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  • Writer's pictureAutumn Shultz


  • Harmony French Marigold (mahogany and orange)

Image by A. Shultz for Murfreesboro Community Garden Description of photo: Dark orange and yellow Marigold flower on blurred green foliage background.


Marigolds, Tagetes in Latin, are native to the Americas and have a long history of use in ceremonies, decorations, medicine and agriculture.

  • Mesoamericans Even before the Aztecs, marigolds were used in ceremonies by the Maya and other Mesoamerican cultures to adorn priests, idols, and sacrificial victims.

  • Aztecs The Aztecs called marigolds sempesuchi, which translates to "flower of many petals". They valued the flowers for their medicinal properties and used them in religious ceremonies. The Aztecs also cultivated marigolds on floating agricultural islands called chinampas that surrounded Tenochtitlán.

  • Spanish and Portuguese traders In the 16th century, Spanish and Portuguese traders brought marigold seeds to Europe and India, where they became important ceremonial flowers. In Spanish churches, marigolds were often used to decorate the altar of the Virgin Mary, earning them the nickname "Mary's Gold". In India, marigolds became important for Hindus, symbolizing surrender to the divine.

  • Day of the Dead In Mexico, marigolds are known as flor de muerto, or "flower of the dead", and are a prominent feature of Day of the Dead celebrations. The flowers' bright colors are said to represent the sun, while their tendency to bloom in early summer and die with the first frost of fall symbolizes the fragility of life. Marigold petals are also thought to have cleansing properties, and families may scatter them to guide the spirits of the dead home or form a cross in front of an ofrenda.

  • American gardens By the early 1800s, marigolds were well established in American gardens. Today, hundreds of varieties of marigolds grow around the world, including odorless, white, hybrid, and triploid varieties.

Scientific name: Tagetes Flavor: Depending on the type, the flavor can range from bright citrus to anise-like tarragon. 

Uses: Marigold petals can add color and subtle flavor to sauces, savory pies, quiches, vegetable tarts, or salads.

Origin: Native to the Americas

Related: The genus Tagetes contains about 50 species of annual herbs of the aster/daisy family (Asteraceae).

Companions: Marigolds are low-maintenance, beneficial plants that love hot weather. They are good companions for many flowers, vegetables, and herbs as long as you avoid planting too tightly so they do not compete for water and sun. Marigolds are not heavy feeders so they don’t compete much for nutrients, but they can get large, so be aware of spacing. 

Pollinators: Marigolds are open-pollinated flowers that attract many pollinating insects, including bees, butterflies, flies, and moths.


With a wide range of cultivars, Marigolds can grow in compact sizes or large bushy plants. Flower petals and leaves can be harvested and consumed. In the fall the seeds can be harvested by pulling the petals from the flower's base. Marigolds will also easily reseed and grow again the next year.


Yes! Marigolds are edible and have been used in cooking for thousands of years. The petals and leaves can be eaten raw or blanched, fresh or dry, and in sweet or savory dishes. Marigolds can add color and flavor to many dishes, including salads, soups, stews, braises, and grilled meats. Different varieties of marigolds have different flavors, such as citrusy orange soda flavors in citrus marigolds and dusky orange flavors in French marigolds.

Dry marigold flowers add a tangy sharpness to this tortellini in marigold broth, so we soften it with butter and cream.

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