How to grow marigolds from seed

Marigolds are a garden staple, known for their bright flowers and pest repelling qualities. They make excellent companion plants for tomatoes and are available in every garden nursery. It's easy to grow marigolds from seed and they often come back every year, since they're pretty good at self seeding!

Marigolds growing from seed

I have been growing marigolds for many years. They are one of the flowers I wrote about in 8 flowers the you need in your garden. Many gardeners grow them for their color. Their bright orange and yellow blooms attract lots of pollinators like butterflies. Since your vegetables need pollinators, it's a good idea to welcome them to the garden!

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. 

They're said to deter both rabbits and deer, though unfortunately, they do nothing for chipmunks and other rodents. Marigolds can grow thick enough to create a garden barrier, so if you need to keep rabbits out, plant them near any gaps in your fence line.

Marigold is the common name for over 50 species of flowering plants in the Tagetes family. They were native to the Americas, but have been naturalized throughout the world. Various species are grown for their medicinal properties, culinary use, decoration and even pest repellant in the garden.

Marigolds in the US are usually annuals though perennial marigolds do exist and are becoming more popular! They are a herbaceous plant in the sunflower family. They have green pinnate (feather like) leaves and grow anywhere from just a few inches tall, to a few feet tall! 

The flowers of the marigold tend to look a bit like carnations. They vary in size though they generally all have ray florets and disc florets. They have fibrous roots and grow well in almost any type of soil. Marigolds prefer full sun. 

The most common colors are yellow or orange with maroon colored accents, though there are several other colors. 

Why grow marigolds from seed?

Marigolds are available in all plant nurseries, garden centers and big box stores so why would you want to make the effort of growing them from seed? Because growing from seed is sometimes the only option for uncommon varieties.

As mentioned earlier, different marigold varieties have different uses. The different varieties are often harder to find locally. Since seeds can be ordered from all over the world, starting marigolds from seed is the answer to growing some rare varieties. 

If you're on a budget then growing any plant from seed is cheaper then buying started plants from a store. Marigolds are common enough that you can find packets of seeds in almost any store. It's one of the seeds I mention in 15 garden supplies from the dollar store

Personally, I prefer the marigolds with the huge flowers. You know the ones that are so big they look like pompoms? Those! My favorite color is white, though it's more of a pale, creamy yellow. 

Through the years I have saved seeds from the plants that produce the largest, creamy white flowers. Not only do I never have to try to find these plants (most stores don't carry them!) but starting from saved seeds allows me to always grow exactly what I want.

large, white marigolds growing

How to grow Marigolds from seed

Soak seeds overnight before planting to speed germination. Marigold seeds are not difficult to sprout, but I find this initial soaking gets them started a bit quicker. If you're direct sowing during a rainy part of spring, you won't need to pre soak the seeds.

You can start your seeds inside, but marigolds germinate fairly quickly and easily outside so I often direct sow into the garden. Once the soil is warmed in spring, plant the seeds about 1/4" down and cover with soil. Water lightly every day till germination, then switch to every few days till well established. 

Once in the garden, mulch around the base of plants to keep the soil from drying out. When seeds are just sprouting, even a few hours of dry soil can kill them, though so can over watering. Mulch helps keep the balance.

If you decide to start your seeds indoors, start them about 6 weeks before you'll be moving them to the garden. Transplant seedlings to their final spot in the garden when they are a few inches tall and all danger of frost has passed. 

When starting inside, use a commercial potting mix, as garden soil can compact and make it difficult for the tiny seed roots to grow. Water and place on a heat mat with a clear cover. You can use plastic wrap if your pots don't have a cover. It should only take a few days for germination. Remove clear cover when sprouts appear.

Thin when plants are about 2" tall. In the garden, space marigolds about 8 to 10 inches from other plants. Marigolds only take a few weeks from starting seed to blooming. 

Marigold seedlings, sprouting from seed

Planting Marigolds

Marigolds grow best in full sun. Choose a sunny location with at least 4-6 hours of direct sun. Marigold flowers best in full sun, but they can tolerate some shade. 

You do not need to deadhead marigolds and they bloom so profusely it would be a daily chore! However, the flowers close and dry up and the base of the flower is where the seeds are produced. So if you don't deadhead them, they will self seed.

Marigold plants are not heavy feeders and when you do fertilize them, you have to be careful not to give too much. This will cause the plants to grow taller, but not produce as many flowers. I add some compost at planting time and a weak fertilizer every 2 weeks or so during blooming.

If your plants are not producing many flowers, cut back the fertilizer for a few weeks and see if they start producing more.

Once established, the marigold is mostly drought resistant. I water once a week in drought conditions, otherwise they get whatever happens to rain on them and that's about it. 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. They will need watered a bit more in containers and raised beds though, as these tend to dry out quicker.

Most marigolds are an annual and will die off at the very first frost of the year. You'll want to pull out the plants once they start to die off. I have had pretty good luck growing marigolds indoors over winter, so if you get some sprouts popping up towards fall, transplant them into pots to bring inside! 

Quick tips for growing Marigolds

  • 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. Cut back fertilizer if this happens.
  • 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. It prevents self seeding.
  • Marigolds should continue to bloom all the way until your first frost in fall.

saving seeds from marigolds

How to save seeds from the Marigold plant

The seeds are formed in the base of the flower, so you'll want to forgo dead heading the flowers if you plan on saving the seeds. Since I prefer less common varieties of Marigold, I always save the seed from my favorite plants. That way I can keep growing the same flowers every year! 

The base of the flower will turn brown and brittle when they're ready. I pluck the whole flower off and peel back the outer leaves and you'll see all the seeds inside. 

Seeds can easily be removed and saved for next year. Allow seeds to dry for several days before storing, and store in paper envelopes (not plastic containers) to discourage mold. 

If you are looking for ways to make money off your garden,  marigolds will produce a ton of seeds to sell. Of course if you start with a rare color or variety they will sell better, as only a few colors are available widely.

Once you grow a bunch of marigolds, try my recipe for marigold pest spray. It works really well for keeping bugs away. Happy growing!

Have you decided what to plant in your garden yet? Click here to see how I decide!


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  1. Thanks for this great information!

  2. Very relevant. Been watering from the top. Now I know better. Also, no deadheading.