Marigold Flowers: Different Strokes for Different Folks

Learn the difference between varieties of marigold flowers.

| Summer 2012

  • Marigold
    While some marigolds are effective at keeping away some nematodes, there is no marigold that keeps away all nematodes.
    Photo courtesy www.RareSeeds.com
  • Calendula with Marigolds
    While they're both members of the daisy/aster family, the calendula and the marigold share few if any of the same uses or effects.
    Photo courtesy www.RareSeeds.com
  • French Marigolds
    French marigolds are the most commonly found variety of marigolds in our flowerbeds.
    Photo courtesy www.RareSeeds.com
  • Fritterlaries on Marigolds
    Marigolds have little value in the garden other than being pretty and attracting butterflies.
    Photo courtesy www.RareSeeds.com
  • Marigolds with Butterflies
    Marigolds are mildly effective as a cover crop but are most effective at adding beauty to your flowerbeds.
    Photo courtesy www.RareSeeds.com

  • Marigold
  • Calendula with Marigolds
  • French Marigolds
  • Fritterlaries on Marigolds
  • Marigolds with Butterflies

Look up marigolds online, or visit a few garden forums and you’ll soon see there is an enormous amount of confusion and misinformation about this ancient plant. You’ll discover a lot of people confuse “pot marigold” (Calendula officinalis) and French or African marigolds (Tagetes sp.). Unfortunately you will find the attributes of one, particularly the use in repelling insects, mistakenly attributed to the other. Since they are not the same plant, and don’t have the same qualities, it’s worth separating fact from fiction.

Calendula (Calendula officinalis), called “pot marigold” in Europe, is not related to French or African marigolds. While both are in the overall Compositae/Asteraceae (daisy/aster family), they share few if any of the same uses or effects. Calendula flowers are proven useful for skin ailments, are edible and valuable in their own right, but pot marigold is not the garden marigold with the purported insect-repelling benefits.

Tagetes, with about 50 varieties, includes French marigold (T. petula) that we grow in our flower beds, African marigold (T. erecta), its taller cousin with larger flowers that we plant at the back of flower beds, and Mexican mint marigold (T. lucida) which is known for its tarragon-like flavor in cooking. All three are native to Central and South America. 

In The Aztec Herbal Pharmacopoeia, Bernal Diaz, one of the Spanish Conquistadors, recorded in his diary that the Aztec Emperor, Montezuma, had marigolds growing in his gardens. He recorded that the plants were used both in food and medicine, as they still are today. You will find marigold flowers as ingredients in foods, medicines and even chicken feed, to make the egg yolks yellow. 



It is recorded in several ancient sources including the Aztec Herbal, the Badianus Manuscript and other post-conquest documents, that marigolds, specifically T. petula and T. erecta, were an important medicine for treating fevers. T. lucida, the Mexican mint marigold we grow in our herb gardens today, was used for reducing phlegm, treating gout, stiffness of joints and digestive ailments.

A Useful Plant

But what about any of these plants' current uses in repelling insects? Are marigolds truly useful for companion planting or controlling root nematodes? Fortunately, there’s been a great deal of research into those questions. The University of California, Davis, North Carolina State University, University of Florida, and Louisiana State University, have all done extensive research into the effects, or lack of them, on marigold planting; following are some of their results.

r0bb1eb
2/24/2018 11:13:01 AM

Don’t marigolds attract hover flies that will eat aphids?


r0bb1eb
2/24/2018 11:12:55 AM

Don’t marigolds attract hover flies that will eat aphids?







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