from seed. (Read more in this blogpost). I like to plant a few seeds in each garden bed as a way to implement polyculture practices. 

Plant marigolds near brassicas (broccoli, cabbage, etc.) and onions to help repel cabbage root fly and onion root maggot fly. Marigolds can also be used as a trap crop for spider mites and thrips. (Read more in this blogpost).

Marigolds come in different heights and pair well with other flowers. Use them in borders with low-growing alyssum in front and higher-growing zinnias in the back. 


4. Grow marigolds for cut flowers

This tough flower with abundant blooms is easy to grow and provides multiple stems per plant for cut flowers. Marigold blooms make an excellent filler in bouquets

  • Pinch stems when they are 6 inches (15cm) tall for abundant blooms.
  • Harvest when flowers are halfway open.
  • Strip all foliage off the main stem.
  • Blooms last 7-10 days in a vase with floral preservative.
How to grow marigolds Plant marigolds as a companion plant

5. Save seeds from marigolds

Buy a package of marigold seeds, and you’ll have big, beautiful plants that you can save seeds from, and you’ll never have to buy marigold seeds again

  • At the end of the season, leave the best blooms on the plants
  • Allow them to dry and turn brown on the plant. Snip the faded flowers and store them in a paper sack to dry completely. 
  • When they are dry, crumble the blooms and collect the seeds
  • Store wholly-dried seeds in a glass jar

Marigold seeds last 3-5 years if stored properly. Learn more about how to save seeds here and how to properly store seeds here


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