Marigolds are a member of the Asteraceae family along with plants like daisies and sunflowers. The family is made up of over 22,000 species! They belong to the genus Tagetes, and there are 56 species in the genus. The two common species you will find at Bob's Market are tagetes patula (French Marigolds) and tagetes erecta (African Marigolds). Many species of tagetes, including the varieties we use as ornamental flowers, are used as herbs in other parts of the world. They are used to prepare a medicinal tea in Mexico, and used as a culinary herb in South America. In Nepal marigold garlands are used during Tihar, the festival of lights in late autumn. In India marigolds are commonly used as wedding decorations, and the are regarded as one of the national symbols of the Ukraine.
Marigolds also have a strong, pungent scent that is said to deter many insects and other pests like deer and rabbits. They are a common companion plant in vegetable gardens. However, you should avoid planting them near bean crops due to antibacterial compounds called thiophenes produced by their roots. Legumes have symbiotic bacteria living in their roots that produce nitrogen compounds and help the plants grow. I use marigolds in my own garden as living row markers.
Here are some marigold care tips:
- Plant marigolds in full sun.
- Space them 6-9 inches apart for French varieties and 18 inches apart for African varieties.
- Avoid fertilizers with a high nitrogen content. It will cause them to become bushy and produce less flowers.
- Deadhead regularly to promote branching and flowering.
- Water marigolds at least once per week once established. They are one plant that doesn't require much water.