If you’re wondering what those gorgeous vibrant orange flowers you often see in veg patches are, they’re marigolds.
There are around 56 species of marigolds, all stemming from the Tagetes tribe, which originated from Mexico and Guatemala. Some types are wild-growing, while others are cultivated for use in yards.
Still, the sort we refer to here is French Marigolds or Tagetes patula.
The name ‘marigold’ comes from the old English for ‘Mary’s Gold’ or ‘Golden Flower’ and symbolizes the virgin, Mary. It was used widely as a cheerful girl’s name in years gone by.
But why are marigolds so common, why do gardeners value them so much, and, most importantly, what can marigolds do for you? Here are the top 5 reasons you need to grow marigolds.
1. They’re Generous
The thing with marigolds is that they give a lot for just a little effort on your part, and you’ll be reaping the reward for the little time it takes to pop them in the ground and water them.
Ensure they’re in well-drained soil, planted at around one-half inches deep and roughly 4 inches apart.
They are uncomplicated to grow and maintain. In fact, the only thing you’ll need to do for marigolds is to water them during a particularly lengthy dry spell and avoid frost at all costs.
It’s rare for marigolds not to germinate when planted after the last cold snap, and if you’re lucky, it’ll happen in as little as four days, although it can take up to 14 days, so be patient.
Marigolds are also full-season growers; once they’re here, they’re here to stay if the conditions are right.
It’s not uncommon for Marigolds to still be in bloom come November and beyond if the temperature in your area remains relatively mild.
To keep them in full color, make sure to deadhead your plant as often as needed using scissors to snip back to below the withering head.
Lastly, you can’t deny that marigolds are a delight to look at. With their spectrum of colors, ranging from burgundy red to deep orange to shades of yellow, it’s hard to tear your eyes away.
If your marigolds are growing abundantly, you can always pick a posy to enjoy inside your home.
2. They Attract
With blooms as beautiful as marigolds, it’s no wonder bees love to extract the flower’s sweet nectar.
French Marigolds have a pungent aroma that humans find difficult to bear. You may describe it as a musky smell and similar to wet straw.
Bees don’t seem to mind this, and you will often find them buzzing around your plants. Marigolds are particularly good for bees because they are long-lasting and provide nectar month after month.
There are two reasons why this is so beneficial. Firstly you are supporting the dwindling bee population, which desperately needs help. You’re also inviting them into your garden to pollinate your other crops. Double win!
Lastly, marigolds are a firm favorite of adult butterflies. Butterflies are a wonder to the natural world and will brighten your day in a flutter.
3. They Repel
Marigolds are widely understood to be the perfect companion in a vegetable patch. This is because of their ability to repel all manner of insects and pests. Planting them around the perimeter of a bed, like a floral cage, or in between crops are thought to be most beneficial.
Countless accounts indicate that the golden blooms deter insects such as aphids, greenflies, and blackflies and suggest that they will keep rabbits from nibbling your crops. Some truth to these claims must lie, as so many gardeners continue to plant them in such quantities and with such certainty. There is, however, a gaping lack of scientific evidence to support any of the above.
Marigolds do, however, repel nematodes. Nematodes are parasites that live underground and particularly like tomatoes. They have razor-sharp mouthparts that break through the roots of plants and take nutrients for themselves. Marigolds keep them at bay by releasing alpha-terthienyl, a toxic chemical in the ground that stops the nematode’s eggs from hatching.
4. They’re Useful
As well as being an excellent tool for your garden and sweet on your eye, Marigolds have a great list of other uses, which is because of the vast amounts of essential oil sitting within their flowers.
Marigolds have excellent medicinal properties, containing high quantities of flavonoids. They have anti-inflammatory properties and are most notably used to treat skin conditions like eczema.
You can create an ointment by preserving marigold flowers in olive oil for a few weeks before draining and adding wax. Once this has had time to set, you can use it for 2-3 months.
Lastly, marigolds are edible. You can enjoy the petals or the leaves and include them in salads, cooking, and even tea.
Marigolds have an unusual citrusy yet spicy taste and the bright colors are perfect for adding color and interest to dishes.
However, it’s important to remember that they can be harmful if eaten in large quantities, so be sure to save them for a special occasion.
5. They’ll Be Back
Cultivated marigolds are annuals, meaning they only grow for the season and will wither and die back. Don’t let this put you off because they will be back, and I don’t mean after a trip to the garden center.
Come fall, and if you leave them be, marigolds will release hundreds of seeds that will embed in your soil, wait until spring weather arrives, and bring you joy all over again.
If, however, you’d prefer your marigolds not to self-seed, make sure to deadhead the plant before it goes into seed. Alternatively, harvest the seeds from your plant and keep them to plant in a more controlled way.
So, there you have it, marigolds are the gift that keeps on giving and should have a unique place in your garden. Whether you have ample space or a small yard, they bring so much and ask so little in return.