How to deadhead marigolds?

Planting marigolds, for Day of the Dead and beyond

Marigolds were on double duty all summer long, brightening the garden while repelling pests — aphids above-ground and root knot nematodes in the soil. Now that Day of the Dead is around the corner, marigolds’ next-to-last job is at hand: The petals will get scattered into bright orange pathways on Nov. 2, so spirits can follow the trail to an altar stocked with the pleasures of our material world.

Marigolds originated in the Americas, from the American Southwest down to Peru. Revered by the Aztecs, marigolds were exported to Europe by explorers and quickly spread to Africa and Asia. On the Indian subcontinent, they are the flower of choice for garlands for temple gods.


The genus Tagetes to which marigolds belong has scores of species, none of which should be confused with the pot marigold, which is a different genus, Calendula.

The color palette for Tagetes can run from pale yellow to bright orange and red. The flowers are often planted as low bushes, typically interplanted in edible gardens to ward off pests. Some varieties can grow into a hedge. African varieties can get 3 feet high, producing in-your-face puffballs. Just don’t expect the flowers to pull in bees. The bouquet, blossom structure and low pollen count aren’t bee-friendly.


Butterflies, however, love marigolds. So do chickens, and farmers often add marigolds to the feed, producing a more richly colored yolk. Bakers sprinkle the flower petals on cakes, bartenders scatter them onto white sangria. At the Growing Experience urban farm and community garden at the Carmelitos housing development in north Long Beach, master gardener Manuel Cisneros uses Mexican marigold, a more pungent variety, as a pest barrier, training it into a hedge.

You’ll find seedlings at most nurseries, but marigolds also can be started from seed. Marigolds are remarkably easy to grow, tolerating dry conditions. Avoid fertilizing the plant, and you’ll promote flowers instead of leaf growth. Pick off the youngest buds to produce more blossoms later.

Marigolds’ final gift? Chop up the plant at the end of the season and turn it into the soil. The nematode-repelling compounds contained in the roots will continue to have their effect during decomposition.

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How Long Do Marigolds Last?

Marigolds are bright annual flowers planted as border plants, container plants, edgings, color masses and cut flowers. These flowers grow best in full sunlight and well-draining soil.


Sow the black, needle-like marigold seeds inside during March and April. If planting the seeds directly into the garden outside, then sow the seeds in May after all danger of frost has passed. It takes 45 to 50 days after planting the seeds for the marigolds to flower.

Time Frame

Marigolds blossom from early summer until the plants are killed by the first fall frost. These annuals are considered tender, tropical plants.


Marigolds are used as cut flowers or dried flowers in bouquets. Cut the stems under running water to prolong the freshness of the cut marigolds. Marigolds hold their color when dried and will last for years if kept away from moisture.


Pick the dead or dying blossoms off the marigold plants to encourage the plants to keep blooming all summer long. Marigold seeds that are saved from the previous year will not grow the same variety as the hybrid parent plants. The sooner you plant harvested marigold seeds, the higher the germination rate.

5 Annuals for the Northeast

­Marigolds can be grown in all but the coldest climates. They’re perfect for the Northeast following the danger of the last frost. They’re also easy to grow and have a long flowering period.

There are two common types, the African marigold and the French marigold. African marigolds can grow up to 40 inches (10­1 centimeter) tall, while French marigolds reach a maximum height of only 16 inches (40 centimeters). Both have rather large flower heads. French marigolds can be up to 2 inches (5 centimeters) in diameter and the African marigolds can be up to 3.5 inches (9 centimeters). There are also color differences between the two. African marigolds only come in shades of yellow and orange. French marigolds, on the other hand, are often multicolored in shades of orange, yellow, mahogany and crimson .


After they’ve been seeded, marigolds need 45 to 50 days to flower. If this is done in late March or early April they should be ready to plant around May 15. Seeds can be planted in seedbeds or flats. Place seeds on the surface of the soil and then cover with a quarter inch of perlite. The soil should be kept moist and warm. If everything goes as planned your seeds will germinate in just a few days.

When leaves appear on the plants, it’s time to transplant them to individual containers. Put them in the shade for a couple days and the plant will become established. When this happens, it’s time for full sun. When the l­ast frost has passed, it will be safe to plant your marigolds. It’s also possible to sow marigold seeds directly into your garden. The soil should be moist and well drained .

As flower heads become spent, they should be removed. This will allow for continuous flowering throughout the season. The only real downside to marigolds is their fragrance. Some people find it quite unpleasant.

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How to Pinch, Deadhead and Support a Growing Marigold

Marigold flowers are grown in many home gardens because of their bright colors. The marigold flower can be yellow, golden, orange, red and white. These flowers are also very easy to grow, making them popular in homes. The marigold flower can be grown indoors and is easily transplanted to your garden. The following tips and tricks are the best ways to pinch, deadhead and support a growing marigold flower.

Step 1: Deadheading

Deadheading your marigold plants is the process of removing dead bulbs that are no longer blooming. This process helps promote new flower growth and can help to propagate marigold flowers over seasons. Deadheading will promote continual blooming. Dead blooms are not healthy for the plant and should be removed at the stem with pruning sheers back to the next bud or set of leaves. This helps to promote growth by bringing the next bud closer to the surface in order to promote blooming.

Step 2: Deadheading By Pinching

Pinching dead blooms off is just as effective as pruning dead blooms away with pruning sheers. Use gardening gloves to pinch the end of the old blooms off at the base of the old bulb. This helps to trick the plant into thinking that it is not done reproducing. Most flowers will stop growing once it produces its seeds through the bulbs. By pinching these bulbs off before they are fully dead it promote the growth of new bulbs.

Step 3: Other Ways To Promote Growth

Marigold plants need plenty of sunshine and water for healthy growth, which is especially important after you pinch and deadhead away the old bulbs. This process exposes leaves and new bulbs to more sunshine, thus promoting growth. Applying a layer of water soluble fertilizer can also promote strong growth in the plants. Some marigold varieties grow best if they are first planted indoors with seeds, then transplanted outdoors once the first bulbs begin to show.

Step 4: Preparing For Winter

Marigolds can be an annual plant, but they must be cared for in the winter. A light frost may not do too much damage to the plants, but a heavy frost will kill them. Once the weather begins to turn it is wise to transplant marigold plants back inside. Once inside, you can still provide sunlight and water in order to keep them blooming through the winter. This also allows you to keep pruning, pinching, and deadheading bulbs away throughout the winter in order to allow replanting in the spring.

When Do I Cut Back Marigolds?

NA/ Images

Marigolds are annual flowering plants. Native to Mexico, marigolds prefer full sun and well-drained soil. Marigolds are related to asters and grow easily from seed or transplanted bedding plants. These plants bloom in summer with colors in shades of yellow, orange and red with solid, bi-color and striped flowers. Choose varieties from 6 to 36 inches in height. Cut back marigolds to encourage healthy foliage and prolific flowering.


Pinch back young marigolds in spring and early summer. When the plants are 6 to 8 inches tall, pinch or cut back foliage tips and new buds to encourage branching. The plant puts out lateral branches and buds. This branching creates bushier foliage and more flower buds. This technique turns leggy growth on young plants into more compact and sturdy plants. When a plant has many flower buds, pinch off some buds to divert energy to the remaining buds for larger flowers.


Tidy up your marigolds by deadheading during the growing season. Cut back dead or fading flowers. After a flower passes its peak bloom, it shrivels and dries into a seed head. Removing dead flower heads encourages more blooms. Pinch off each head individually or cut back the head and stem down to the foliage. Marigolds bloom profusely from spring through autumn when they are deadheaded or frail buds are removed. At the same time, trim off any dead, diseased or discolored foliage.


Shear your marigolds in mid-summer. When marigolds look bedraggled or fatigued, revitalize them by cutting off flowers and foliage. Cut back up to one-third of the plant. Pinch off leaves and flowers on dwarf marigolds. Use hand shears or clippers for clean cuts on other marigold varieties. Remove the tired or old growth so that the plant puts its energy into new foliage and flowers. Fertilize lightly with a balanced plant food and water the plant after shearing. Your marigolds may look ragged for a week or two after this shearing, but the plant benefits from the mid-season boost.

Pest Control

Cut back French marigolds in autumn to fight root knot nematodes. Nematodes are soil-dwelling parasites that attack plant roots and harm plants. Dwarf or French marigolds give off natural compounds that are toxic to the nematodes. The marigold compounds are most effective after several months in the soil. Some gardeners plant French marigolds around vegetable beds in the spring. The marigolds mature and expand their roots during summer. In autumn, the foliage is cut back and the roots are chopped or cultivated into the soil for added nematode control.

Around this time of year, annuals and perennials in containers and hanging baskets can become leggy with flowers only at the end of long branches. At the same time, overly rambunctious growers can overwhelm neighboring plants, crowding or even suffocating them for lack of light and air.

Renew leggy annuals and perennials by cutting back about half of the stems 2/3rds of the way to the base now. When those stems grow back and begin to bloom in about two weeks, cut back the remaining stems the same way. While you’re at it, cut back aggressive growers as far as necessary to give surrounding plants space for healthy growth.

Provide adequate water and keep fertilizing regularly with a well-balanced, soluble flower food. Your containers should look great all the way through late-October.

Stop fertilizing

shrubs now

All shrubs, especially broad-leaved evergreens such as rhododendron, pieris, camellia, hebe, etc., need to calm down, stop growing and harden off to get ready for the winter cold. Fertilizing after mid-July can cause them to continue growing into fall and winter, leaving them susceptible to catastrophe if we get an early freeze such as occurred last November.

The only exception, as far as I’m concerned, is the rose. I work in a last shot of alfalfa meal and rose food into the soil around the drip line in mid to late August. To me it’s worth the risk because feeding at that time encourages roses to bloom beautifully in September and October.

It’s true that if you follow my advice and fertilize in August, you could lose your rose if we experience another November freeze. But, oh, la, la! Think how much fun it will be to shop for a new one!

Deadhead like

a wild banshee

A great number of flowering annuals such as the marigold, zinnia, salvia, geranium and cosmos will stop blooming if you allow them to go to seed. The same is true of repeat blooming perennials such as Dahlia, Armeria (thrift), Scabiosa, some types of Kniphofia (torch lilies) and Gaillardia.

These plants know they’re on Earth to reproduce, and if you leave the spent flowers on too long, they’ll form seed. Knowing that they already raised a family, they’ll kick back, get a good tan, snack on fertilizer and do nothing else for the rest of summer.

To keep them blooming, make a habit of pinching or pruning off the old flowers on a regular basis. Repeat blooming roses also require deadheading to keep them blossoming all summer long. Always cut back to an outward facing branchlet with five leaves. There are hormones there that will cause a new rose to grow much sooner than if you cut to one with only three leaves.

There’s no harm in waiting to cut off a cluster until the entire bunch is over the hill, but if you remove individual spent blossoms every night, your garden will look its best because visitors will never see a spent rose on your plant.

Ciscoe Morris: [email protected] “Gardening with Ciscoe” airs at 10 a.m. Saturdays on KING-TV.

Will Marigolds Re-seed?

I am a new gardener. I have grown marigolds from seed, planted them in the garden, and they are flowering beautifully. Will they grow back next year or will I have to buy some more seeds and start again?


Hardiness Zone: 9a

By bridget dickinson from Lincolnshire, UK


Mine have come back for years. They very readily self-sow. Makes it easy, because I know what’s going to come up in that spot, less planning for me (and they look happy, too). (07/07/2009)

By Lisa

Let the last few flowers go to seed, then pick the heads and open them and collect the seeds. (Choose a dry day to do this.) Reasonably mature seeds should be brown in colour, with white tufts at the top where the flower petals were joined. Just pull off any remaining scraps of petals. Leave the seeds scattered on a saucer indoors for a day or two, to really make sure they’re dry, then store them in a paper envelope till sowing time next year. (Never use plastic, always paper.)


Marigolds are of the easiest flowers I’ve found to collect and sow seeds from and they make your hands smell heavenly too when deadheading and collecting the seeds.

Why not collect seeds from any of the flowers you like. It costs nothing, but your time and you might surprise yourself how easy it is. Some are easier to collect than others, and some have a better germination success rate, but so long as you have fun trying, why not? If one type fails, you’ll still have time to buy some seeds.

There are a few plants (like lupins) that you will need to buy fresh seed for if you want the full mixture of colours, if the seed pack is labeled F1 seeds, then collected seed will produce only single coloured flowers. In the case of lupins, the natural color is purple. Maureen


By Maureen

Yes, they will. I find it best to dead head the first few to encourage more flowers, then just either forget about them and let them seed where they are now, or just rub your thumb or fingers over the seed heads now and again. When they are ready they will fall off into your hands, then just put them where you want them to grow.

Gail x (07/14/2009)

By Gail

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