How to grow African marigolds

Val Bourne / 01 July 2014

Val Bourne admires African marigolds - and reveals why they make a very useful companion plant for fruits and vegetables. Find out how to grow these cheerful orange annuals.

Where to plant African marigolds

African marigolds actually come from sunny Mexico despite their name and (as you would expect) these half hardy annuals enjoy warm, bright conditions.

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When to plant African marigolds

April is the perfect month to sow African marigold seeds. 

How to plant

Sow African marigold seeds in trays indoors. Once they germinate, prick them out and plant them outside from mid-May onwards - after the fear of frost has passed. 

Alternatively you can buy ready-grown trays of African marigolds from garden centres.

African marigolds and wildlife

African marigolds (Tagetes erecta) make excellent companion plants for vegetables and fruit because their flowers are adored by hoverflies. Although adult hoverflies only drink nectar and feed on pollen their larvae are aphid-eating predators. Hoverflies obligingly lay their eggs close to colonies. Once the larvae emerge they eat hundreds of aphids and they keep your cabbages, lettuces, fruit and beans free of pests. 

Find out more about encouraging helpful insects into your garden.


My favourite short varieties are' Naughty Marietta' and 'Honeycomb' (from Mr Fothergill's), 'Solan' (from Thompson & Morgan) and 'Queen Sophia' (from Suttons) and these are perfect among loose-leaf lettuces.

I also like to use taller varieties and the frilly mixture of doubles and singles in 'Bo Jangle' (only available from Sutton's) is my all-time favourite. Mix that with the single maroon and yellow 'Striped Marvel' to create summer razzle-dazzle.

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