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What is a French Marigold?

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  • Written By: Rodney A. Crater
  • Edited By: Allegra J. Lingo
  • Last Modified Date: 07 September 2016
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The French marigold is a member of the Tagetes genus of the Asteraceae family of flowering plants. These annual flowers produce bright, solid or multi-colored blooms that extend across a range of colors, including yellows, reds, and browns. They tolerate a wide range of climates and are often used as ornamental flowers along borders, walkways, gardens, and other areas where an engaging accent is desired. When utilized as a pest deterrent, many varieties of French marigolds are proven effective in eradicating nematodes and have been claimed to repel numerous other pests and animals.

A native of the Americas, the French marigold is similar to the American marigold but smaller, supporting an average height of 12 inches (30.48 cm.) and an average base of 7 inches (18 cm) wide. Its blooms may have smooth or ruffled petals which burst in compact whorls from its torus, or receptacle. Petal arrangements are often described as single, semi-double, or double, depending on the petal arrangement and density.

The bushy foliage of the French marigold contains an essential oil that gives the plant a somewhat pungent aromatic odor which is enjoyed by some people but not tolerated by others. Marigolds are frequently interspersed with garden plants to help ward away various kinds of insects and infestations. The roots of certain marigold varieties contain a chemical which kills nematodes in the soil, thus they are often tilled into the soil yearly to help prevent nematode re-infestations in subsequent years.

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French marigolds are hardy plants that thrive in a large number of climates but will not survive through multiple frosts. It grows best in fully sunny locations with adequate moisture and occasional fertilization. This marigold is normally started from seed and produces a plenitude of seeds that are suitable for replanting in the following year. French marigolds do well in both containers and gardens.

Parts of the plant are used in a variety of different ways. Oils from the French marigold are used in perfumes and the flowers are used for some types of dyes. They are also used medicinally, especially in eastern cultures, as a cure for numerous ailments. The French marigold is not considered edible.

Marigolds have been used to mark many social occasions. In a celebration of spring, North American towns and communities frequently line their streets with French marigolds during community planting projects. They are also used in alters honoring the deceased during the Day of the Dead holiday in Mexico and Mexican American communities.

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