HomeUltimate Guide to Marigolds

Ultimate Guideto Marigolds

If you’re looking for a flower superstar, then you’re in the right place. Nope, we’re not talking about the iconic red rose or showstopping peony. Instead, we’re talking about the seemingly humble, yet utterly gorgeous, marigold.

This flower may not look like it, but the marigold has a history as rich as it’s golden petals. Not only has it managed to hold its place as a significantly important bloom, but it’s pretty useful.

Intrigued to learn more about this pocket rocket of an autumn flower? We’ve rounded up all you need to know about the marigold flower in this ultimate guide.

History of the marigold


When talking about marigolds, some would almost call this one a fickle flower from the pure fact it has meant so many different things to so many people, from optimism and joy (well, their warm orange colour certainly makes us feel happy) to darker emotions such as jealousy and grief.

Shakespeare seemed to agree. Did you know he references this flower in six of his plays and sonnets? Sometimes he uses the bloom as a metaphor for death, while in others, the marigold represents the positivity in the sun rising and setting.

So where did it all start? If we head back in time to the Aztecs in ancient Mexico, this flower was sacred because they believed the bloom represented the sun. They spent time cultivating the flower to create larger and more beautiful varieties. In Mexico today, this bloom still plays an important role. During their Dia de los Muertos celebrations – also known as the Day of the Dead - they believe the spirits of the dead will visit their homes. They lay marigolds in a path leading to their front doors and adorn the gravesites of loved ones with these flowers. By doing so, they hope the bright colours and strong fragrance of the marigolds will help guide them home.

Jump forward through the years and in ancient Roman and Greek cultures, marigolds were connected with Aphrodite, the goddess of love, and Hera, the goddess of women. They would often use the flowers as offerings during ceremonies and these flowers were used in love charms during the Middle Ages.

Head to more recent times and in the Victorian era, this flower again links itself to death. When the Victorians developed their language of flowers, the marigold was said to be a symbol for grief, despair and mourning.

Marigold Flower Meanings


So, what does the marigold mean for your vase today? Head to India and, like the Aztecs, they associate this bloom with the positive power of the sun. They often use them during their Festival of Light to celebrate the triumph of good over evil. We can certainly see why – the colour of this flower is bright and cheerful so it’s not surprising it’s so often chosen to represent optimism and happiness. Find a bouquet of these in yellow to simply add some sunshine to someone’s day or to wish them good luck.

There is another meaning for these flowers that links to their looks. In China, they associate this flower with wealth and prosperity. It’s all down to the golden colour of marigolds that earned them their name. Marigolds were often used as offerings to the Virgin Mary instead of gold coins. The name of this flower has even been translated from two old English words – Mary and Golde.

Pick some of these flowers in red or orange and it’s all about love and romance. If we head back over to India, marigolds represent the love between the Hindu Goddess Lakshmi and Lord Vishnu and they use them in marriage celebrations to bless newlyweds. These would make the perfect addition to any wedding bouquet or give these flowers to the love of your life.

We could also take our cues from the Victorians. Although it’s hard to imagine these flowers representing death, they would give these cheerful flowers to ease the suffering of someone grieving or in pain.

Last but not least, these are the perfect choice for anyone celebrating their birthday in October as they are the birth month flower for that month.

Marigold Flower Types

Now on to the most confusing thing about marigolds – their name. You see there are several different plants which all fall into different groups yet not all of them are marigolds, even though they all go by this common name. One thing that does link them is that they are all distant members of the sunflower family.



Let’s start with the ‘real’ marigolds which fall under the Tagetes family. There are about 50 varieties in this group, and they all started life in their native home of Mexico. One of the varieties you are most likely to see is tagetes patula, commonly known as French marigolds (the hybrid was developed in France). A beautiful example includes Linnaeus Bruning Embers which delivers rich red petals edged in yellow with a full yellow centre.

The next one in the Tagetes group is the erecta variety which, despite being a Mexico native, is commonly given the name African marigold. These are the big ones of the family and can easily get up to 1.2m tall! Go with something like Dune Mixed which features large yellow, gold or orange pompon-like flowers. Or choose the Pale Vanilla which features large, cream blooms.


Calendula Officinalis

Often called pot, common or scotch marigold, calendula are not actually marigolds. It’s because in the UK, around about the 1300s, we were using these flowers as coins to worship the Virgin Mary. We had already adopted the common name marigold for this flower, but when the Tagetes family of flowers turned up they were quickly accepted in our vases without question. From there, probably due to their similar looks, the common name marigold became blurred across both groups.

If you fancy trying out some calendula, why not try a variety like Indian Prince which features deep orange flowers with a beautiful crimson centre. Or for something slightly different go with Snow Princess. As you might be able to guess from the name this delicate flower is creamy white with yellow at the tips of the petals

How to Care for Marigolds


Want to keep your marigolds in tip-top condition in your vase? First, cut the stem of your flowers at a 45O angle – it helps the flower to drink up all the water. Now remove any leaves from the stem, otherwise they can quickly turn the water murky.

Arrange your flowers in a suitably sized, clean vase filled with room-temperature water. Then place it in a cool, dry spot away from direct sunlight or drafts. Change the water every two to three days to keep it all fresh and trim the ends each time.

If you want to extend the beauty of your marigolds, you could also consider growing this one as a houseplant. They look fantastic, will brighten up any corner of your home, need little attention and they smell gorgeous. On top of all that, they are quite good at keeping spiders and flies at bay. What more could you ask for? Just make sure you select one of the smaller varieties or it could all get a bit out of hand. To keep your marigold happy, simply pop in a sunny spot and water regularly

Are Marigolds Toxic to Pets?


The debate on whether marigolds are toxic all depends on the variety you have.

Calendula are safe and, in fact, you can even eat them - you can add their petals to salads or use as a cake topping. You can even use them in skin care products and as medicine to treat rashes, burns and wounds. They are also thought to have antispasmodic properties – it means they can help your muscles to relax. Pretty useful. The non-toxicity of this variety also extends to your pets, so they’re safe to have around your curious creatures.

The Tagetes group aren’t quite so good for you and some varieties can be mildly toxic. If your pets were to start having a munch on a marigold it might upset their stomach for a bit, but the symptoms should soon ease. It could also irritate their skin if it got on their fur.

To be on the safe side, it might be best to eating these flowers, just in case you have the wrong sort.

We hope you’ve enjoyed reading all about marigolds. Next time you add these little rays of sunshine to your home, you’ll know the true story behind these fascinating blooms.