The tallest of the marigolds, the African marigold lives up to its name in height. This giant cultivar often stretches up to three feet tall. The flowers of these giants may measure up to full half-foot in diameter. However, the name "African' is deceptive since, like all Tagetes, the African marigold originated in Latin America.
You may also find the African marigold sold under either the American Marigold or the Crackerjack Marigold.
The African marigold is a beneficial companion plant in the garden, attracting bees and butterflies while repelling many harmful nematodes. The strong scent of the flowers is also an effective repellent for small animals- rabbits, squirrels, cats, and dogs- that commonly wreak havoc in a vegetable garden.
Because of its origination in desert-like areas, the African marigold has an inherited drought tolerance and does best when planted in a sunny location. Yet during hot, dry spells, spider mites and grasshoppers may attack the African marigold.
Beginning in mid-summer and lasting until the first frost, full double blooms in bold Aztec yellows and oranges are a hallmark of the African marigold.
Sow African marigold seed directly outdoors when all danger of frost is past or start them 6 weeks prior to the last frost date in your area.
Plants for transplanting are also available from most nurseries and other retail plant outlets.
Give these large marigolds plenty of room to grow, spacing them up to 18 inches apart. Once grown, it's also a good idea to attach their stems to garden stakes to protect them from storm damage.
Deadheading spent flowers encourages the African marigold to continue blooming through the summer.
The African marigold has become so popular that hundreds of hybrids have been cultivated for use in both vegetable and herb gardens as well as flowerbeds. The characteristic pungent aroma of the African marigold is muted when hybrids with the French marigold.
French marigolds are notable for their "quieter" aroma. The French marigold is a demure annual flower that reaches just six to twelve inches in stature.
Taking advantage of their vigorous growth and drought tolerance the African marigold is often hybrid with the French marigold, which has a longer and more prolific blooming season. These hybrids are called triploid marigolds and probably because they're sterile are commonly referred to as "mule marigolds."
All types of Marigold, except for triploid hybrids, easily grow from seed and in fact, if left to themselves will often scatter their seeds in August and September, reseeding their area for next season's crop of bright and colorful bloom.Planting Marigolds →