There are so many types of marigolds available to the home gardener, it may be hard to know where to start! People plant marigolds for many reasons. They’re great companions in the annual vegetable garden, as they attract beneficial insects.
Not only are they perfect in the summer garden, but they are used all over the world for ceremonial and medicinal purposes. In Mexico, they are important for Dia de los Muertos floral arrangements. In India, they symbolize surrender to the divine and are employed in auspicious days in the Hindu pantheon.
More than just beautiful flowers, marigolds are used in culinary arts. They have been valued for centuries as medicinal plants among indigenous peoples of Central America. They’re a premier plant in the production of natural yellow dye, and marigolds bloom in seasons typically viewed as interstitial points in the world’s seasons.
You may wonder, which variety of marigold is best? What are the two types of marigolds? What kind of marigolds are good for gardening? Well, worry not because we’ll cover this, and 30 of the most stunning varieties of marigold out there.
The 4 Major Types of Marigolds
We are not talking about the pot marigold, or what is known botanically as Calendula officinalis. Instead, the focus is solely on marigolds in the Tagetes genus. It’s not that we don’t love and admire Calendula officinalis or any other plants deemed pot marigold, but to keep things simple, we’re honing in on the following 4 major types of marigolds.
What is the difference between marigolds and French marigolds? Because French types are marigold flowers, there’s little difference at all. All of the marigolds in the Tagetes patula species are included in this type. They are characterized by a smaller stature, and their yellow and orange flowers.
These flowers hail from Mexico and Guatemala, seemingly disregarding their name. However, it’s through the French colonial botanists that these marigolds have so many cultivars. When they’re not used as bedding plants in a flower bed, they are prized for their use in dyes and essential oils.
Also known as the Aztec marigold and sometimes called American marigolds, African types come from Mexico, in the states Michoacán, Veracruz, and Puebla. They are deemed ‘African’ because they first arrived in southern Europe from North African sources. All African types are from the species Tagetes erecta.
Characteristics of these marigold flowers include their tendency for inflorescences to sit in a solitary fashion on slender stalks. Their colors range from yellow to red, and they are known to have been used by Pre-Hispanic peoples in various rituals. Today they are used ceremonially and in commercial and culinary settings.
The signet marigold is the common name for marigolds in the Tagetes tenuifolia species. Its origins also lie in Mexico, across the entire country. Today you’ll find naturalized signet marigold plants in Columbia, Peru, and parts of Central America. The most striking characteristic of signets is how they produce clusters of small single flowers.
Common uses of signets involve their placement as companions in garden beds and in pest deterrence in general. They are some of the most common medicinally-valued marigold flowers and have been traditionally used to treat stomach and gastrointestinal ailments.
A cross between the French marigold and African marigold, these hybrids are some of the most interesting types of marigolds out there. They have lots of different shapes and colors and tend to have a higher adaptability to different climates than their parent species.
They work well in gardens that are subject to high summer heat. They also don’t set seed after their flowers fade, hence why they are called mule marigolds. Triploids do better in heavy rain periods than other marigold types as well.
Now that we’ve covered the major types of marigolds, let’s discuss specific marigold varieties. We’ve gathered together a list of (count them!) 30 varieties for you to choose from.
Crackerjack African Marigolds
The Crackerjack Mix Marigold seed packets we sell in our shop include a combination of yellow flowers and orange ones with double-petal arrangements. These plants produce large flowers on vegetation that reaches 2 to 3 feet tall and 1 to 2 feet wide at full maturity. They are suited to all USDA growing zones and bloom in summer lasting until the first frost.
Kilimanjaro White African Marigolds
With uncommonly cream-colored double flowers, Kilimanjaro marigolds are a cultivar that took 21 years to develop! The 2 ½ inch blooms are great for planting in flower beds and in cut flower arrangements. Their cultivation resulted in a sweeter aroma than other marigolds and a slightly bitter peppery flavor. Growers from all over North America have had success growing Kilimanjaro.
Phyllis African Marigolds
This Botanical Interests variety was named by one of the company’s founders, Judy Seaborn. As it produces bright yellow flowers that remind her of times spent at the local nursery with her mother Phyllis, Judy named the variety after her. This African marigold has striking thin, clustered petals that give it a chrysanthemum look. The plants reach 2 feet tall and 1 foot wide.
Favorite Blend French Marigolds
If you want to try planting marigolds but you don’t know which to choose, there’s a great blend of multiple French marigold plants out there for you. This blend’s single-flower plants have blooms ranging from gold to yellow, red, and bicolor red. Sitting at a smaller stature of 10 to 12 inches, this blend is perfect for those new to marigold gardening.
Lemon Drop French Marigolds
If you want a solid stand of the French marigold in your garden, and yellow is your preferred color, Lemon Drop will not disappoint. Even smaller than the blend we just discussed at 6 to 12 inches tall, the double yellow blooms of these compact plants practically dominate their dark green foliage. These marigolds are great for containers and small pots.
Naughty Marietta French Marigolds
These interesting garden marigolds have blooms that resemble tickseed, with dark maroon centers and yellow edges. The flower is said to resemble Jeanette Anna MacDonald, the star of the 1935 musical romance Naughty Marietta. The bushy plants of this cultivar bloom 2-inch flowers in summer that last until the first frost. It’s a great variety for those who want a striking French marigold in their garden.
Red Metamorph French Marigolds
This French marigold variety has stark maroon blooms that sit atop sturdy stems. In warmer weather, the petals take on splashes of yellow, and when the weather cools the splashes metamorph and disappear! As a taller variety that stands 2 to 3 feet, employ these in vegetable gardens or along cottage garden borders.
Gem Blend Signet Marigolds
Maybe you’d like to fill your garden with the small single flowers of a signet variety, but you don’t know what to choose. This Gem Blend is perfect for you! Its flowers bloom in shades of red, yellow, and orange. One seed produces a bushy plant that is relatively short in stature, at about 12 inches tall. Plants that produce flowers that are red sometimes take on yellow tips too.
Lemon Gem & Tangerine Gem Signet Marigolds
Similar to the last signet blend we touched on, Lemon and Tangerine gems provide two splashes of color in bright yellow and copper-orange. This particular pairing of gem plants loves full sun and dry soil in a rock garden. They are even smaller than the last gem blend, at 8 to 12 inches at fullest maturity.
Mexican Tarragon Signet Marigolds
Also known as Mexican mint marigold, this marigold has a striking spicy tarragon flavor that has been compared to anise in its leaves. Instead of hailing from one of the aforementioned species, Tagetes lucida is the botanical name for the Mexican marigold. I personally love to head to any nearby Mexican tarragon plant and snag a leaf to taste its rich flavor. This marigold deserves a spot in your herb garden and reaches 1 to 2 feet tall and roughly 13 inches wide.
Safari Scarlet French Marigolds
Safari Scarlet blooms are great as cut flowers with golden-edged double blooms with red centers. Topping out at 10 inches tall, this dwarf variety is commonly used in edging, bedding, and even in containers around the garden. While some marigolds appreciate wet weather, these need well-draining soil.
Inca Yellow Signet Marigolds
If you want golden seas of pom pom blooms, Inca Yellow is your marigold! These grow to 16 inches at full maturity and produce delicate fern-like foliage. Even though they are signets, which are typically smaller, the double blooms of this variety grow up to 4 inches across. Young plants tend to have much brighter yellow blooms that age into a golden orange.
Mary Helen African Marigolds
Another bright gold variety, Mary Helen marigolds reach up to 3 feet tall and 1 foot wide. With a similar bloom to Inca Yellow, these pom pom flowers sit atop thick, leathery foliage. The flat blooms are very large and are perfect in edging, companion planting, and container placements.
Discovery Yellow and Discovery Orange African Marigolds
If you like the idea of Inca Yellow or Mary Helen, but you need a dwarf variety, Discovery yellow is a great choice. At up to 10 inches tall with yellow pom blooms, Discovery is a great container plant, and even a companion plant that borders your vegetable garden. Even though the plant is smaller, the blooms still reach 2 ½ inches across.
The orange version of this marigold is just like Discovery Yellow. Basically, every feature of this plant is the same: small stature (up to 10 inches), 2 ½ inch blooms, and pom pom-shaped double flowers. It has all the same prospects to offer your garden, including a slight variation in color, with orange as the feature.
Sweet Cream African Marigolds
This is one of those marigold types with more subtle hues than most. Called Sweet Cream due to the blooms’ light yellow, off-white shade, these plants grow anywhere from 14 to 18 inches tall. The large blooms open 3 inches wide but have no scent due to the intensive cultivation process needed to engineer them. They are also some of the more difficult marigolds to find.
Mr. Majestic Double French Marigolds
Now that we’ve touched on more subtle colors let’s get back to pops of intensity that emit from the small blooms of Mr. Majestic. These plants dot the garden with variations of maroon and yellow flowers that have a pronounced stamen in their center. They are especially suited for blocking out those root-knot nematodes. For the stature of this French marigold, you can expect very large blooms at 2 inches wide.
Nosento Lime Green African Marigolds
Another light yellow to light green variety of the African marigold, Nosento Lime Green is one of those types of marigolds that brings subtle hues to the garden. While the 3-inch blooms may not produce much scent, you will still have access to lemon-scented foliage that grows up to 3 feet tall. Nosento Lime marigold seeds are easy to find at popular seed distributors too!
Red Cherry French Marigolds
Now that we’ve covered several yellow and orange varieties let’s discuss one of the most vibrant French marigold varieties out there – Red Cherry! Not only do you get the benefit of dwarf plants that grow no more than 10 inches tall, but you also get lovely red double blooms with pronounced yellow centers. Spent blooms readily produce seed for the next season, too.
Give these vibrant flowers full sun and somewhat dry soil and this long-blooming marigold variety will put on a show from summer to the first frost. Red Cherry is a low-maintenance flower that’s great for set-it-and-forget-it gardeners.
Strawberry Blonde French Marigolds
If you want shades of pink, Strawberry Blonde is an excellent marigold for you. This dwarf marigold reaches 8 to 10 inches tall and has lovely blooms that change color with the seasons. Cooler weather encourages rich violet pinks, while warmer weather ushers in yellow hues. Perfect in any area you’d like to cultivate mounding marigolds, this one does best in moist soil and provides the garden with pastel sunset colors.
Inca Primrose African Marigolds
Similar to Inca Signets, this large-flowered plant grows to a slightly smaller stature at 12 inches. The plant produces fewer blooms than Inca signet varieties but are much larger and open to 4 inches wide. Inca primroses are known for their heat tolerance and the sunny effect they bring to containers and garden beds.
Tiger Eyes French Marigolds
If interesting blooms are your go-to, Tiger Eyes is perfect. With fully double flowers with a chrysanthemum-like orange top on a more sparsely-petaled maroon base, these will surely bring a dash of uniqueness to the cultivation space. This heirloom reaches 12 inches tall and spreads just as wide. The stunning flowers reach about 2 inches across.
Little Hero French Marigolds
Another super dwarf member of the Tagetes patula species, Little Hero doesn’t get taller than 8 inches. The light yellow blooms pop in garden spaces amidst sparser-than-normal foliage, offering a sea of gold. This border plant can also adapt well to small containers, making it great for small-space gardeners and container gardeners alike.
Irish Lace American Marigolds
This American marigold doesn’t actually come from one of the four species we discussed in the types section but is actually part of the Tagetes filifolia species. Composed of mostly needly, fern-like foliage, the flowers are incredibly small white specks that stipple their green masses. This marigold has a strong foliage scent and flavor that is commonly used in teas and food flavorings.
Jedi African Marigolds
Want huge poms of orange majesty? Jedi has you covered. These giants grow to about 4 feet at full maturity, producing blooms that can open to 6 inches each! Contrary to the semi-unpleasant scent that African types can put off, these have a rich, citrusy smell. More for show and smell rather than use in food, these marigolds are great for back garden borders.
Fireball French Marigolds
If you want a smaller plant and can’t decide between shades of orange, red, and everything in between, you should try to grow Fireball marigolds. Despite the small stature of the plant, which grows to 12 inches at most, the flowers are 2 ½ inches wide. Sow these alongside contrasting colors for a lovely pop of crimson-orange.
Vanilla African Marigolds
While not as stunning as Lemon Gem, Vanilla contributes another subtle hint of yellow to the area it’s planted in. The buttery-yellow ball-shaped flowers grow on upright foliage that rises to 12 inches. Like other light yellow types, the flower is not as fragrant as the dark green leaves, emitting a sweet and anise-like fragrance.
Southern Cone Marigolds
Southern Cone hails from the species Tagetes minuta. Another one of those marigolds that has dense foliage and sparse, white flowers, the plant originated in southern parts of South America but is now naturalized all over the world. It has commonly been used medicinally among Maya Quechua peoples, who sprinkle the herb in teas, cooking, and medicines.
Even though it has tiny flowers, the plant branches up to 2 meters tall. Cultivate it as a prized herb in your cottage garden, and use its leaves to flavor foods and teas. The flowers are great as filler in cut flower arrangements too.
F1 Zenith Marigolds
This is a triploid hybrid variety for those who can’t decide what color they want. The carnation-shaped flowers come in pops of orange and yellow. With a standard height of 14 inches, you’ll feel like you’re growing a somewhat traditional marigold. If you deadhead them in summer, you’ll get even more golden and bronze pops in fall, just in time for harvest celebrations.
Nema Control Marigolds
Specifically bred for their ability to control root-knot nematodes, Nema Control is also lovely above ground too! These small, yellow, pincushion-like flowers are best planted as a cover crop a season or two before planting your solanaceous crops that are prone to nematode infestations. They can also be planted among those crops for next season’s pest control.
Golden Guardian Marigolds
This variety is highly similar in stature and color to Nema Control. They both grow up to 2 feet tall with small, 2-inch blooms. This particular variety has shown a 99% success rate of controlling nematodes over a 3-month span. The tiny blooms on upright stems are sure to bring a sense of joy and calm to your veggie garden!
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Which variety of marigold is best?
A: We certainly can’t decide! Check out this list above and use your garden to help you choose one of these lovely cultivars.
Q: What are the two types of marigolds?
A: There are French marigolds and African marigolds, but there are also two other main types: signet and hybrid marigolds. We even cover a couple that don’t fall into these categories.
Q: What is the difference between marigolds and French marigolds?
A: French ones typically bloom slightly longer than other marigolds. However, it really depends on which marigolds you’re comparing.
Q: How many colors of marigolds are there?
A: There are varying shades of orange, yellow, and red, with some instances of white and green. There are also some flowers that display multiple colors.
Q: What type of marigolds keep bugs away?
A: At the end of this piece, we cover two cultivars specifically bred to control root-knot nematodes. Check out Nema Control and Golden Guardian marigolds.