While marigolds are thought to have originated from Central America and not France, certain types have been dubbed ‘French marigolds’ due to being cross-bred there. Popular as a decorative garden plant or container plant, foliage is deep green and deeply lobed. Not only are French marigolds a beautiful addition to any vegetable garden, their edible flowers can be used to jazz up salads and desserts. They are also considered a useful companion plant, said to deter pests including harmful nematodes and whiteflies.
Queen Sophia is a French dwarf marigold, growing to about 12 inches tall with large, bright flowers featuring two-toned petals that can range from orange-yellow to a rich red as the plant matures. As this variety can quickly grow very tall, it’ll often become top heavy as the flowers bloom, so staking may be necessary to keep your plants standing tall!
Seed Depth: 1/4″
Space Between Plants: 3–6″
Space Between Rows: 6–8″
Germination Soil Temperature: 60–75°F
Days for Germination: 4–7
Sow Indoors: 4–8 weeks before average last frost date.
Sow Outdoors: 2 to 3 weeks after average last frost date.
Vegetative: Can be propagated by taking stem cuttings.
Once established, marigolds can withstand temperatures as low as about 50°F; however, it prefers warmer temperatures of around 60°F, especially when seeds are trying to germinate. Persistently high summer temperatures will stunt this plant’s growth, so plant earlier on in the spring so they have time to mature prior to the heat of summer. Will not self-seed in areas with cold winters.
Natural: Prefers full sun but will tolerate partial shade in extended periods of extreme heat.
Artificial: If starting marigolds indoors, a high intensity bulb is best as these plants prefer lots of light. Marigolds become dormant in the winter, so if you are attempting to keep your flowers indoors during the cold season, a fluorescent bulb will suffice.
Soil: Prefers well-drained sandy, loamy, or clay soils. A pH of between 5.6 and 6.4 will keep plants healthy and nourished.
Soilless: If growing in containers, most soilless mixes will work well. Marigolds like lots of water in the earlier stages of growth, so mixes that hold water well, such as peat moss, may work best.
Hydroponics: Thrives in a variety of hydroponic systems including ebb and flow.
Water: Requires low to moderate levels of water except in the earliest stages of growth, when keeping the soil moist is required. Somewhat drought tolerant, but be sure to water more often during the heat of summer. Let the soil surface dry between watering once plants are mature.
Nutrients: Requires moderate levels of nutrients. Fertilize with potash to extend the flowering time. If your soil is poor, use a well-balanced organic fertilizer when planting or side dress with compost. Excess nitrogen can result in plant producing fewer flowers and more leaves.
Pruning: Deadheading allows new blooms to form, resulting in a longer flowering season. You can also pinch back young plants to make them grow back bushier.
Mulching: Use an organic mulch such as wood chips or grass clippings to keep weeds under control, moderate soil temperature, conserve moisture, and protect plants from pests.
Rotation: As marigolds are a great pest deterrent, plant them in places you’ve experienced pest issues in the past. If you have problems with infestations in your tomatoes, try growing marigolds in your tomato beds the season before. Till the whole plant under to provide nematode protection that year.
Companions: Grows well with most vegetable crops, including eggplant and tomato.
Harvest: Pick early in the morning by hand or using scissors.
Storage: Store fresh flowers in the refrigerator in a glass of water for 3–5 days.
Fun Fact: Marigolds are regarded in many cultures as spiritual and religious plants. The flowers are often incorporated into fertility rituals as well as the honoring of gods and loved ones who have died.
Preserve: Marigold petals can be made into a jelly or mixed with fruits. Flowers can also be dried for later use.
Prepare: Flowers are used in drinks, as a garnish in salads or on desserts, and as a saffron alternative for its color. Can also be made into tea. The taste is described as earthy and citrusy. It’s also used as a spice in Georgian cuisine, where it is often combined with cinnamon or cloves.
Nutritional: Contains levels of vitamin C and flavonoids.
Medicinal: Considered to have anti-inflammatory, diuretic, sedative, and possible antifungal properties. Also high in anti-cancer antioxidants. Has been used for protecting eye health, treating digestive issues including ulcers, and reducing the risk of heart disease. When applied topically, marigolds are a good treatment for minor burns, allergic reactions, eczema, and bruising.
Check out these creative Flower Petal Jelly recipes.