Plants - Annuals

Marvelous marigolds

By
Laura Langston

The age-old marigold is still a front runner in many gardens


Marigold species

marigold-signet.jpgSignet marigolds
Signet marigolds (Tagetes tenuifolia) are dainty little plants sometimes sold as T. signata pumila. Their feathery leaves produce a delightful citrus scent when touched. The single, dime-size flowers range from yellow and gold to deep orange. Their compact growth (six to 12 inches/15 to 30 centimetres), makes them ideal for rockeries or containers. My favourite is 'Tangerine Gem', with vivid orange blooms. There's also yellow-flowering 'Lemon Gem', and 'Paprika', with bright red petals edged in gold.

French marigolds (as shown above)
French marigolds (T. patula) are early flowering with a bushy habitat and range in height from eight to 14 inches (20 to 35 centimetres). Cultivars come in yellow, gold, orange and mahogany-red as well as bicolours. Flower size depends on the variety, but they're usually an inch or two across and can be single, double or crested, with the outer leaves ruffled. "French marigolds are virtually indestructible," says Bill Dam, of William Dam Seeds in Dundas, Ontario. Dam likes the old-fashioned, single-flowering 'Disco Mix', which is rain-tolerant. He recommends the heavy-blooming, daylight neutral Janie series for those who prefer small, double-crested marigolds. John Derrick, owner of Elk Lake Garden Centre in Victoria, British Columbia, likes 'Safari Mix'  because of its wide colour range and large early flowers.

marigold-african.jpgAfrican marigolds
African marigolds (T. erecta), sometimes called Aztec or American, have large, coarse leaves and grow 15 to 36 inches (45 to 90 centimetres) tall, producing huge three- to five-inch (eight- to 12-centimetre) double blooms. Colours range from yellow and gold to dark, vibrant orange and are generally later blooming than French marigolds. The tall Gold Coin series are ideal for massing at the back of the garden bed and also make good cut flowers. Some of the smaller hybrids, such as Incas and Jubilees, have the same large blooms on shorter plants, making them ideal for the middle of a border.

By crossing American and French marigolds, breeders created hybrids that are short like French marigolds but with blooms the size of the American.
From 12 to 18 inches (30 to 45 centimetres) tall, the hybrids are heavy bloomers, producing traditional yellow and orange flowers as well as coppery red blooms and many other combinations. The Antigua series germinates better than other hybrids, and produces large, long-lasting flowers.

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