Marigolds have always been among my favorite flowers for fall. I hate terms like French Marigolds ( Tagetes patula) and African Marigolds ( Tagetes erecta), and hundreds of varieties are associated with each. Numerous hybrids of the two add to the confusion. You may even find the name American associated with the African hybrids.
I hate these terms because French Marigolds are from Mexico and Guatemala; the African Marigolds are from Mexico and Central America; and neither of those groups are Mexican Marigolds, which are known botanically as Tagetes lucida and actually are from Mexico.
Both the French and the African Marigolds put on a show. While we may have paid more attention in recent years to the very large-flowered African selections like Inca, Marvel, Antigua and Perfection, there is something to be said for the power of the smaller French-flowered selections.
In the French marigold group, you will find Dwarf Crested types like Aspen, Bonanza and the Janie series. Then there is the French Dwarf Anemone series that includes Durango and Troubadour. Lastly, there are the French Fully Double types, such as the Aurora series. No matter which you choose, the colors are rich and vibrant.
Fertile, well-drained soil and full sun will make you look like a garden pro. First, plant enough to make a real show; one jumbo six-pack isn’t enough. Plant marigolds by the flat to do justice to your planting. One thing you’ll notice is that marigolds planted in late summer or early fall generally bloom before chrysanthemums and will still be blooming after mums are finished. You’ll also be feeding butterflies.
If you are growing those in the orange-to-red color scheme, then blue is the best choice as a companion plant. If you are growing those in the yellow range, then violet-to-purple colors may be the best, such as the fall blooming Mexican bush sage. Don’t forget that the oranges and yellows also partner well together.
Warmer regions, including the Triangle, can still get plenty of enjoyment out of marigolds this fall; the rest will have to wait until spring or late summer next year. I assure you that these little troopers you loved as a kid are even better now. Both you and the butterflies will love them.