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Tagetes patula ‘Queen Sofia’ (photo courtesy of Thomas J. Story)
Tagetes patula ‘Queen Sofia’ (photo courtesy of Thomas J. Story)

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Tagetes

Marigold
Asteraceae (Compositae)
Annuals, Perennials

Native to Mexico and Central America. Robust, free-branching, nearly trouble-free plants ranging from 6 in. to 6 ft. tall, with flowers from pale yellow through gold to orange and brownish maroon.

Finely divided, ferny, usually strongly scented leaves. Annuals will bloom early summer to frost if old flowers are picked off; in the desert, they bloom best from fall until frost.

Handsome, long-lasting cut flowers; strong aroma from leaves, stems, and flowers permeates a room (some odorless varieties are available).

Easy to grow from seed, which sprouts in a few days in warm soil; to get earlier bloom, start seeds in containers indoors or buy nursery plants. Smog will damage tender young plants, but they soon toughen up.

Tagetes erecta
Tagetes erecta

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Tagetes erecta

Original strains of this annual were single-flowered plants 3–4 ft. tall and 2 ft. wide. Modern strains are more varied; most have fully double flowers. Choices include Antigua (10–12 in.); Guys and Dolls, Inca, and Inca II series (12–14 in.); Lady and Perfection (16–20 in.); and Climax (2 1/2–3 ft.). Novelty tall strains include Odorless (2 1/2 ft.). Sweet Cream has creamy white flowers on 16-in. stems. Triploid hybrids, crosses between T. erecta and T. patula, have exceptional vigor, bear profuse 2-in. flowers over a long bloom season; they are generally shorter than other T. erecta strains. Examples are Zenith (12–15 in. high) and Nugget (10–12 in. high).

Avoid overhead sprinkling on taller kinds; stems will sag and even break under the weight of water. To make tall types stand as firmly as possible (perhaps stoutly enough to do without staking), dig planting hole extra deep, strip any leaves off the lower 1–3 in. of stem, and plant with the stripped portion below the soil line.

Tagetes patula

Varieties of this annual range from 6 in. to 1 1/2 ft. high and wide, in flower colors from yellow to rich maroon-brown. Blossoms may be fully double or single; many are strongly bicolored. Excellent for edging are dwarf, very double strains such as Janie (8 in.), Bonanza (10 in.), and Little Hero (10–12 in.), with 2-in. flowers in a range of colors from yellow through orange to red and brownish red. Aurora and Sophia strains have flowers that are larger (2 1/2 in. wide) but not as double.

Tagetes tenuifolia

This annual is an infrequently grown species. Flowers are small (just 1 in. wide) and single, but bloom is incredibly profuse. Finely cut foliage. Attracts beneficial insects. Gem strain offers golden yellow, lemon yellow, and tangerine orange blossoms on 10–12-in.-high plants.

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