How to Plant and Care For Marigolds
in Your Home or Garden

By Andrea Pisani Babich | Advertiser Disclosure

Marigolds are easy to grow from seeds—even the smallest green thumbs can excel. And marigolds reward budding gardeners’ efforts with vibrant, showy flowers to be proud of.

You can reap these rewards in your own garden with little effort. Whether you grow them indoors from seeds or plant seedlings outdoors, marigolds are easy to grow and require little to no care.

Common marigold varieties

There are at least 50 species of marigolds, but only four varieties of marigolds commonly appear in gardens:

1. Mexican or African marigold (Tagetes erecta)

Native to the Americas, Tagetes erecta is the tallest variety of marigold commonly planted in gardens, growing to be 20–39 inches tall. They thrive in hot, dry conditions.

Mexican or African Marigold Tagetes erecta

2. French marigold (Tagetes patula)

Despite the name, this species is native to Mexico and Guatemala. Tagetes patula is small and more compact than Tagetes erecta and extends just 6–24 inches in height.

French marigold Tagetes patula

3. Signet or golden marigold (Tagetes tenuifolia)

Growing 12–20 inches, Tagetes tenuifolia possess a different bloom than Tagetes erecta and Tagetes patula. The plant produces many small, compact floral heads. Their leaves smell of citrus and their flowers can add a lemony flavor to culinary dishes.

Signet or golden marigold Tagetes tenuifolia

4. English or poet’s marigold (Calendula officinalis)

With vivid orange and yellow flowers, this species of marigold is tolerant of cold weather. Its flowers are edible and it grows 12–24 inches in height.

English or poet's marigold Calendula officinalis

Why gardeners grow marigolds

Bright, bold, bountiful blooms give marigolds their celebrity status. As annuals, marigolds bloom in summer months and into autumn, typically until the first frost of the year. There are six key characteristics that prove these golden beauties deserve a place in your gardens:

  1. Beauty—Marigolds will add an excellent aesthetic to your home or garden. Even after first frost—when many marigolds perish—dried marigolds make robust and vivid additions to dried floral arrangements.
  2. Low maintenanceThese flowers are very easy to grow from seeds or seedlings. Marigold care is also very simple—some can survive even if neglected.
  3. Mosquito repellent—A distinctive bitter and pungent scent is produced by marigolds. This odor stems from plant-based chemicals including pyrethrum, an active ingredient in many commercial insect repellents. A study published in the Iranian Journal of Arthropod-Borne Diseases found that essential oil from a species of marigold works as well as DEET to repel mosquitoes for up to two hours.
  4. Companion plants—Marigolds support the health of most garden plants and repel pests including beetles, roundworms, and deer—all of which can wreak havoc on your carefully tended garden. This means that marigolds are excellent companion plants for your garden.
  5. Honeybee support—Because marigolds naturally repel some insects, gardens with marigolds may not require insecticide. As a result, honeybees that visit the garden are not exposed to harmful pesticides. And a healthy honeybee population is critical to biodiversity and agricultural production.
  6. EdibleMarigold flowers add a spicy tang as well as color in salads or other dishes. To be eaten, flowers must be grown without using pesticides and should be sampled to test for allergic reactions before being included in the meal.

When to plant marigolds

Marigolds are native to the western hemisphere and grow in the wild between the southwestern United States through Central and South America. Most marigolds thrive in warm, dry conditions, but marigolds can be grown successfully anywhere outdoors as long as the temperature remains above 40°F.

Most garden marigolds are annuals. And even though they are hardy, marigolds are not frost tolerant. They should not be sown or planted outdoors until all chance of frost has passed. If you live in a region with a late last frost date, you can begin nurturing marigold seeds indoors six to eight weeks before the last frost. Seedlings will be ready to plant once the soil is warm—above 40°F.

How to plant marigold seeds indoors

Starting your marigold seedlings indoors gives you an early start for the growing season. Growing marigolds by sowing seeds is cheaper than buying marigold plants from a nursery—and gives you the satisfaction of watching your marigolds mature into garden gold from their humble beginnings.


  • Soilless potting mix made with peat moss, perlite, vermiculite, bark, or coconut coir
  • Small plastic containers or a growing tray
  • Plastic wrap
  • Small pots
  • Water

Start planting seeds six to eight weeks before the last frost. Here are the steps to take to get your seedlings started indoors:

  1. Fill containers or growing trays halfway with damp, soilless potting mix.
  2. Sprinkle marigold seeds on top of the potting mix. Cover with another thin layer of potting mix.
  3. Cover containers or trays with plastic wrap and place in a warm place. No special lighting is necessary.
  4. Check the seeds for germination after three days. Once seedlings appear, remove plastic wrap and move the plants to a location where they will receive at least five hours of sunlight each day.
  5. Move plants to their own pots once the seedlings have two sets of leaves. Keep them indoors in a location where they will receive at least five hours of sunlight each day until the last frost has passed. Then you can move the plants outdoors to your garden.
  6. Plant your marigolds one to three feet apart from one another in an area that receives sunlight all day long.
Editor's Pick

  • Grows 6–18 inches
  • Comes in a mix of colors
  • Best if planted in a spot with full sun exposure

How to plant marigolds outdoors

It’s very simple to germinate marigold seeds outdoors as long as you can wait until the ground warms.


  • Garden trowel
  • Fertile, well-draining soil
  • An ideal location for planting that receives full sunshine all day long
  • Water
  • Optional: 5-10-5 granular fertilizer or another grade of fertilizer based on your soil
  1. Use the trowel to dig a six-inch-deep hole in the soil. Remove any stones.
  2. If using fertilizer, add a small amount. Use enough to fill the hole by one inch.
  3. Dampen the soil with water and sow marigold seeds at least one inch apart. Cover with a thin layer of soil.

To care for your marigold seedlings:

  1. Water gently—enough to keep soil from drying out but no more. Watering from below will prevent damping off, the sudden death of seedlings often caused by soil-borne fungus.
  2. When seedlings are two inches tall, separate marigolds and replant one to three feet apart from one another

That’s all it takes to bring an explosion of glorious color to your garden in just six to eight weeks.

How to care for marigolds

When caring for marigolds, less is more. Following a few simple care instructions will keep your marigolds happy and healthy all summer long:

  • Allow the soil to dry out between waterings, then water thoroughly.
  • Water marigolds at the base of the plant.
  • Avoid a profusion of foliage and fewer flowers by not fertilizing soil after sowing seeds.
  • Deadheading is not necessary. But if you choose to deadhead your marigold blooms, you will keep your plants producing throughout the summer.
  • Limit weed growth by putting down a layer of mulch between marigold plants.

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