Native to the Americas, from the southwestern United States to well into South America, marigolds are popular because of their ease of growing, low-maintenance, and colourful blooms from early summer through to the first frost.
Marigolds, a member of the aster family, and more specifically the Tagetes genus, have three main types: French, African (or American), and Signet, which appear in orange, yellow, red, and bi-colours, as well as other colour combinations. (Pot marigolds, native to southern Europe and a member of the Calendula genus, are not a true marigold.)
While the names suggest otherwise, African marigolds do not originate in Africa and got their name when the flowers were brought through northwest Africa along a trade route. French marigolds were named due to their popularity in French gardens.
Marigold Meanings and Symbolism
- The common name, marigold, is a shortening of ”Mary’s gold.” It is said to have been named for the Virgin Mary.
- Because of their strong smell, gardeners once thought marigolds were poisonous.
- In India, giving a marigold lei was a sign of friendship.
- Many cultures believed that the bright orange and yellow colours, representing the rays of the Sun, could help guide departed loved ones to the afterlife. Some believed the colours represented the beauty and warmth of the Sun and offered the power to resurrect.
- In more recent times, the flowers have been linked to optimism and prosperity, cheer and joy, love and strong emotions, wealth and success. The flower has also been connected with death and grief.
- In Buddhism, marigolds are used to worship Buddha, while in Hinduism, the flowers are associated with the Sun and used in marriage celebrations.
- It was once thought that marigolds could provide protection while crossing a river and from being hit by lightning.
- The ancient Greeks and Romans used marigolds for medicinal purposes, to dye fabrics, and create cosmetics.
- In medieval times, marigolds were thought to be a treatment for the plague.
- Used to treat rashes, burns, and wounds, marigolds have antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties.
The marigold is a prominent element in Day of the Dead rituals, which originated in Mexico. Marigolds have been cultivated in Mexico for more than 2,000 years and are used to make floral arches, garlands, wreaths, and crucifixes. The flowers decorate gravesites and home altars, known as ofrendas. Thought to attract the souls of the dead, the bright colours and smells of marigolds are used to create a path from a home’s front door to the ofrenda inside.
Marigolds in the Garden
Marigolds not only provide consistent colour throughout the growing season, but their distinct smell can repel pests like deer and rabbits, making them great companion plants. They attract butterflies and songbirds, as well as beneficial insects, such as ladybugs, hoverflies, and parasitic wasps.
Marigolds prefer well-draining soil and can tolerate drought conditions more than overly wet soil. They grow and bloom best in full sun.
Often wider than they are tall, marigold plants can grow up to 2 feet tall, although some varieties, including African marigolds, will grow taller.
All the best Jan