When I set out to learn more about Marigolds, I was surprised to find that the name refers to at least two different groups of annual plants. Though they are both in the family Asteraceae, they each belong to a different genus. The first, Pot Marigold, is of the genus Calendula. The other, which includes several species, is in the genus Tagetes. Both types answer to the same common name, but they are not the same.

Pot Marigolds, or as some call them, Common Marigolds, are officially Calendula Officinalis. They are an edible herb and can apparently be used to cure many different skin and stomach problems, everything from varicose veins to bee stings to diarrhea. Sap from the stem is said to remove warts, calluses and corns. The name Pot Marigold refers to the fact that the petals are edible and have been used in soups and salads, and to give cheese and butter a yellow color. It’s used to make lotions and dyes and was even used as a rinse to brighten hair color. I’ve grown Marigolds many times, but when I saw photos of this plant, I realized that I have never grown this particular type. Originally from Southern Europe, it only appeared in yellow, with single flowers, like a daisy. Over the years, new varieties have appeared, with pastel shades, some bicolors and and double petals. The plants grow about 18 inches tall, and about 2 feet wide. A lot of sources dismiss Pot Marigolds and say they are not “true Marigolds”.

The other Marigold, that of the Tagetes genus, comes in three species: African, French and Triploid. Unlike the Pot Marigolds, these are native to Mexico and Central America.

African is the largest type. It grows up to 3 feet tall and has globe shaped flowers that can be 5 inches across. Also called American Marigold or Crackerjack Marigold, they take longer to bloom than the other types, beginning in late spring and finishing in early fall. African Marigolds come in a range of color from pale cream to bright orange, but not red. Because they are so tall, and the flowers so heavy, they should be staked to protect them from breaking in the wind. Because of their strong odor, they are planted among vegetable plants, to mask the smell from preying insects.

French Marigolds are similar to African, but much smaller, only about 5-18 inches tall, and 12 inches wide, with 2 inch flowers. The blooming season is longer, from spring until fall. They appear in red, yellow and orange, and some bicolor. Being smaller, they work well in mass plantings, edgings and containers.  French Marigolds are often planted along with vegetable plants because they produce a substance which repels nematodes, nasty little worm like things that kill vegetable plants.

Triploid Marigolds are a hybrid, a cross between the African and the French. Plants are similar in size to the French, but the flowers are pompon shaped and larger, 2-3 inches wide. Triploids are sterile, they do not set seed, and as a result, continue to bloom until killed by frost. They also have a low germination rate, many seeds are planted, but few plants result.

All varieties of Marigold have a few things in common. They are propagated from seed, and with the exception of the Triploids, will seed themselves. They will grow in all hardiness zones in the United States. All of them prefer full sun, and well drained, but moist soil. Beneficial insects, such as bees and butterflies are attracted to Marigolds, but deer and rabbits are not.



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5 Responses to “Marigold”

  1. Elna Wichmann Says:

    Can Crackerjack marigold be used for creams and are they edible? I live in South Africa and can get Crackerjack but seem to struggle to find calendula officinalis which i need to make cream

    • margaretsgarden Says:

      As far as I can tell, Crackerjack marigolds are edible. But, I’m afraid that is the extent of my knowledge. I am not able to tell you if they can be used for creams.

  2. Siriwan Yothmontre Says:

    What is the name of white marigold?And where I can buy the seeds please

  3. Julie Says:

    you can find seeds at Otherwise, your local grocery store or potting nursery may hold some!

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