Flower Tales-Marigolds


“As for marigolds, poppies, hollyhocks, and valorous sunflowers, we shall never have a garden without them, both for their own sake, and for the sake of old-fashioned folks, who used to love them.”  ~ Henry Ward Beecher 



Sadly at this time of the year, and for the next several months (likely through March), there are no flowers growing in my garden.  So I thought during this floral dry spell, I would focus on some of the annuals or tender perennials I like to grow every year.  Most years I grow marigolds, petunias, and violas/pansies from seed, by starting them indoors in winter.  And the borage, sunflowers and nasturtiums I grow, are easily started in my veg garden in late May.  The borage and sunflowers even reseed and appear the next year without me having to plant them again.

IMG_3263So starting this month and each month during winter and late fall, I will be profiling a favorite flower as I link in with Garden Bloggers Bloom Day (GBBD) hosted by Carol@May Dreams Gardens on the 15th of each month.  And I am also linking in with Judith@Lavender Cottage who hosts Mosaic Monday.

I thought I would start with my favorite tender perennial flower (hardy from zones 9 to 11), Tagetes or Marigolds.  Interestingly marigolds are in the aster or sunflower family (Asteraceae or Compositae).  There are over 56 species of annual and perennial Tagetes, native to North and South America.





The common name “marigold” is said to come from the name “Mary’s gold”, which refers to a similar European native plant, Calendula officinalis.   And “Mary’s Gold” refers to when early Christians placed flowers instead of coins on Mary’s altar as an offering. 

The marigold is also called an “herb of the sun” due to its vibrant yellow and gold color.  Other colors of marigolds include orange and mahogany-red or combinations of all three.

The name Tagetes is said to originate with the name of the founding prophet of the Etruscan religion, Tages.




Growing Conditions

The most common varieties of Tagetes are:  African marigolds, Tagetes erecta, although this species is not native toDSCN1600 Africa; French marigolds, Tagetes patula, developed in France, but not native to France; and the signet marigolds which are hybrids of Tagetes tenuifolia.  I grow all 3 of these wonderful marigolds.

Tagetes bloom from late spring through summer, and grow best in rich well-drained soil.  They will adapt to a wide range of conditions, but when you start them keep the soil moist not wet.  My marigolds love to grow in the raised beds where they get regular waterings in organic free draining soil.

Marigolds range in height from 6 to 36 inches, and the blossoms can be up to 5 inches across in some species I grow.  I have heard they will reseed so I plan to leave a few in pots and beds in the future to see if they will reseed for me like sunflowers and borage do.




Folklore and Tales

Some regard the marigold as a love charm, and use them in wedding garlands.

DSCN2289In the Ukraine, Tagetes are regarded as a national symbol.

The marigold is used in the Day of the Dead celebrations in Mexico, and has been since pre-Hispanic times.

The marigold is also widely cultivated in India, Nepal and Thailand, and used in garlands and decorations for festivals and religious events. 

The ancient Welsh used marigolds to predict weather; if they saw the flower closed then bad weather was on the way.

Blooming marigolds are said to encourage happier environments, and sometimes picking marigolds or looking at them for a long time can make someone into a drunkard.

Also it is believed if a couple is having problems, then they should keep a potted marigold.

And the leaves of marigolds have been known to remove warts. 





Marigolds are important for a wildflower garden.  They are food for some Lepidoptera caterpillars and a nectar source for butterflies. I have even seen hummingbirds nectaring at my big pom-pom marigolds.  They are also food for ladybugs, hoverflies and parasitic wasps. DSCN4784

Marigolds are also grown as a cut flower, and used in bouquets and arrangements like mine shown here.

It is also grown in gardens as a companion plant due to its musky scent.  Said to deter some insects and mammal pests like deer and rabbits, it is planted with tomato, eggplant, chili pepper, tobacco, and potato crops. But it should not be planted with legume crops.  I actually plant mine among these very crops, and I am glad I have never planted them with legumes.  Although many believe these to be just tales with no scientific proof.

Because the florets of Tagetes erecta are rich in the orange-yellow carotenoid lutein, it is used as a food coloring for many foods in Europe.  But in the United States, it is only approved as colorants in poultry feed.  Marigolds are also fed to chickens in Mexico as it colors the eggs yellow.

Marigold blossoms are edible for humans too.

The blossoms also make a yellow dye for fabric.




Language of Flowers

Marigolds have a rather negative meaning; some include cruelty, grief, despair, jealousy and uneasiness.  But on the positive side it can also mean to show strong passion, due to its association with the brave and courageous lion. There is also a Victorian meaning; desire for riches.  





Do you grow marigolds?  What are your favorite flowers to grow from seed?



In A Vase On Monday


Now I know I said there are no flowers here this time of year, but who would have thought our first killing frost would hold off until the middle of November.  But we finally saw a bit of snow and there was a freeze this weekend so I picked the rest of the flowers and brought them in.  And yes roses were the stars again this week in the vase.

As I arrange the vases on this GBBD, you can see the few flowers I still have blooming here.  As I do every Monday (or before Monday sometimes), I wander the garden looking for what flowers, foliage and plant material might make for a lovely vase to bring indoors.   Cathy@Rambling in the Garden hosts this wonderful meme, In a Vase on Monday.   I am also linking in with Today’s Flowers hosted by Denise@An English Girl Rambles.


nov rosesThis first vase shines with variegated weigela foliage.  There was one yellow and one pink Knockout rose, fairy roses and borage to add to it.  I love the simple look. 




nov roses vaseHere are a few more views.  I didn’t think I would like borage in a vase, but I really love it with the roses. 




more roses vase

And of course there were still loads of fairy roses to pick and bring in for another vase.  Here I chose the round vase and filled it with the green gray foliage from ‘Walker’s Low’ catmint.  I also gathered more lavender still blooming, a few yellow scabiosa blooms, borage, anemone and a lone Veronica or Speedwell bloom.  

So this will be it for the flowers this year.  Now I will be looking for seedheads, foliage, berries, twigs and other assorted garden material to fill vases until the ground is completely covered in snow.  That may be sooner than I think, I fear.



Next up on the blog:  

Wednesday I will have a fun Stuck Foot post.  And next Monday it will be time for a Garden Book Review.  


I am also joining in I Heart Macro with Laura@Shine The Divine that happens every Saturday.

All original content is copyrighted and the sole property of Donna Donabella @ Gardens Eye View, 2010-2014.  Any reprints or use of content or photos is by permission only.




97 Replies to “Flower Tales-Marigolds”

  1. You found lots of blooms in the garden and putting them in a vase means you’ll be able to enjoy them for a little longer. All the cheerful marigolds are a nice reminder that winter will pass, and that by sowing seeds we bring the moment of seeing flowers in our gardens closer.

    1. I love your thoughts here Christina…they certainly made my day and brought a smile as the polar vortex bears down on us.

  2. I grow marigolds, Donna, in my kitchen garden to attract pollinators. I didn’t know you shouldn’t plant them with legumes. Why is that? I think I have planted them in the same bed as snow peas — I’ll have to look back. Your vases are lovely. Amazing to have roses in the middle of November. P. x

    1. Thanks Pam…I read that the marigolds apparently exude an antibacterial material that impedes the legumes, but you have to go with what works for you!

  3. Marigolds are such a sunny flower. I enjoyed seeing yours and learning all about it. Your photos are lovely and a great post as always. Thank you for also linking with Today’s Flowers Donna. Have a great week!

  4. I adore marigolds. Picked the last of them from my sunny garden just Friday before the big frost came. I scattered seeds in July and they were brilliant when everything else got tired and went dormant. I’ll never not do that again. So much sunshine on a stalk:) Love the smell.
    Thanks for sharing all that warm bloom,

    1. Oh I wish mine grew so fast but I have to start them indoors in winter…but they are worth the little effort they take…I adore the smell too Jennifer!!

  5. I enjoy marigolds, even their pungent smell. Your vases are filled with an amazing assortment of beautiful flowers. I’m curious how the Nepeta holds up indoors–I have Walker’s Low also and love it.

    1. I was surprised at how well the nepeta has held up and I would use the foliage again…the scent reminds me of my childhood which is why I really love it.

  6. Much, interesting, and helpful information about marigolds. Thank you, Donna!
    Many people say they don’t like marigolds because of their “fragrance”, but I think nowadays there are many cultivars with less pungent smell.
    A little bit of sunshine was really needed, and we received it with your lovely flowers!

    1. So glad to provide some sunshine with my flowers Sara…I agree there are less pungent smelling marigolds now so we should plant more and more.

  7. Wouldn’t it be fascinating to be able to chart the migration of marigolds? And I can’t help but wonder how Linneaus decided to associate them with such an obscure religion long-vanished from present-day Italy. Any thoughts?

    1. Cheryl, actually it was named for their god, Tages who taught man the art of divining and this flower had many healing properties in ancient times. Apparently the flowers were discovered by the Portuguese in the wilds of Brazil centuries ago. Of course the native peoples already discovered them. Then the Portugueses took them to India where they have been used for centuries in that part of the world for ceremonies. It is an interesting story and I am sure there are many more trails as this flower found its way all over the world.

  8. Thank you for this really really interesting history and present tense stories of marigolds. These simple little flowers aren’t so simple after all I’ve learned! Donna, I want to send you a photograph of police dogs wearing garlands of marigolds during Diwali–an important festival in Nepal. It will give you a smile. Here are these huge German Shepherds decked out with the crimson dot on their foreheads and brilliant orange garlands around their necks! In fact, I remember seeing dogs all over Nepal and Bhutan wearing marigolds. Susie

  9. I grow the Tagetes patula – French Marigold

    I think I’ve had it in the garden for three years now. The first year, I sowed the seeds. The last two years, it has sowed itself.

    I think this year was the best year yet, with some of the Marigolds flowering non-stop for months and growing to the size of small shrubs! I picked lots of seeds and scattered them hither and yon in hopes of getting even more Marigolds next year.

    And yes, the bees and butterflies – especially small skipper butterflies – seem to relish the flowers.

    1. The French marigold I think is my favorite Aaron. It is the original one my mom would grow. Next year I will plant a few in some spots in the garden not just containers and leave a few in the veg beds to see if they reseed like yours. What a special surprise that would be.

  10. Beautiful floral arrangement. (happy sigh). I don’t grow marigolds mostly because I live in shade. It is interesting — as you note — how many cultures connect them with death — but in a kind of positive way. Around here the puffy orange ones are used for Día de Muertos and Chinese New Years. I wonder if it is because they are like little suns. Kind of mysterious.

    1. Yes I think it is the reference to the sun which is why they are used in festivals…I bet it looks stunning to see them in those festivals. Too bad you don’t have a sunny spot to grow them Debra.

  11. I had some standard small marigolds this year and then I planted tall ones…a few in the front and the rest companion planted with my tomatoes. They took forever to grow but it worked out great since they only started blooming at the end of summer and put on a great show until our first hard frost.

    1. Even though I start mine early Deb, they do take a long time to grow here…and they seem to bloom as the tomatoes fruit…

  12. It really brings it home to those of us with less extremes in temperature – that you can go from the lovely blooms in your vase to nothing almost overnight. I think the borage is a great addition – perhaps you will use it again next year now you know it looks OK! Thank you for ensuring you filled your vase for today – and for the fascinating history of marigolds.

    1. Always my pleasure Cathy…my brain is working on what foliage and plant materials I can use…..and even with the loss of so much, boy do I see lots I can use right now. Hope your weather is warmer than ours.

  13. You’ve managed a cheerful bouquet despite your colder weather, Donna. I was surprised to see the borage in bloom – mine was ratty by early summer and I pulled it, although new seedlings have recently appeared. The only marigolds currently in my garden are Tagetes lemmonii, which I wouldn’t be without even though it tends to flop about.

    1. Kris my borage blooms from late spring through the killing frost…it loves the moisture and great soil it gets in the veg beds…actually one bed was overrun with it. And the pollinators were glad to see it before the frost as it was one of the only flowers they could get pollen from.

    1. Thank you so much Sue…I am pleased you enjoy the collages. i hope you are staying warm and the snow does not come your way!

  14. Marigolds make me sneeze, regardless we have always had them in the garden. I’ve never grown them from seed, when is the best time to start them?

    1. Oh Susan what a wonderful gardener you are to grow them even though they make you sneeze. I start mine about 6-8 weeks before I can plant them out after our final frost.

  15. It was nice to read about all the associations with Marigolds… I wonder where some of the sayings and superstitions came from! I can’t grow marigolds here as the snails simply adore them.
    The borage sets off your vase very nicely this week Donna. I wouldn’t have had the idea of putting it in a vase, so will have to remember next year! Mine didn’t reappear this summer, and I left it too late to sow any new, so that’s another seed packet to put on my list. Hope you have a good week Donna!

    1. Glad you liked the borage Cathy and too bad you can’t grow marigolds. It seems the superstitions and uses came from the ancient South and Central American countries where they were first found growing in the wild.

  16. The Borage with your Roses is really a beautiful and complimentary colour and texture combination Donna, nature seems to have given you the perfect last vase of flowers before the winter. I hope you are able to find lots of foliage, seed heads and berries for your winter vases.

    1. Isn’t nature just spectacular Julie providing what we need. I have been looking at what foliage I lost in the freeze and what is still growing…it seems there is lots still going and I am going to enjoy this new creative endeavor with foliage now.

  17. Two lovely arrangements. I like the effect of the borage – sadly mine has passed over now so must wait until next year. My husband is very fond of French marigolds and grows them in a modified wheelbarrow for his summer display. I am not so fond of them but I love pot marigolds, calendula, and grow far too many in the herb patch where I’m expecting the to have self-seeded for next year 🙂 Elizabeth

  18. I enjoyed learning about the history and folklore of Marigolds Donna. Bloom Day completely passed me by this month! I grew the giant African Marigolds in my Potager last year not realizing their shrub like size. Never again (in the Potager, anyway). This past year I grew Lemon Tagetes in the Potager. They were extremely happy in one of my raised beds and much more manageable. I am glad you mentioned not to plant near legumes – I did not know – and now I cannot think if I ever planted Marigold by legumes. I don’t plant too many of the Marigolds because I have so many self sowing Calendula but I did enjoy the cheery Lemon Tagetes even if I did not eat enough of them! Once again, beautiful bouquet!

    1. Thanks Kathy. I need to plant the Calendula as I adore self seeders. I prefer to grow nasturtiums in my legume bed so I have never paired them with marigolds either.

  19. I haven’t grown marigolds for ages but your post has reminded me what pretty little flowers they are. You’ve created some nice collages and the bouquet I look forward to every week. I think the borage looks lovely with the roses too!
    Thanks for linking to Mosaic Monday.

  20. Love the first quote — I am definitely an ‘old fashioned folk’ and love every one of those flowers. Your photos are beautiful and it has to be wonderful to have the memories as you plan for next year’s garden. (Which is what this season is for is it not?… I think I remember that, although I don’t really garden at all any more as you know.)

    1. I am old-fashioned too Sallie and yes this is the time for planning, for stretching our imaginations and dreaming about the garden next year.

  21. Lovely to see all your marigolds and read a bit about them – they are a flower that tends to get taken for granted but they are so beautiful and work so hard in the garden – it is nice to see them in the limelight for a change. I loved the borage with your roses in a vase – it worked very well although it is a little sad to think that they are the end of your flowers for this year. I am intrigued to see what you have planned for December!

  22. I’ve never grown marigolds although I do love them. Now I’ve read how important they are in the wildflower garden and provide food for insects, I’ll make sure to chuck some seeds in. And I love how they look in salads. Thanks for the post Donna.

  23. Who would have thought that our first killing frost, in north-central Alabama, would coincide with yours? I have always loved marigolds, though I know some gardeners who turn their noses up at them. But your arrangement with the marigolds show what a lovely assortment of blooms one can have with them. Of course, your other arrangements are also beautiful!

    1. Thanks Deb and what a strange occurrence that your first frost was the same as ours. And yes marigolds deserve more respect and I am glad I can give them some.

  24. What a good idea to feature a favorite bloom on winter Bloom Days! I used to not like marigolds, but my mind has gradually been changed over the years. First, in my location, I need to love any annual that the deer and woodchucks won’t eat! Second, they are relatively inexpensive and make great bedding plants. This year I came to appreciate them very much in the fall when I wanted to see bright orange and yellow. I also used them as cut flowers for the first time this year, and they lasted well, and did not make the whole house stink as I had feared they might! My favorites have been the Bonanza and Safari series, and this year I grew a sweet one called ‘Jaguar’. It grew taller and less bushy than the others, and was great for a cut flower.

    I did learn this year that you need to wait until the soil is warm before planting marigolds out. If it’s too cold they can’t absorb phosphorous, and their leaves turn reddish-purple, and they don’t grow. Also, I have very few marigolds successfully re-seed themselves. It’s happened, but not reliably, and not in the quantity that the sunflowers, cosmos, and cleome do.

    Your vases are beautiful! The borage is a nice accent.

    Are you about buried in snow yet? I have family south of Buffalo, near the lake, and they are expecting nearly three feet! Hardly any by me, but high temperatures in the 20s for the next few days.

    Sorry to have gone on so long!–Kimberley

    1. Oh I enjoy a lovely conversation so you did not go on too long…I agree I plant flowers that critters won’t eat so they are important for that reason. I love to try new varieties so I will check out some you mentioned.

      I definitely plant mine when it is warm enough since I know they are a bit picky…no snow here. We are missing this storm thankfully but South of Buffalo is buried! Take care of yourself Kimberley.

  25. Your vases are so pretty! I’ve begun to appreciate Marigolds more over recent years. I always realized their companion planting benefits, but lately I’m almost appreciating the scent that I used to dislike. I’m not sure why–it’s weird what age does to a person. My favorite thing about them is that they attract pollinators. 🙂

    1. Perhaps age, perhaps just a gardener evolving as you continue to look at things with wonderful caring eyes Beth. That is my favorite thing about them too-pollinators.

  26. Oh, thanks for all the info about marigolds, I haven’t had them for many years, and every time I see them on blogs I think to myself ‘why didn’t I get any this year??’ – next spring I definitely will!

    And your vase is really pretty, a nice collection of the last flowers 🙂
    Happy GBBD!

  27. I grow marigolds every year. I think they are such happy looking flowers. They add so much color to my garden and they are so easy to grow too. Thank you for all the interesting facts about these flowers. Your arrangements are lovely.

  28. I love marigolds. We never plant enough and always plant them in the garden to discourage pests. I don’t know if it really works, but we plant them anyway. Lovely post. Wonderful photos.

    1. I plant them for the same reason even though they say there is no research that supports this, but they are just too pretty growing in the veg beds anyway!

  29. I will admit, [hanging head and blushing] to have been being a Marigold snob when I lived on the coast. They were everywhere, and the slugs loved them. Here in our hot and dry climate, they shine…in fact the last sturdy little bloomer just bit the dust the other day, despite way below 0 temps.

    Hardy little souls.


    1. Wow they are hardy souls there and no head hanging…different garden, different flowers and you know what flowers work for you there!

  30. I have not grown marigolds but am thinking that next year I will need to as we seem to have a larger population of rabbits all of a sudden. You have inspired me to grow them for their practical purposes and their beauty!! A lovely week to you!! Nicole

    1. You must try them Nicole but also add some clover for the rabbits in an area away from the flowers they like. They will go to the clover instead of your flowers…at least they do in my garden.

  31. Those pictures of marigolds are heartwarming (and I’d love to see the dogs in Nepal that Susan talks about with the chains of them round their necks). I’ve always preferred pot marigold, but maybe you’ve converted me! The vase is sweetly pretty Donna – those little Fairy roses! Thanks

    1. Try a little pot of marigolds Cathy and I am going to try the pot marigolds as they are lovely too! Then we can let each other know what we think. I’ll share Susie’s picture if she agrees.

  32. I have always loved marigolds, and when I have a garden, I almost always have some. I didn’t know they were “Mary’s Gold” or an offering, or that they were used in Day of the Dead celebrations. Very interesting post! beautiful photos of the marigolds and the bouquet.

  33. Hi Donna! Thank you for this post! Marigold is very popular in Russia. My mother’s garden always had it. I used to grow it too, but then somehow it got away from my garden. The last variety I grew was the tall one, about 3 feet, brought as seeds from somewhere in Europe.

    1. You are welcome. I hope you are still being spared but with the change in direction for the snow bands it looks like you may be headed for some snow…stay safe and warm Michelle!!

  34. The marigolds are so pretty, I enjoyed all the information. I’m getting more into growing annuals since I can clear the bed all out for the next year and get rid of weeds easier over winter. I grew Moldova last year, it was pretty but not very bushy.

  35. Glad you enjoyed the marigolds Hannah. I am also looking for more ways to grow annuals because they are easy to grow and I love them for vases!

  36. I grow many annuals, but no longer marigolds. I find the fragrance rather annoying, as do many insects I bet. I did have them in the bigger vergetable garden I had a few years ago, but no longer. They are nice and easy to grow, but along with petunias, the smell of them is not very appealing for me.

    1. Actually they draw in many pollinators and hummingbirds (as I have witnessed)…. and many of the newer cultivars do not have the scent some like yourself do not like. I am an oddball and like the scent Donna.

      But that is the beauty of annuals…so many colors, varieties and scents…I also love the scent of petunias 🙂

  37. that’s interesting about the name marigold Donna, in Spanish and some other languages Mary is Maria, drop the ‘a’ and we have Mari….., I had no idea there are so many species of marigold, I only knew the native European calendula, French and African marigolds, the last 2 are not even marigolds but tagetes, it is also interesting that they were used as offerings instead of money as when I visited India they were on sale everywhere on Friday as they are taken as offerings to Hindu Temples, at one ancient monument we visited the cheeky monkeys there were stealing the marigold garlands and then sitting high up out of reach picking the flowers off and eating them, I particularly like the single marigold/tagete you show, I expect it is a native to north America, thanks, Frances

    1. Wow you have a lot of ideas and have had some experience with marigolds Frances…yes the Tagetes tenuifolia are native to SE US as far as I know. Not perennial though for me.

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