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  • Writer's pictureJulia Watson

Marigolds for the Flower Farmer

bouquet of marigolds and daisies
White Swan marigolds with Shasta daisies

It’s finally summer around here! After the endless rain and cool weather we had for the first six months of this year, heat has arrived and the summer annuals are loving it. Our marigolds are in bloom and I’m assessing some varieties I’d never grown before.

Marigolds aren’t my favorite flowers, because of their smell and because of their branching growth. Some people like the scent of marigold foliage, but I’m not one of those. It isn’t the flowers that have the strong, cilantro-like scent, it’s the leaves, so I strip those off and then my bouquets don’t have an unpleasant scent. The flowers are amazingly long-lived (see my post about that here) so I like including them in bouquets. I wish they grew with long straight stems instead of branching, but you can’t have everything.

I’ve tried a few different varieties over the years, and below are my observations about each one. Some varieties aren’t good for our flower work, but I have three favorites to grow for Tiny Footprint Flowers. In your own garden or flower farm, you can make up your own mind.

Coco Gold (left) and Coco Orange (right)

Coco Gold A big bold marigold that you might see in Día de los Muertos decorations. I love the color, and if I could grow only one marigold this would be it.

Coco Orange Flowers are a deeper color than Coco Gold. They’re a strong dark orange that combines better with White Swan or with blue ageratum than with Coco Gold. In other ways – size, growth habit, days to maturity – Coco Gold and Coco Orange are almost identical.

ivory marigold flower
White Swan marigold

White Swan The varieties labeled as ‘white” marigolds aren’t really white, they’re cream or butter-yellow. But that can be a very useful hue, and I rank White Swan very high as a summer flower. It branches too much, but I can deal with that. It has very little marigold scent.

marigold plant
Vanilla marigold - about 18" high and very compact

Vanilla The blooms are nearly identical to White Swan, but the growth habit is quite different. Vanilla is very compact, and stems are short, making it nearly useless for floral work, but it would be wonderful as a blooming container plant or in a garden border.

Sugar & Spice Another “white” marigold; this one didn’t work for me because of the ragged flower form.

Nosento Limegreen This variety was bred to eliminate the marigold odor, and it succeeds at that. But the flower is a brilliant lemon yellow – one of my least favorite colors for floral work.

Tangerine Gem As the name says, this is a gem, with small, brightly colored blooms. It makes a nice accent flower, and looks good in the garden, but overall, it’s simply too small to be worth growing in our small-space flower farm.

All the marigolds I've grown have a long bloom season - they start in June and keep pumping out flowers until November. They have few pests and they don't get mildew, so they'll always have a spot in my garden.

bouquet of marigolds and strawflowers
Coco Gold marigolds in a bouqet with strawflowers

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