The ever-popular French and African Marigolds, ranging from a few inches to several feet tall, are mis-named – they both originated in Mexico. Some experts feel that we rely too much on the numerous varieties of Tagetes for summer bedding, but these plants continue to be the main source of yellow, orange and brown in the small flower bed. Staking is rarely necessary but dead-heading is required to prolong the floral. The foliage is pungent when crushed and the may be single or double.
VARIETIES: Tagetes are divided into three major. The African Marigolds (T. erecta) are the tallest and the flowers by far the largest, reaching a diameter of several inches. The blooms are double and ball-shaped in colours ranging from pale yellow to deep orange. Some are dwarfs, like ‘Golden Age’ (1 ft) – others such as ‘Doubloon’ are 3 ft high with 5 in. blooms. The French Marigolds (T. patula) are shorter and the flowers are smaller, but there is an immense variety of colours and colour blends.
This is the really popular group andcatalogues offer many, many varieties – look for ‘Naughty Marietta’ (1 ft. single, yellow and maroon), ‘Petite’ (6 in., double, mixed colours), ‘Tiger Eyes’ (10 in., double, red with yellow centre) and ‘Yellow Jacket’ (6 in, double, yellow). The third major group is made up of the dainty Tagetes varieties (T. signata) which are widely used for edging. The plants are compact and the flowers are small and single. ‘Lemon Gem’ (9 in.) is popular – the new novelty is the yellow, orange and brown combination ‘Startire’ (6 in.). The dividing lines between the groups are no longer clear-cut – there are Afro-French varieties such as’Sunrise’(1 ft. double, orange and red).
SITE AND SOIL: Any reasonable garden soil will do – thrives best in full sun.
PLANT DETAILS: Height 1-3 ft (African Marigolds), 6 in. -1 ft (French Marigolds) or 6-9 in. (Tagetes).
Spacing: 1-1.5 ft (African Marigolds) or 6-9 in. (French Marigolds and Tagetes).
Flowering period: June-October.
PROPAGATION: Follow the Half Hardy Annual technique . Alternatively in mild areasoutdoors in May.