Growing Beautiful and Colorful French Marigolds

french marigolds

Photo: Joydeep / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA-3.0

French marigolds (Tagetes patula) are plants that have a place in the flowerbeds, borders and gardens. They add a cheerful yellow, orange, to orange-red color around homes, businesses and even churches. French marigolds are easy to grow and they are a particularly forgiving and hardy annual. The seeds can also be found in a lot of seed stores.

These marigolds didn’t originate in France, despite the name. They are actually native to Southern Mexico and Guatemala. The flower petals aren’t just for show, however. All marigold flowers, Tagetes genus, can be eaten, but some aren’t very good tasting. French marigolds do have a good, spicy and somewhat lemony flavor, though. The petals also yield a yellow dye that can be used to color everything from food to fabric.

The plants also deter many insect pests, so they are great companion plants in the garden. They are particularly useful when grown near tomatoes or plants that suffer from aphids and nematodes.

The plants grow from a half of a foot to two feet tall, so they aren’t very big, even though they are sometimes bushy. They usually bloom within weeks of being planted and if the flowers are dead-headed (clipped off when the blossom is beginning to fade), they will often keep blooming throughout the late spring, summer and into fall.

French marigolds do best in full sunshine. They will grow in soil that is clay, sandy or loamy, so they can be planted in most kinds of dirt. They do best in rather poor but well draining soil. In fact, they should not be fertilized because if the soil is rich, they produce a lot more leaves than flowers.

The plants can be started indoors or they can be direct seeded by broadcasting the seeds with a small amount of dirt of the top. They can then be thinned out later and grow quite well if they are thinned to one to two feet apart.

The plant tends to be drought hardy, but does well on about an inch of water per week, letting the dirt dry out somewhat between watering times. This plant should be watered at ground level, though, because if it is watered from above, mildew can become a problem. Spider mites can also infest the plant, but there are few other insect pests that bother it. This plant is also deer resistant. The flowers are deliciously pungent to people, but deer don’t seem to like the flavor.

The petals of T. patula are often dried, crushed and used in the food dishes in the Republic of Georgia. They call it imeruli shaphrani, which means Imeretian Saffron, though this plant isn’t saffron. Still, the flowers do have a very pleasant pungency that they use for flavoring.

This is a great flower to grow, because it is beautiful, is useful in repelling pests and is edible. That is a great combination. As if that wasn’t enough, French marigolds can even be grown in pots.




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