By Susan Lundman Updated December 15, 2018
Ranging from creamy, pale yellow, to bright yellow, orange or variegated reds and oranges, marigolds (Tagetes spp.) provide a pop of color in any vegetable plot. Whether you plant a 6-inch or 3-foot variety, your vegetable garden will look more interesting than without the flowers. Plus, you have the added possible benefits of protecting your veggies from certain pests and attracting valuable insects. You can grow all types of marigold as annuals or as perennials in U.S. Department of Agriculture zones nine through 11, although the plants will die if temperatures drop to freezing.
Choose either seeds or seedlings for fast-growing marigolds. Place the seedlings directly where you want them to grow or strew seeds by hand over the area where you want them. The seeds will germinate within a few days in warm weather.
Why Plant Marigolds
In addition to the cheery flowers that marigolds bring to your garden, they also attract beneficial insects, such as ladybugs, hoverflies and parasitic mini-wasps, that prey on garden pests. If you sow the marigolds as a cover crop and plow them under before planting, they will repel harmful nematodes. And there is some evidence that marigolds ward off cabbage worms from cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli and Brussels sprouts. But some gardeners say that the slugs and Japanese beetles attracted to marigolds is too large a price to pay to keep cabbage worms at bay.
The Naturalistic Approach
To mimic nature, strew seeds randomly throughout the vegetable garden, in the open spaces in front, in back and in between vegetables. Plant seedlings in the same random, or naturalistic way, in clusters here and there throughout the bed. This method works best with just one color of marigold, which will unify the entire vegetable bed. Use as many marigolds plants or seeds as you need to cover all the empty spaces between your vegetables.
Create a Border
Rows of marigolds around the edges of your vegetable garden present a more formal or orderly feel. Strew the seeds or place the plants in a single row, or create a more lush look with a double or triple row of flowers if you have the space. With this kind of planting, you can choose a random assortment of colors within the same marigold variety or go with a single color.
Like most vegetables, marigolds require full sun, at least six hours a day. They may need less water than your vegetables, so water them directly only when the soil becomes dry, and let them gather water indirectly from the nearby vegetables. If you plant from seeds, thin the plants when they are 1 to 2 inches tall and leave them 10 to 12 inches apart. [external_footer]