Marigolds grow best between zones 9-11. Marigolds can grow between 6 inches to 4 feet tall and 6 inches to 3 feet wide. The flowers can be a mix of orange, yellow, mixed, red, cream and maroon. Marigolds need a lot of sunshine with moist soil. Marigolds require approximately 45 to 50 days to flower after seeding, therefore seeding indoors should be done in late March or early April. They can be planted freely in beds, borders, edges, pots, and boxes. Spent flower heads should be removed for additional flowering. They grow in almost any soil, however, marigolds thrive in moderately fertile, well-drained soil. The scent of the marigold repel animals and insects, and the underground workings of the marigold will repel nematodes (microscopic worms) and other pests for up to 3 years. Marigolds are best planted interspersed with vegetables to deter insects. French marigolds secrete a substance in their roots that is especially effective in deterring nematodes. This effect can last several seasons. French marigolds are also great for deterring whiteflies. In contrast, Mexican marigolds are the most effective variety in repelling insects. It is so powerful that it also repels bunnies from the garden (2).
Culinary and Medicinal Uses
In Mexico, Marigold seeds, either raw or toasted, have been used for centuries to treat intestinal worms. The leaves and roots are also used to make a laxative tea, which also helps with fever and general stomach pains (3). Marigolds are edible and add a spicy flavor to salads. Sometimes the petals are cooked with rice to dye the rice the color of saffron. Additionally, marigolds are grown in Mexico for chicken feed, because it is thought to produce richer eggs with a deeper color (1). There have been several NIH studies on the antimicrobial effects of marigolds (4).
Significance to Cultural Communities
Marigolds are native to south America. The Aztecs called it campasúchil, the flower of 400 lives, which was highly regarded for its healing properties. It was used to treat fevers and stomach aches. Marigolds were also sacred to Mayan cultures, and in both Aztec and Mayan cultures, the plant was often used to honor gods and spirits. Mayan priests would wash themselves with a marigold brew before calling on spirits (3). In modern Mexico, marigold serves as an important symbol for Los Dias de Los Muertos. The fragrance of the lower is said to guide spirits, and often times the flowers will be arranged in paths for the spirits, from graves to houses, so family members’ loved ones can find their way back home. A cross of marigolds is formed for the spirit, so that when it approaches the altar, stepping on the cross will expel the guilt (5). When gravestones have marigolds on them, it is said to offer protection. Marigolds are also used in Hindu ceremonies to honor gods and goddesses, and it symbolizes passion and creativity (4). In medieval times English marigold was called Mary Gold after the Virgin Mary was believed to wear the golden blossoms in her hair. A single marigold flower would be gathered in August and wrapped with a wolf’s tooth in bay leaves as a protective amulet. This amulet was thought of to guard the wearer from harmful words. Marigolds used to be thought of as a preventative treatment for the plague in Europe. In the American Civil War, marigold flowers were used to stanch bleeding from the soldiers’ wounds (3).
From the Community Voice
Here's flowers for you;
Hot lavender, mints, savoury, marjoram;
The marigold, that goes to bed wi' the sun
And with him rises weeping: these are flowers
Of middle summer, and I think they are given
To men of middle age.
- The Winter's Tale (4.4.122-7)
1. “Marigolds.” The Old Farmer’s Almanac. http://www.almanac.com/plant/marigolds
2. “Companion Planting.” Golden Harvest Organics. http://www.ghorganics.com/page2.html#MARIGOLDS:
3. Davidow, Joie, Infusions of Healing: A Treasury of Mexican-American Herbal Remedies (New York, NY: Fireside, 1999).
4. Norton, Joan. “Significance of the Marigold Flower.” Gardenguides. http://www.gardenguides.com/114697-significance-marigold-flower.html#ixzz2xxGNwsJz
5. “Day of the dead symbols.” Celebrate Day of the Dead. http://www.celebrate-day-of-the-dead.com/day-of-the-dead-symbols.html