Marigold is herbaceous plant that belongs to the family Asteraceae, includes such delightful blooms as daisies, asters and sunflowers. This plant originates from Mexico and South America. Native to South America, Mexico and the southwestern United States, marigolds (Tagetes spp.) have been found in gardens worldwide for hundreds of years.
Cultivation of marigold started in 16th century, when Spanish explorers brought marigold from South America to Europe. Marigold requires full sun and well drained soil for successful growth and development. It doesn’t tolerate frost. Compounds isolated from marigold have application in medical, cosmetic, textile and food industry. Marigold is usually cultivated in ornamental purposes. It doesn’t require special conditions for successful cultivation, which makes it very popular among the gardeners worldwide.
Calendula blossoms are native to the Americas, and the Aztecs loved the charming blossoms as much as we do today. Members of the ancient culture actually believed marigolds were protective, so they carried them during dangerous tasks and used them to help heal critical injuries. Marigolds are also the official flower for Day of the Dead celebrations in Mexico because of their vibrancy and aroma.
Because of their cheerful bright orange and yellow blooms, ease of care and few problems with insects and disease, marigolds continue to be a popular bedding plant in the United States. Some gardeners also plant marigolds in vegetable gardens because they believe the flower can protect plants from insect pests, although research studies have not supported these claims.
Records show that calendula marigold flower petals and florets have been used in folklore medicine tinctures, extracts and salves since at least around the 11th or 12th century. Ground marigold petals have a deep color that some compare to saffron — therefore historically it’s also been used as a less expensive coloring agent, addition to soups or digestive tea, and/or as a perfume ingredient in some cases. Pot marigold (calendula), also called “Poor Man’s Saffron,” is edible. The flowers can be used as a substitute for the more expensive saffron. Add to soups, stews, and salads. The flowers were a common ingredient in German soups and stews, which explains the nickname “pot marigold”.
It was the Aztecs who first used this flower for its medicinal purposes. According to herbal records that date back as early as 1552, marigolds were used to cure all sorts of ailments including hiccups and injuries that resulted from a lightning strike. If the Aztecs were to cross a river,they would keep these flowers with them for its supposed magical properties.
The Spanish are said to be the first to have taken the seeds of this flower back home for cultivation back in the 16th century. This is how they first made their way across the ocean. Like many other popular plants and flowers, there were a number countries that became interested in growing this flower. France was one example of an influential European nation that took an interest in marigolds. Northern African countries did too.
Back in the early 1900s, flowers like asters and sweet peas were notably more popular than marigolds in America. However, when disease spread through these plants, the locals realised that they were in need of something new. David Burpee, a rather young man at the time, took over his father’s seed company and this is how America came to learn of the marigold’s beauty. He featured the flower in his catalogue and invested a great deal in researching marigolds even further.
Calendula gets its name from the Latin word “calend,” which means every month. According to the Roman calendar, calend signified the start of the new moon cycle, when marigold flowers were said to be in full bloom. Calendula marigolds historically also had religious meaning in Christianity, since their golden color earned them the nickname “Mary’s gold.” For this reason, they were sometimes used in religious ceremonies and to decorate sacred spaces.
St. Hildegard of Bingen was one of the first to record use of calendula marigolds in historical texts. As an herbalist and nun in Germany, she used the flower over 1,000 years ago to treat patients. Marigolds have also been prized in Ayurvedic medicine and today are still grown widely around India, including in large quantities in the famous Valley of Flowers in the Ranthambore National Park.
Marigolds even have decorative or culinary commercial uses, such as dying food products and adding color to salads (since the petals are edible, often bitter tasting) and desserts. Certain types of marigolds have even been added by farmers to chicken or livestock feed in order to make the chickens’ egg yolks a darker yellow or butter a deeper orange. The florets come in brass, copper, orange, yellow and bronze colors and can be dried to make long-lasting flower arrangements that give off a smell for many months, helping purify the air and keep pests away.
Depending on the variety, marigolds can grow anywhere from six to 48 inches tall (depends on variety), with a spread of six to 36 inches wide. The tallest, known as African or American marigolds (Tagetes erecta) have reached heights of five feet. Marigolds are spring, summer and autumn plants, as they are sensitive to cold and will not survive a frost. The 50-plus marigold cultivars produce daisy- or carnation-like blooms in a host of colors, including orange, red, maroon, yellow or mixed. Marigold plants have a pungent/spicy aroma, which many gardeners enjoy although some find unpleasant. Marigold has oblong and lanceolate leaves with whole margins. Some varieties of marigold have leaves with toothed edges. Leaves are spirally arranged on the branches.
Of the scores of marigold varieties, there are four primary species: the aforementioned African or American marigolds, French marigolds (Tagetes patula), triploids, which are a hybrid variety (Tagetes erects x Tagetes patula), and single marigolds (Tagetes tenuifolia (signata) pumila). Within each species, there are multiple cultivars that produce plants of varying height and different colored flowers and flower shapes. For example, the ‘Aztec’ African marigold can produce orange or yellow flowers 3.5 inches across, whereas smaller French varieties, like ‘Queen Sophia’ and ‘Golden Gate,’ have 1-inch yellow, maroon or bicolored blooms. The triploid hybrids produce medium-sized plants with bicolored flowers, and single marigold varieties are long-stemmed with daisy-shaped flowers. Recommended single marigold cultivars include ‘Burgundy,’ ‘Chippendale Daisy,’ ‘Cinnabar’ and ‘Ripples.’
Marigold is usually yellow, orange, red and maroon in color. Each flower consists of large number of petals that overlap. Biggest petals are located on a periphery and smallest in a center of a flower. Flowers contain both male (stamen) and female (pistil) reproductive organs.
Some of the major Marigold varieties are listed below:
African or American Marigolds (Tagetes erecta): These marigolds are tall, erect-growing plants up to three feet in height. The flowers are globe-shaped and large. Flowers may measure up to 5 inches across. African Marigolds are very good bedding plants. These flowers are yellow to orange and do not include red colored Marigolds. The Africans take longer to reach flowering stage than the French type.
French Marigolds (Tagetes patula): Marigold cultivars in this group grow 5 inches to 18 inches high. Flower colors are red, orange and yellow. Red and orange bicolor patterns are also found. Flowers are smaller (2 inches across). French Marigolds are ideal for edging flowerbeds and in mass plantings. They also do well in containers and window boxes.
Signet Marigolds (T. signata ‘pumila’): The signet Marigolds produce compact plants with finely divided, lacy foliage and clusters of small, single flowers. They have yellow to orange colored, edible flowers. The flowers of signet marigolds have a spicy tarragon flavor. The foliage has a pleasant lemon fragrance. Signet Marigolds are excellent plants for edging beds and in window boxes.
Mule Marigolds: These marigolds are the sterile hybrids of tall African and dwarf French marigolds, hence known as mule Marigolds. Most triploid cultivars grow from 12 to 18 inches high. Though they have the combined qualities of their parents, their rate of germination is low.
If growing from seeds, start sowing marigolds in March or April. Seeds can be planted directly outdoors after there is no longer any danger of frost. The plants need about 45 days to flower after seeding. Marigold seeds should be sown 2 cm apart. Cover seeds with 1/4 inch of potting soil. Water sufficiently. Plants will appear within a few days. When true leaves have formed, transplant into individual containers or outdoors. Marigolds grow best if planted in full sun and can be planted in sandy, clay or loamy soil, although they thrive in a moist, but well-drained, loam. Care should be taken not to overwater marigolds; plants may flower late if planted in the shade. Smaller French varieties should be spaced 6 to 9 inches apart, while the larger African types need to be planted at least 18 inches from one another. Summer care is easy: faded flowers should be removed to encourage new bud growth, and larger plants may need to be staked to keep them upright. Add potash fertilizers to prolong the flowering period. Pinch off the first flowers before they open. This will lead to a larger number of flowers.
Marigold produces flowers all year round under optimal weather conditions. Majority of marigold species bloom during the summer and fall. Removal of old flowers from the stem stimulates development of new flowers. Marigold produces dry fruit called achene.
Wild types of marigold are perennial plants (live more than 2 years). Cultivated marigold is an annual plant (it completes its life cycle in one year).
Although marigolds are more resistant to pests than other annuals, they are not immune to several insect problems and disease. In particular, spider mites can infest marigolds during hot dry weather, and plants can also be attacked by spittle bugs and grasshoppers, with damaging results. In addition, young marigolds can be devastated by earwigs, slugs and snails. Marigolds are susceptible to common disease problems such as fungal stem and root rots. For treating these pests, make sure to use a pesticide designed to combat the specific problem.
Marigolds are known for being healing, especially for the skin and eyes. In ointment form, these flowers are used to help treat everything from varicose veins to skin lesions. Plus, they’re often included in cosmetics because of their restorative properties. When it comes to eye health, marigolds are thought to help prevent age-related macular degeneration because they contain luteins, which are important nutrients found in many foods. Thanks to this substance, marigold can be used in treatment of age-related macular degeneration.
Marigold is susceptible to fungal disorders which usually manifest on a root and stem. Also, marigold is often on a target of spiders and grasshoppers. Medical studies showed that marigold contains substances with anti-viral, anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and anti-inflammatory properties.
The flowers can be used to make a herbal tea that can help alleviate sore throats, cramps and fevers.
Marigold is known to be effective against painful mouth and stomach ulcers as well as colitis, candida and gastritis with its anti-bacterial/anti-fungal actions. Marigolds are effective in this aspect because they tend to stimulate the lymphatic system and thereby minimize the swelling as well as cleanse the body of toxins which may be contributing to the ulcers.
Calendula has been used traditionally for abdominal cramps and constipation. The extract of C. officinalis flowers was shown to have both spasmolytic and spasmogenic effects.
Is a safe diuretic that will aid in detoxifying the urinary tract.
One of the medicinal uses of marigolds is that it promotes the growth of both new blood vessels as well as new skin tissue and hence it is used in the healing of wounds such as burns, scrapes as well as irritated skin.
Marigold flowers is that it is very beneficial in getting rid of an oily complexion naturally. In this treatment, fresh flowers need to be soaked in warm water and then applied to the skin at least once a day and allowed to remain for 10 minutes before washing it off.
Calendula is an antibacterial, antiseptic and antifungal. It also has anti-inflammatory properties. You’ll find it as an ingredient in herbal skin ointment recipes to treat:
– Dry skin (makes a nice moisturizer)
– Minor skin irritations
– Chapped lips
– Diaper rash
– Insect bites
– Allergic reactions
– Limited evidence indicates Calendula cream or ointment is effective in treating radiation dermatitis
Marigold has been used in traditional herbal medicine to treat headaches and toothaches.
It balances female reproductive systems with its estrogenic effect—for example in cases of painful or scanty menstruation.
A word of cauton: Calendula plants are known to cause allergic reactions, medication interactions and even adverse hormonal effects, also should be avoided during pregnancy.
Calendula cream is known to be well-tolerated, even for people with sensitive skin. However, you should avoid marigold products if you have a known allergy to ragweed, daisies, chrysanthemums, chamomile, echinacea and other plants in the same family as marigolds. For women who are pregnant or breast-feeding, little is known about the effects of calendula, so it’s best to get your doctor’s advice before taking any internally or using extract on the skin.
Do not apply calendula directly to open wounds without being directed to do so by your doctor, as this can cause irritation. Start with a very small amount on the skin to test your reaction, and then you can increase your dose slowly.
The Difference Between Calendula and French Marigold
In the case of marigold, pot marigold (Calendula), a native to Europe, and French marigold (Tagetes), an American native in the same family as the daisy, are very different plants. Tagetes is a genus of annual and perennial, mostly herbaceous plants in the sunflower family (Asteraceae or Compositae). Tagetes minuta is the source of commercial “Tagetes oil” used in industry. It is now a naturalized species in Africa, Hawaii, and Australia, and is considered an invasive species (weed) in some regions. The most commonly cultivated varieties of Tagetes are known variously as African marigolds (usually referring to cultivars and hybrids of Tagetes erecta, although this species is not native to Africa), or French marigolds (usually referring to hybrids and cultivars of Tagetes patula, many of which were developed in France, although the species is not native to that country). In Ukraine, chornobryvtsi (T. erecta, T. patula, and the signet marigold, T. tenuifolia) are regarded as one of the national symbols, and are often mentioned in songs, poems, and tales.
Everybody knows that Calendula is edible and often appears on lists of attractive edible flowers. Most French marigold varieties are considered not edible. But the there species which are used in cooking:
– Tagetes lucida, known as pericón, is used to prepare a sweetish, anise-flavored medicinal tea in Mexico. It is also used as a culinary herb in many warm climates, as a substitute for tarragon, and offered in the nursery as “Texas tarragon” or “Mexican mint marigold”.
– Tagetes minuta, native to southern South America, is a tall, upright marigold plant with small flowers used as a culinary herb in Peru, Ecuador, and parts of Chile and Bolivia, where it is called by the Incan term huacatay. The paste is used to make the popular potato dish called ocopa. Having both “green” and “yellow/orange” notes, the taste and odor of fresh T. minuta is like a mixture of sweet basil, tarragon, mint and citrus. It is also used as a medicinal tea in some areas.
Calendula is also a common herbal remedy used in skin preparations (among other uses). French marigold is a nice companion plant in the garden, makes an effective bug spray and looks lovely in a border. It doesn’t have the herbal range of calendula. Depending on the cultivars involved, both pot marigold and French marigold can look pretty similar.
If you’re filling a flat with spring flowers at your local nursery and come upon a display of wonderful plants marked “MARIGOLDS,” you’re probably looking at French marigolds (Tagetes). They’re very popular annuals in gardens across the country. They aren’t fussy and bloom throughout the summer months. There are also many French marigold cultivars that can look like anything from intricate lemon yellow puff balls to russet daisies.
Your best bet if you’re looking for pot marigold is to search for it by its scientific name, Calendula Officinalis. In all likelihood, if your nursery carries it, you’ll find it in a small display of herbal or specialty plants.
As well as Calendula, the African or French marigold is very significant in Nepalese culture, where marigold garlands are used almost in every household, especially during the Tihar festival. It is always sold in the markets for daily worships and rituals.
The marigold was regarded as the flower of the dead in pre-Hispanic Mexico, and is still widely used in the Day of the Dead celebrations. The marigold is also widely cultivated in India and Thailand, particularly the species T. erecta, T. patula, and T. tenuifolia. Vast quantities of marigolds are used in garlands and decoration for weddings, festivals, and religious events. Marigold cultivation is extensively seen in Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, Karnataka, and Uttar Pradesh.
Dyes extracted from the marigold flowers are used in textile and food industry. Pot marigold is often used as a natural dye for foods, such as cheese, pasta, vegetable oil, margarine, mayonnaise, mustard and more. A calendula rinse will color Easter eggs and tint ricean attractive yellow.
Essential oils extracted from the marigold show protective effects on the skin. They are used in cosmetic industry for the production of creams and lotions.
Marigold in a diet of chickens leads to incorporation of lutein into the eggs and facilitates treatment of macular degeneration. Eggs rich in lutein have brightly colored yolk.
Some gardeners plant marigold in their vegetable gardens to protect vegetables from the pests. Insect repelling properties of marigold are not scientifically proven yet.
It isn’t just the Aztecs that have attached lore to this pretty flower. Some believe that the flower can predict when it will rain – if the blossoms open in the morning, it’s said there will be rain later in the day.
The name calendula is a modern Latin diminutive of calendae, meaning “little calendar”, “little clock” or possibly “little weather-glass”.
The common name “marigold” refers to the Virgin Mary.
Marigolds have been grown in the gardens of Europe since the 12th century. By the 14th century, many had learned of its many and varied “magical powers.”
The pungent scent of the marigold will deter insects and pests from the garden. They are often used as companion plants for tomatoes, eggplant, potatoes and chili peppers. The pungent scent is also known to repel mosquitoes. Plant marigolds near entrances and windows to keep mosquitoes away.
In India and Nepal, where the flowers hold significant meaning, marigolds are typically used to make floral garlands for festivals, weddings, celebrations, and religious events.
Marigolds make excellent, long lasting cut flowers.
Pot marigold is October’s birth flower.
In the language of flowers, pot marigold symbolizes sorrow or sympathy.