Sunday, March 14, 2010

Marigolds Native and Specialty

The National Garden Bureau is celebrating 2010 as the "year of the marigold." Marigolds are native to the Americas from Argentina north to New Mexico and Arizona, according to NGB research. The Aztecs believed the flower had magical, religious and medicinal properties. Spanish explorers transported seeds to Spain, and later seeds found their way to France and northern Africa. Marigolds also are used in Hindu religious ceremonies.

Several hundred years after their journey from the Americas to Europe and Africa, marigolds made a return voyage to North America after the Revolutionary War. The American native marigold is commonly called French, American or African, but the genus name Tagetes refers to an Italian god, Tages.

Burpee Seed Co. is credited with reviving interest in marigolds at the turn of the century, featuring them in the Burpee catalog and funding research into marigold breeding. Odorless marigolds, hybrids and triploids have resulted, and in the past 30 years, American breeders and seed companies have leaded the marigold wave.

Growing marigolds
  • T. patula, known as African or American marigolds, can be direct-sown into the garden when soil is 70 F. In fine, loose soil, make a 2-inch deep furrow; water to soak the soil; scatter seeds in the furrow about 1 inch apart. Cover lightly with dry soil. Water with a fine mist and continue watering with a fine spray for 10 to 14 days when seedlings appear.
  • As seedlings grow, water less frequently but deeper. If soil is rich or contains organic matter, you shouldn't have to fertilize. Over fertilizing results in reduced flowering and more foliage. Should flower 6 to 12 weeks after sowing.
  • Start T. erecta (French) marigolds indoors eight weeks prior to transplanting into warm garden soil. Cover seeds and keep evenly moist. Transplant into pots at the three to four true-leaf stage. Plants need direct sunlight and should be hardened off before planting outdoors. To harden off, place plants outdoors in a warm, protected location for several days.