Despite their common name, African marigold, also known as Aztec marigold, these classic garden annuals in the vibrant colors of the sunny palette are native to North America and have long been present in the Cherokee Indian tradition and as a floral trademark of the Day of the Dead in Mexico.
However, their brightly colored large flowers and simple cultivation have made them famous and ever-present plants in almost every corner of the world.
What is African Marigold?
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The Latin name of this plant is Tagetes Erecta, suggesting upright and robust growth. It can 3 feet high and two feet wide, forming a compact, bushy structure. The plant has deep incised feathery, dark pine-green leaves growing opposite at the bottom and alternate on the single or branched stem top.
From the second half of spring until the end of the season, the plant produces numerous large globular flowers composed of intense lemon yellow, golden yellow, or bright orange petals with wavy edges. Each flower that grows on individual long stalks retains its freshness for at least seven days, making it an excellent cut flower.
How to Care for African Marigold
These striking, eye-catching beauties are one of the simplest garden plants to grow because, in their cultivation, few things can go wrong. By nature, these plants are vigorous, modest, and durable, so their cultivation is almost a guaranteed success even for those who do not have much green experience.
One of the prerequisites for their successful growth is choosing the right place. African marigolds need a lot of sun for proper development and abundant flowers. Therefore, you can plant them in the sunniest part of the garden where many other plants fail.
Six to eight hours of direct sunlight are ideal conditions for the plant. African marigolds can also grow in places with less sunlight, but in that case, they can become leggy blooms sporadically.
African marigolds grow in a wide range of climatic conditions from USA zone 2 to 11.
As annual plants, the process from seed to flowering and wilting marigolds passes for 6 or 9 months regardless of their growth zone.
The only difference is that their lifespan is shorter in colder regions, but they bloom equally abundantly there.
Any drained average garden soil in which water does not stay too long can meet the needs of this plant. Still, they best thrive in well-cultivated soil enriched with nutrients such as compost or manure.
Even heavy, compacted clay soils can be an acceptable medium for their cultivation if you add a bit of sand to fix their structure.
Due to their branched roots, African marigolds can draw moisture from deeper soil layers inaccessible to most annual garden plants. Keep this in mind when watering a plant because the dry surface around the plant does not necessarily mean the plant needs hydration!
Depending on the natural amount of precipitation, apply additional intensive watering only when there is no rain for a few weeks. Generally, it is enough to water them abundantly once a week in the morning, avoiding wetting leaves and flowers.
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As we have already mentioned, well-prepared and fertilized soil can usually meet the plant’s needs for nutrients. However, since the plant grows very fast, it consumes a lot of energy. Therefore, it is beneficial but unnecessary to add a bit of granular slow-release balanced fertilizer( NPK: 15:15:15) before flowering.
Sowing seeds is a standard way to propagate African marigolds. You can sow the seeds at home 6 to 8 weeks before the expected last frost or into the soil in the second half of April or when the soil temperature reaches 50F.
- prepare a wide planter at least two inches deep, which you will fill with quality and light substrate.
- Lay the needle seeds horizontally on the surface at one inch, press them against the ground to adhere better, and cover them with a layer of substrate 0.5 inches thick.
- Moisten the surface with a fine spray and cover with a plastic bag or lid to maintain humidity.
- Place the planter on a window sill or a light bottom-heat position.
The germination process takes seven to 15 days at 70 to 75 F. When the seedlings appear, remove the bag or cover them and keep the soil relatively moist until the plants grow large enough that you can transplant them into the garden in a permanent position.
- In April, when the soil is warm enough, prepare the ground for sowing by digging it well, loosening it, and clearing it of weeds.
- Spread the seeds on the ground, and dab the surface with your palms or lath.
- Water the surface using a nozzle with a fine spray.
- When the seedlings sprout, plant them at a distance of at least one or two feet so that each plant has enough space to grow.
Protect young shoots from snails that like to bite their leaves and can destroy seedlings. If you are not a fan of chemicals, it is enough to line the bed with a thin line of salt that will keep the snails at a safe distance!
- Annual; Grows 6-18 Inches
- Fluffy, carnation-like flowers come in shades of gold, orange and yellow
- Useful for control of insect pests in the vegetable garden
- Prefers full sun exposure
- Plant marigolds in the spring, after the last frost. Seeds will germinate anywhere from 5 to 20 days in warm soil that has an average temperature of 70°F – 75°F.
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