There are several different types of Marigold flowers to explore, each with its own growth habits and flower types, including classic French Marigolds, African Marigolds, and Signet Marigolds. Follow this guide to find the best Marigold varieties for stunning garden displays.
Native to the Americas, Marigolds originate from warmer regions in the western hemisphere. Beginning in the south of the United States, different species appear in different regions down to South America.
As is evident in the Tagetes erecta origin story, Marigolds have long been naturalized in distant regions worldwide. Some species have gained popularity over others, becoming the go-to Marigolds for home gardeners everywhere.
There are more than 50 species of Marigold, but only a few are common in cultivation. These types are not the only members of the Tagetes genus, but are the most often grown options and the first to come to mind when you picture the term ‘Marigold’.
Grown as annuals, these beautiful plants will grow in USDA Zones 2-11, pulled once frost begins to set in. Luckily, you can harvest the seeds from your plant to resow the following marigold season again, providing a continuous supply.
Scientifically known as Tagetes patula, this species is called French Marigold after it gained favor in France early on in its spread and in many other European nations. Grown as an annual, the specific epithet patula means ‘to spread’, describing its growth habit.
Compared to other Marigold species, French Marigolds generally remain compact, with an average height of around 12 inches. Their flower shapes vary from globes to wonderful double blooms that are bound to turn heads.
These plants are straightforward to grow, need minimal fertilizing, and produce masses of flowers amongst the spreading foliage. The time marigolds take to flower differs by cultivar, but you can generally see them popping up around late spring and early summer. The flowers bloom for around two weeks before seeding, but you can also cut marigold flowers off the stems and bring them indoors to enjoy as cut flowers.
There are many French Marigold cultivars, each with its own interesting characteristics. Try one of these garden favorites:
- French Vanilla
- Cottage Red
- Hero Orange
- Zenith Lemon Yellow
- Safari Scarlet
- Queen Sophia
Equal in popularity to the French Marigold, Tagetes erecta has many common names, including African Marigold, American Marigold, or Aztec Marigold. The specific epithet also refers to their growth habit, generally growing taller (around 3 feet on average) and more upright than their related French cousins.
Although the blooms differ in shape and color, there is one uniting characteristic – they are large. The blooms can reach up to 6 inches across and stick around for more than a few days, making them wonderful cut flowers.
African Marigolds are better suited to warmer climates than other types and are remarkably low maintenance. They will flower proliferate when given enough sunlight and are known to tolerate less-than-ideal marigold soil conditions. You’ll need to consider cutting back marigolds come the end of the season ahead of spring the following season.
Try these cultivars for a stunning summer display that doesn’t mind the extra heat:
- Discovery Orange
- Sweet Cream
- Inca Orange (This has gained the Royal Horticultural Society’s Award of Garden Merit).
Signet (Single) Marigolds
Signet Marigolds are part of the Tagetes tenuifolia species. They are also called edible Marigolds, with the blooms frequently used to garnish salads, cakes, and other desserts.
These delicate blooms, in colors ranging from bright orange to maroon, appear on short stems, similar in height to French Marigolds. The thin foliage compliments their soft appearance, ideal for a gentle display in cottage gardens.
Signet Marigolds are wonderful additions to your vegetable garden. This allows you to harvest all your salad ingredients at once, adding a few flowers as a garnish to top it all off. If you want them closer to your kitchen, they are also excellent in containers, making ideal window box plants.
These cultivars are sure to add a pop of color and lemony zing to your dishes:
- Lemon Gem
- Red Gem
Other Notable Species
Although these three types are the most common, they are not all the Tagetes genus has to offer. These other options are also available, but not as easy to find as the popular types.
Triploid Marigolds (Tagetes patula x erecta):
A cross between the African and French Marigolds, providing the best of both worlds.
Mexican Tarragon (Tagetes lucida):
Used as a herb for its tarragon scent and anise flavor.
Southern Cone Marigold (Tagetes minuta):
Producing small flowers on tall stems. Declared invasive in some regions.
Marigolds are easily identified by their stunning flowers in a range of fiery colors, from bright yellow to deep, velvety red.
The flowers come in varying shapes across the different species. Some are rounded with a pom-pom or globe-like appearance, while others are delicate with thin petals and contrasting bright centers. Height also varies by type. Some remain incredibly compact, growing alongside others that reach up to 6 feet in height.
Pinnate green leaves surround these bright flowers. The leafy growth is thin but appears quite dense, creating interest when the plant is not in flower. The leaves are also primarily responsible for the pungent odor known for repelling garden pests and other pesky creatures.
Marigolds are some of the most valuable plants in your garden arsenal. Along with their pest-repelling abilities, they also act as trap crops for some other bugs, keeping them away from your precious vegetables. The blooms from some species are edible and also used to produce perfumes or essential oils.
If that wasn’t enough reason to plant Marigolds, they also come with many health benefits. When processed correctly, they can act as a sleep aid, relieve nausea, and assist with other minor health problems.
Looking at the many different types of Marigolds, it is clear that this group of plants has lots to offer. Whether growing for their pest repelling abilities or stunning blooms, there is bound to be a perfect variety for you.
For more, see our essential guide to everything you need to know about how to grow Marigolds.