Many gardeners are surprised to find that most flowers have come and gone by August. Even though it’s still high summer and temperatures are warm — if not outright blazing — there’s often little color to be had, especially from perennial plants that have already bloomed for the season.
Late summer is the time when annual flowers are an important part of your planting plan if you love nonstop color. Marigolds are a wonderful annual flower that stand up to summer’s heat and are at their best in August, shining out in bright yellow and orange hues when more delicate blooms have long since faded away.
Growing Zones: 2-11, but they are annuals that won’t survive frost
Bloom Time: Ruffled, puffy blooms in warm colors open in late spring and continue to bloom nonstop until frost kills the plants in August
Exposure: Full sun
Mature Size: 1 to 3 feet tall with a spread of 2 feet, depending on variety
Notes: Marigolds are annual flowers that complete their life cycle in a single growing season. They have a unique, spicy scent and come in a range of colors from cream and all shades of yellow to gold, orange and rusty red. They have been bred to a variety of shapes and sizes and are fairly easy to start from seed if you want to experiment with more usually versions that can’t be found at your local nursery.
Growing Marigolds in the Landscape
Choose a sunny location for marigolds. They need at least six hours of sunlight per day for best bloom, and they are well-suited for garden hotspots where other flowers wilt in the sun. Marigolds prefer average soil that drains well. Planting them near your house’s foundation may help them live longer in the fall, as the warmth from your house can keep frost at bay for an extra week or two, depending on weather conditions.
Marigolds are generally easy to grow from seed. To do so, prepare the soil by turning it with a side and loosening it with a garden rake to a depth of about 6 inches. If soil is very poor, consider adding fertilizer; otherwise, you can mulch with compost once seedlings emerge.
Sow seeds about a half-inch deep and 2 inches apart. Short varieties are perfect for planting in neat rows along a path or at the front of a border. Taller varieties can help fill in gaps between perennials at the middle or back of the garden, where you may wish to plant seeds in blocks instead of rows for a more natural look.
Cover seeds lightly with soil and water well. Keep seeds watered daily until they sprout in a week or so. For quick germination, plant marigold seeds after the danger of frost has passed, typically by mid May or Memorial Day.
You can also purchase marigold transplants at a local nursery. Plant these by popping them out of the container, gently breaking apart the root ball in needed, and planting about 10 inches apart. Firm in place and water well. Mulch with compost to hold in moisture.
Ongoing Care for Marigolds
In a few weeks after germination, thin seedlings to about 10 inches apart, choosing the strongest plants to stay in place. Continue to provide about an inch of water per week throughout the growing season.
To encourage continuous blooms, deadhead marigolds after petals shrivel and turn brown. This will keep your garden looking neat and help the plants put energy into producing more flowers later instead of going to seed. Slightly dry flower heads should snap off easily by pinching them between your finger and thumb.
Once frost kills your marigolds in mid to late fall, pull them up by the roots and compost the plants to keep your garden tidy for the winter.