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Gardening From Southern California

...tall marigolds
by Gerald Burke
by Gerald Burke


Gerald Burke is a freelance travel and horticultural writer. He spent 35 years in the seed business, 30 of them with Burpee, and is a member of the Garden Writers Association and the North American Travel Journalists Association

March 4, 2007

The popularity of tall marigolds makes them high on the list of annuals to be planted for the summer garden. They’re useful for cut flowers, lasting for many days with a change or two of water and they never fail to brighten up a flower bed with their strong colors and big flowers.

Now is the time to plant tall marigolds from seed. You don’t usually find many of the tall marigolds as started plants, since they take time to bloom and don’t bloom well in six packs, thus don’t have the impulse sales in the nursery that dwarf marigolds have. But gardeners have dozens of tall marigolds they can choose to plant from seed this month and on into mid summer to late summer, to have those sparkling blooms. Seed racks usually have at least two or three, and catalogs often list as many as ten or fifteen, ranging from what are called mid-size to very tall, 15 inches to 30 inches.

The blooms on tall marigolds are easily one of their best attributes, most of them three to five inches across, all fully double and globe shaped, in colors ranging from gold, through lemon, orange and primrose. And if you want one that’s lighter, try the so-called white marigolds. They’re tall marigolds, too, and while the color isn’t blinding white, is comes fairly close with the newer white varieties.

Good varieties and series to look for are the Lady Hybrids, maybe the best being First Lady and Orange Lady, and Jubilee Hybrids, with the biggest flowers and the tallest plants. Some other good varieties are Royal Mixture, Galore Yellow, the Climax series, and an old, but very good variety, Sunset Giants. Don’t be confused by the names of these tall marigolds. Some catalogs list them as African marigolds, others list them as American, and they are from the American continent despite the name difference. The confusion goes back many years when these marigolds first traveled from Mexico to Africa, then to Europe, where they picked up the name African.

Seed of tall marigolds is easy to handle and plant, germinates quickly in warm weather and seed can be started in the open this month in a sunny bed, covered lightly and kept moist until well after they germinate. When seedlings are about two to three inches tall they can be transplanted out, set around six to ten inches apart. Blooms will start to show in about 60 to 70 days from sowing, and the plants will continue to produce bountiful flowers up until late fall.

Tall marigolds have few problems with disease and insects, but snails love to chew on new plants, so set out snail bait after transplanting.


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