All About Marigolds
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The North American garden-variety marigold (Tagetes erecta) is one of the easiest flowers to grow. You can literally scrape away a bit of soil, throw the seeds in, water, and watch the plants grow. Not only that, they bloom continuously during the growing season-and some slightly beyond, even tolerating the occasional frost. They prefer full sun and well drained normal to dry soil conditions.
Marigolds in the Garden
Some species grow as tall as 3 feet, while others such as French marigolds are as small as 5 to 6 inches in height. French marigolds (T. patula) have large showy flowerheads and work nicely as edging plants for flowerbeds, planted in pots around the terrace, or planted in masses as accents at entranceways. Marigolds also look wonderful in window box planters. Sometimes marigolds are planted amongst vegetables in the garden to keep pest nematodes at bay.
Marigolds are members of the Aster family and are characterized by their multi-petaled flowerheads in various shades of yellow, gold, and orange to red. Marigolds have a distinct odor, which is disagreeable to some. However, they make nice tidy compact bouquets and are wonderful bright colored accents in bouquets of mixed flowers. They can also be dried and retain their color fairly well.
Marigolds are often confused with other flowers with the same common name but of entirely different species. Pot Marigold (Calendula officinalis), native to the Mediterranean or the Marsh Marigold (Caltha palustris), a member of the Buttercup family for example. Garden variety marigolds are native to Mexico and Central America.
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The 'lemon gem' (pictured above) and 'tangerine gem' cultivars of Tagetes tenuifolia are two types of marigolds that are edible and the petals used as garnishes for food and drink (pot marigold is also edible, but is a different species than the garden-variety marigold discussed here). The petals can be made into marigold wine as well. All in all marigolds are quite versatile and a much deserved addition to the garden.