Marigolds are a favorite flower of many vegetable gardeners. Their bright orange, yellow, and red hues illuminate the spring garden, and they have many well-documented qualities as a companion plant for vegetables. When you’re flipping through a seed catalog or perusing the shelves of your local gardening center, the variety of marigolds available can be confusing and intimidating. Should you just pick the flowers that you like the most? Or is there some secret about which marigolds work the best in vegetable gardens? It’s really not that complicated. Did you know that all marigolds are native to subtropical America; even the “African” marigold?
When you are picking your flowers, the best variety for you depends on your reason for planting the flowers. If you’re just trying to attract pollinators, then any sweet-scented, brightly colored flower should do. But, if you’re using them to fight root-knot nematodes, then the variety does matter, and the French marigolds are the ones you’re looking for.
One thing I keep in mind when I’m picking flowers is the degree to which the flower has been hybridized. I have been taught that hybridization sometimes produces unintended consequences such as decreased pollen production and decreased scent, which can make the flowers less attractive to pollinators than their non-hybrid cousins. For this reason, I try to pay attention to the bees when I’m picking flowers. If you have enough time to sit and observe for a few minutes, the bees will probably show you which flower they like best.
I found a document produced by the Clemson University Cooperative Extension that provides a little detail about the history and selection of marigolds. This document is a good overview of the different types of marigolds you’re likely to find.
Click here to read and/or download the original PDF – Marigold
Many thanks to Karen Russ, HGIC Horticulture Specialist, and
Bob Polomski, Extension Consumer Horticulturist
Cooperative Extension Service