Updated: Apr 20, 2020
The Marigold is native to South America, where the Aztecs used the plant for medicinal purposes, in rituals and as dye producing a range of yellows. Upon the arrival of the Spanish and Portugeuse to South America it was transported around the world, growing particularly well in Africa, which is why you will sometimes hear them being referred to as African Marigolds. Eventually the flower became popular in France, where many varieties were cultivated leading to them being most commonly referred to as french marigolds.
Marigolds are hardy annuals that grow easily in most soil types, preferring full sun, and can cope with hot summers. Sow seeds between April and May on a sunny window sill or in a warm greenhouse, they do not require light to germinate so should be sown under a thin layer of compost. Germination is best at 18-20C and should be quick, taking a few days to a week from sowing, although this will slow if the soil temperature is low. If you are growing your marigold seeds in one of our soil pods, sow 3 seeds per pod, allow the seedlings to grow for a few weeks until they have formed the first true leaves, then separate and select the strongest seedlings to plant on into larger pots.
Plant out into the garden or in large patio pots after the last frost, typically in early May, although this will depend on your local climate. Give each plant plenty of room as marigolds become bushy, leaving at least 20cm between plants. Marigolds have a strong smell and are typically used by vegetable gardeners to deter pests from tomatoes, cucumbers, strawberries and other crops, so if you are growing vegetables in your garden you can try growing your marigolds close by. Once marigold flowers are planted, they need very little attention. If they are planted in the ground, you do not need to water them frequently unless it has been very dry recently. If they are in containers, water them daily or when the soil feels dry to touch. Try to water the plants from underneath and avoid getting the leaves and flowers wet as this can lead to the flowers rotting or the plants becoming infected with powdery mildew. Marigolds do not need fertilising.
Harvest the marigold flower heads when the flower has opened completely by snipping or snapping them off. This way the plant will continue to produce more flowers throughout the rest of the season. Once you have harvested the marigolds you are ready to dye! You can also dry them out in a sunny spot on a windowsill to save them for use during the winter. Allowing the flower heads to dry on the plant will allow you to save seeds to plant the following year, although the resulting flowers do not always come true to the parent due to potential cross fertilisation.