Fiona is a qualified naturopath, herbalist, and aromatherapist with thirty years of experience which she wants to share.
Why Practise Green Gardening?
I love gardening and enjoy watching those tiny little seeds grow into big, leafy green plants. But unfortunately, insects and pests also love my new little plants and barely give them a chance to sprout.
It upset me when I started my veggie garden to find my babies decimated by insects. Of course, I wanted to save the plants and eliminate the pests. But how to do it without poison?
Saved by Green Gardening
I looked into green gardening and saved myself a bucket of cash. I also had a clear conscience, knowing I wasn't inadvertently poisoning the birds that would eat the insects or the water supply.
That's when I learned about the African marigold. I planted them next to my veggie garden and then plucked off the flowers when they started looking past their best.
The flowers and leaves have a pungent odor that insects, caterpillars, and snails don't like.
They also form a pretty border that doesn't grow too high to restrict access.
All Hail the Khaki Bush
I made short and technically illegal stops alongside the road to pick khaki bush. It's technically unlawful because you are not allowed to pick flowers on the side of the road in South Africa.
However, I doubt anyone would mind because khaki bush is quite a nasty little weed. And I will never plant it in my garden because it is hard to get rid of.
Anyway, to get back to the point, I chopped up the khaki bush and put it in a bucket of hot, soapy water. Then I threw in the marigold petals and let them soak overnight.
The next day I strained the mixture and decanted it into a spray bottle. The combination smells pretty foul but keeps insects at bay. Unfortunately, they don't like the smell, and the mixture sticks to the leaves because of the soap.
They are NOT Edible
Marigold tagetes are NOT edible and should never be confused with Calendula officinalis. People call both marigolds, but the herbal remedies you'll see are for Calendula officinalis.
What to Know Before You Grow
- Easy to grow
- Likes the full sun
- Very hardy
- Great as a natural pesticide
- Toxic if ingested—not to be confused with calendula
Read More From Dengarden
Growing Marigold Tagetes
Plant Them Almost Anywhere
These are very easy to grow—you can choose to grow them from seeds sown directly in the ground or by planting seedlings. If you are growing them from seeds, you must ensure that the soil remains moist.
However, you must ensure that the last frosts are over as these are frost-tender.
You May Mistake the Seedlings for Weeds
I prefer planting seedlings as I can see exactly where they are. However, the young seedlings can also easily be confused for weeds, especially in a veggie garden so if you are growing them from seed, plant them into seed trays and then plant them out.
Will the African Marigold Self-Seed?
Many people ask me, "Will my marigold tagetes self-seed?" The good news is that you will only need to buy plants once; these plants self-seed well.
When the flowers have started withering, I collect the blooms and save them in an envelope. I leave a few on the plants and always have babies coming up. One flower produces many seeds, so you will have plenty to keep for the following year.
What Soil Do African Marigolds Prefer?
These are very hardy plants and will grow just about anywhere. They do better in soil that drains well, with a good proportion of loam. Once they are in, you can forget about them—no need to worry about fertilizers, etc. I give them a sprinkling of worm tea once in a while.
Are African Marigolds Drought Tolerant?
They tolerate very high temperatures, but I do water mine when the weather is sweltering—I don't let them become parched.
Are Marigold Tagetes Annuals or Perennials?
They are annuals and will usually die down completely in winter. (Not to worry, though, when Spring comes around, they will start up again.)
I have found, however, that I often am still getting new plants growing well into autumn. Part of the fun of using these plants as a natural insect repellent is that they come up all over the place without much encouragement.
Are They Distinct From Veggie Seedlings?
I also like that the leaves are distinctive—I never confuse these babies with my veg seedlings. (In my first veggie garden, weeds were a problem because I never knew which of the seedlings were veg seeds that I'd planted and which were weeds that came up on their own.)
Marigolds to Deter Garden Insects and Pests
I planted marigold tagetes around the beds and randomly in among the vegetables.
They are effective in a couple of different ways:
- First, the roots and stems emit a chemical that insects find unpleasant, which keeps them away.
- The petals have this same chemical, so I often pluck off a few petals and scatter them around the garden. For this reason, I have no problem leaving any petals or leaves that fell to the ground.
- Snails will leave them alone because of their bitter taste, so plant them around the garden. It's a simple way to deal with snails and slugs in the garden.
- Rats don't feel the same way about the pungent odor and may nibble the leaves. My first crop in the new garden was decimated overnight—if you are battling with rats, make sure to cover the plants at least overnight—they will still be effective because the roots exude the compounds that the insects dislike so much.
- Dried, you can burn them as incense to chase away lice, bedbugs, and fleas. Alternatively, lay them under the dog's beds to keep fleas at bay.
A Splash of Colour in Any Garden or in a Pot
There are a lot of variations when it comes to marigolds.
You can choose the basic single bloom or the showier double bloom.
Colors are also varied, primarily reds, oranges, and yellows or combinations—these are sunny plants in the garden. The leaves are always green, but the petals can be a solid color or brilliant combinations of different colors.
A Great Container Plant
Are you lacking space? They make great additions to window boxes and hanging baskets as well. Being hardy, you can place them in soils where other plants battle to establish themselves. They are bold, brash, and showy—showing them off in the garden or on your patio is the best use of their talents.
As Cut Flowers
They also make a lovely display in the home if placed in a small vase. Keep them on their own in the vase. They are not suitable to plant with other flowers; they will quickly make the other flowers wilt.
As Pressed or Dried Flowers
You can press them if you want, but they are pretty bulky, so be prepared to wait a bit longer to dry properly. Also, they are unsuitable for air-dried flowers—they will not keep their color, will quickly lose their petals, and have no value in potpourri.
NEVER take marigold tagetes internally. They are highly toxic if ingested. However, should you, or a loved one, swallow some, get to an emergency room as quickly as possible.
The calendula proper (also called marigolds or English marigolds.) is what you need if you want to use it medicinally.
Calendula officinalis has various health benefits, and you can safely consume its petals. They are also beneficial plants to add to your garden.
If you are unsure, for any reason, which plant you have, rather err on the side of caution and don't ever take it internally.
Marigolds as Cut Flowers
- These flowers do make exquisite cut flowers. Many Hindu people in South Africa use these flowers as offerings/decorations on household shrines.
- They last very well in the vase but have a pungent smell. Keep the flowers in a well-ventilated room to solve this issue.
- Remove all the leaves below water level, or the water will quickly dirty.
- Also, keep them in a vase by themselves as they will negatively affect other flowers in the same vase.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are marigolds and tagetes the same?
No, marigold tagetes is very distinctive from the more common calendula, or marigold. The latter is helpful for the skin, and the former is better in the garden.
Are tagetes poisonous to humans?
Do not ingest these plants, use the flowers or leaves in tea, or decorate food.
Are tagetes poisonous to dogs?
As long as they don't overeat the plant, your dog should be okay. It may, however, prove safer for you to take them to the vet if you're unsure how much they ate. The sap may cause contact dermatitis in some animals.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
Questions & Answers
Question: Do you prefer the shorter non imposing varieties or do you like the larger marigolds in your garden?
Answer: I like both, but the shorter varieties make a great edging plant so I use them more.
Question: Do marigolds keep snakes away?
Answer: They may assist in keeping snakes away because of their scent, but I would also take other measures.
© 2013 Fiona
Want to Share your Thoughts on this Hub?
Naomi's Banner from United States on January 05, 2020:
This is a thoroughly well-researched article. I enjoyed the read very much!!
Fiona (author) from South Africa on December 20, 2013:
Thank you Chitrangada - it is also very popular here for personal shrines. I love it because it is so cheerful.
Chitrangada Sharan from New Delhi, India on December 20, 2013:
Very nice and informative hub! I love Marigold for its bright and vibrant colours and it is very popular in India for decoration purposes, Garlands etc. But I learnt a lot from your hub today about benefits of Marigolds.
Thanks for sharing your knowledge! Voted up!
Fiona (author) from South Africa on December 19, 2013:
Hi Dolores, although I am very keen on veggies, I love flowers as well so I love the lines of marigolds. I'm interested that they used dried marigolds strung up - I've never had a lot of luck drying them out - maybe I've been doing it wrong.
Dolores Monet from East Coast, United States on December 19, 2013:
At my house, I am the flower gardener and my husband grows vegetables. He always plants those pretty little marigolds around the edges as an insect repellant. I once visited a historic home where they had strings of dried marigolds hung in the kitchen to ward off insects. It looked so lovely! (Voted up and shared)
Fiona (author) from South Africa on December 17, 2013:
Dear Naomi, that said, they are nice little plant - if you steer clear of eating them you'll be fine.
Naomi's Banner from United States on December 17, 2013:
Very informative article! Picks are quite nice! I'm afraid I would not try to distinguish the edible from the not! Too dangerous. Well done.
Fiona (author) from South Africa on December 16, 2013:
They are Jeanetter
jeanetter on December 16, 2013:
They are pretty and useful - thanks for sharing
Fiona (author) from South Africa on July 11, 2013:
You won't regret it Alocsin - they make pretty cut flowers as well.
Aurelio Locsin from Orange County, CA on July 11, 2013:
I love the yellows and oranges of this flower. I'll need to consider putting this in my garden. Voting this Up and Beautiful.
Fiona (author) from South Africa on July 07, 2013:
They do well in Durban and that's sub-tropical so I'm sure they'll do well - they are very easy to grow and will grow just about anywhere. They don't like the cold though.
Fiona (author) from South Africa on July 07, 2013:
Thelma Alberts from Germany on July 07, 2013:
These are beautiful photos. I hope Marigolds are good for tropical weather as well as I´m planning to plant these in my garden. Thanks for sharing this very useful and informative hub. Have a nice week!
Naomi's Banner from United States on July 07, 2013:
Certainly did not know you could eat them. They work great to deter bugs. Thanks for sharing your information and the beautiful pics.
Fiona (author) from South Africa on July 07, 2013:
Marigold Tagetes is the one to use for repelling pests - the Calendula, (Or "proper" Marigold) doesn't have the same pest repellent properties.
If Marigold Tagetes isn't available, garlic is also quite good at repelling pests as is Thyme.
Thanks for the visit.
Rajan Singh Jolly from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA. on July 07, 2013:
I was wondering if Marigold Tagetes is the only species that has the ability to repel insects or do all species of marigold have this property?
Voted up and useful and shared.