Marigolds: grow your own pest spray (Try this!)

I'm sure by now you've heard that you should plant Marigolds in your garden to keep insects away. While there are conflicting studies and first hand accounts, by and large it seems like many people give it a try anyway....and why not? Marigolds are pretty, hardy and easy to grow. Plus, they might help. 

Marigolds for use in DIY pest spray

Marigolds are a very easy to grow flower, plus they bloom continuously through the summer. Marigolds range in color from pale ivory colored to bright orange with rust colored variations. 

There are more than 50 different species of marigolds, but the ones we're discussing are the carnation like flowers known as the common marigold (Tagetes) not Calendula (Calendula officinalis) aka pot Marigold. 

The only reason I mention this is because whenever anyone talks about using marigold, they usually are referring to Calendula. Calendula has a ton of fabulous properties and it's often used in soaps or lotions and even teas. I use it in my Skin Healing Salve recipe and my Sunburn Tea Bath

As amazing as it is, Calendula will not have the desired effect in this application though. You need the normal marigold that you can buy in any plant nursery. (see photos)

make marigold bug spray

Many gardeners plant marigolds near tomatoes to repel nematodes and other pests on the nearby plants. Marigolds themselves get very few pests except for the occasional mite or aphid. It's believed that the pungent scent of the marigolds discourages many pests from visiting the garden. 

Related reading: 8 Flowers You Need In Your Vegetable Garden.

They're also said to deter rabbits and deer. Conversely, many believe the bright colors of the marigolds attracts pollinators to the garden. Quite interesting isn't it?

All marigolds grow best in full sun. They are heat resistant and grow in almost any kind of soil, though they prefer well drained soil. This is one of the attributes that makes marigolds such a popular addition to flower beds and gardens. They adapt well to almost any growing condition.

I like to start my marigolds from seed. That's mainly because I like the marigolds with the very large flower heads and they're much more expensive in nurseries. Ridiculous but true. Meanwhile the seeds all cost the same so I save money by growing them myself.

Marigolds germinate fairly quickly and easily outside so I direct sow into the garden. Thin when plants are about 2" tall. Space marigolds about 8 to 10 inches from other plants. Marigolds only take a few weeks from starting seed to blooming.

Growing marigold plants is easy

  • Marigolds do not like being watered from above, they prefer to be watered at the base. 
  • Do not over fertilize marigolds or they will grow into a big bushy plant with very few flowers. 
  • Mulch around the base of the plant when plants are small to keep soil moist. 
  • They do not require deadheading but of course you can if you prefer that look. 
  • Marigolds should continue to bloom all the way until your first frost in fall.

You can make a marigold spray to keep flies, mosquitoes, asparagus beetles, tomato hornworms and leaf cutting insects at bay. This homemade organic bug spray can be applied to your property and plants. 

To make marigold insecticide spray you're going to need: one cup marigold flowers leaves and stems (The more fragrant the better!) and two cups of water. 

How to make marigold bug spray:

  • Put water and marigolds in a blender and pulse for just a few seconds. The mixture should still be chunky. 
  • Place in a mason jar and let it sit in a cool dark place for 2 days. Shake occasionally.
  • After the 2 days have passed, strain the mixture out through a cheesecloth squeezing the cheesecloth to get the last of the liquid out.
  • Pour into a plant sprayer and dilute with about 6 cups of water.
  • You can also add 1/4 tsp of Castile soap to help the mixture to stick to your plants.
Store the marigold spray in the refrigerator. It should keep for at least 2 weeks.

If by some chance you need to make this bug spray and you do not have fresh marigolds, you can use dried marigold petals. You can order them online or dry them yourself. I dry marigold petals in my dehydrator when they're in season so I always have them on hand. It only takes a few hours on low.

When making a bug spray from dehydrated flower petals, you'll need to add a small handful of fresh cilantro to the flower petals and water mixture. You can get fresh cilantro in almost any grocery store year round.

I will warn you that this homemade pest spray will be slightly tinted and can stain light colored fabrics. Be very careful spraying it around light colored painted items, furniture or your clothing. I like to apply this spray to my garden about once a week, more often if it rains. 

This natural pest repellent does a pretty good job of keeping away the critters that want to snack on my plants and I would rather use a natural pesticide around my food garden then something loaded with chemicals! 

Plus it's much cheaper to make this marigold pesticide then to have to keep buying stuff at the big box store. It also smells much better than the homemade apple cider vinegar or garlic pesticide sprays. Win-win!


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Make marigold pesticide


  1. In England these are called French marigolds. I love growing these and Poached Egg Plant to attract hoverflies and ladybirds (ladybugs) to the veg patch. I didn't know about making them into a bug spray though, thank you for sharing the recipe!

  2. Our neighbors plant marigolds at the edges to keep deer away. I love marigolds (even their weird smell!) and I've been meaning to plant some. I wonder if they'd help keep Japanese beetles away? They've been terrible this year!

    1. I don't know if it would work for Japanese beetles, but I've been using it and haven't had many in my garden this maybe!


  3. This looks good. I have pinned it and forwarded to a friend by email. Thanks for the information.

  4. I have African Marigolds in the polytunnel to help protect my tomatoes and I just let them self seed every year for free plants! #WasteLessWednesday

    1. I had some self seed too. Don't you love that?


  5. I've grown marigolds for many years... especially in my vegie garden, but I also like them as a border plant in my picking garden. I've pinned the recipe for the marigold bug spray, so I can make it later.
    Thank you for linking it up at Create, Bake, Grow and Gather this week. I'm delighted to be featuring it at tonight's party.

  6. Hi Lisa,
    Very interesting post on Marigolds. They are such pretty flowers and are so easy to take care of. Congratulations on being featured on Healthy Happy green & natural blog hop & Homestead blog hop. Your famous this week. Shared on twitter & pinned. Have a wonderful healthy day.

    1. Hi Marla! I've never been famous's pretty exciting!
      Thanks for sharing!


  7. is it the marigold insect repellent method above harmless to human especially children
    i want to know the effect of it to children

    1. There should be no effect on children but I wouldn't let them play with it.

  8. Can marigolds be used to make insect repellent for people and animals?

    1. I'm pretty sure marigold spray would stain clothing so I wouldn't spray it on people. I have no idea if it would affect animals adversely, so it's probably best to not use it on animals. Sorry!