Sometimes gardeners get a little snooty about the plants they grow. If the plants are readily available, easily grown from seed, commonly found as bedding plants or just too popular; we sometimes shun them.
The marigold is one such plant. While these plants have been around since their first recorded use in the 1500s, they really did not begin their North American popularity until the turn of the century. From the 1920s to the present plant breeders have developed hundreds of new varieties, but it has been the last 30 years that have shown the most advancements in breeding.
Canadians love the marigold because of their ability to thrive in our hot and often humid summers. However, for some reason marigolds have fallen out of favour over the last decade. Perhaps it was because they had become too popular, or perhaps it was the introduction of the myriad of new flowering annuals that were tolerant of our growing conditions. Regardless, it is time to revisit our old friends and find a spot in the garden for them.
Marigolds fall in the genus Tagetes, which contains 40 species. The main species of focus are:
• African marigold ( Tagetes erecta)
• French marigold ( Tagetes patula)
• Signet marigold ( Tagetes tenuifolia)
African marigolds are characterized by a larger leaf size and larger flowers than most of the other marigold species. Flowers can be three inches across on smaller varieties, while the larger types can sport blooms 3.5 to five inches across. African marigolds appear in solid colours only, no bi-colours, and are taller than most other varieties. Plants in this group can reach between nine inches in height for dwarf hybrids and 28 inches or more for taller varieties.
‘Gold Coin’ is a great choice for the back of garden beds. These marigolds can grow up to 36 inches in height. The orange, yellow or gold flowers can reach an impressive five inches in width. The newly introduced variety, ‘Inca II’, is an early blooming, double flowered variety that blooms on compact plants 12 inches high. The blooms reach three inches across in colours of gold, orange, primrose or yellow. This variety offers an extra week of bloom time, which is perfect for our short season climate, and they are continuous bloomers adding colour all summer long.
Range of colour
French marigolds contain the widest colour range. The flowers can appear in solid colours of orange, yellow, gold or mahogany red. Bi-coloured flowers in combinations of orange and gold, mahogany red and yellow are also available. This species also blooms in a variety of forms such as single flowered, carnation flowered, full, double flowered or crested with a centre of tight clustered petals surrounded by broader ray petals. The plants themselves grow in a bushy form making wonderful accents for flower beds.
Examples include the heavy bloomers in the Janie series