Marigold pattern (c) Rianne Mason

Tagetes patula (French marigold)


French marigolds originate from Mexico and Guatemala. They were bought to Europe and Africa in the late 16th century and were named Tagetes after a mythical Etruscan deity. The Aztecs believed the plants were sacred and that they had healing and magical powers.

Celebration and symbolism

Today these bright and sunny flowers can be seen in many celebrations and rituals. In India you’ll frequently see bright orange marigold garlands at weddings, festivals and Hindu temples as they are considered pure and are a global religious symbol. The colour is also important to Hindus – with bright orange representing courage and sacrifice.

In Mexico the flower is referred to as flor de muerto – “flowers of the dead”. It’s believed that their scent helps attract souls to the alter and are placed around La Casa del Artesano during Día de los Muertos.


Tagetes essential oil is believed to have many beneficial health properties, particularly antiseptic and antimicrobial. This makes it a great tonic for athletes foot, dermatitis or any inflammation. It can also help reduce catarrh.
The flowers of Tagetes patula can be used as a refreshing drink or a citrus twist to salads and cakes.
Discover an easy DIY recipe to make your own Tagetes and tangerine body balm.

Garden benefits

Marigolds as companion plants (c) Rianne Mason
Marigolds as companion plants (c) Rianne Mason

Tagetes is a bit of a garden hero as it’s known to be a great insect repellant and companion plant. Plant them with potatoes, tomatoes, basil, cucumbers, aubergines, squash, melons, asparagus, sweet corn, chillies and peppers. Be careful with brassicas and beans by planting the marigolds away from their root span. Dig in the spent plants to help repel nematodes.

They’re also rabbit resistant!

Grow your own

Tagetes patula are an easy, cheerful annual bedding plant and bloom all summer long. They’re smaller and more compact than some of their siblings (e.g. Tagetes erecta).
Plant from spring through to mid-summer by sowing them directly into the soil, preferably in a sunny spot. You should see them bloom after around 8 weeks.

You can sow them slightly early if you’re sowing them in pots indoors until spring arrives, they can tolerate low temperatures but won’t survive a frost.

Don’t forget to save your seeds in autumn/winter! Read me post about saving Tagetes patula seeds for top tips.


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