Plant Spotlight: Marigolds

Ah, the humble marigold. With barely a thought, I always seem to pick up some marigolds whenever I’m starting a new garden.

These sweet flowers are basic yet hardy and cheerful. They’re one of the staples of my front yard garden, where I’ve focused on pink, yellow, and orange. I rely on gaura for the much of the pink in my yard, and the marigolds really pack the orange punch.

As a reminder, I live in zone 9b, so your experiences may differ from mine.

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Marigolds are hardy in zones 2-11. Holy cow, that’s a huge spread! They also tolerate almost any kind of soil and bloom from spring through autumn.

Mums are sometimes considered the fall flower, but in warmer climates like mine, it can be difficult to keep mums alive through October. The marigold is an excellent substitute that provides the rich orange blooms many of long for when autumn arrives.

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Marigolds also look super charming with white picket fences (though I should really work on deadheading, yeesh).

The main three species of marigold are African, French, and signet. The ones I’ve seen most often in stores near me are the French variety, which range from 6 inches to 2 feet tall.

I have to admit, one of the main reasons I have so many marigolds in my front yard (a few dozen) is my local home improvement store had a ton of them on the clearance racks – $1 or less for 6 plants. Much of my front yard garden was built from those clearance racks, actually, and I filled in the rest with seeds and a few bulbs. A beautiful garden doesn’t have to be an expensive one!

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This is a small portion of the clearance plants I collected as I built the garden.

One thing to keep in mind, though, is clearance plants tend to look a little rough. The marigolds I picked up sometimes only had 5 out of the pack of 6 plants still alive. But under the right conditions (in my yard, that means blazing subtropical sun and twice-a-day watering in the summer via soaker hose), they’ll become lush little bushes of color.

Highlights:

  • Flower colors can range from yellow to maroon.
  • In warm regions, they can live year-round. In colder, if the deadheads drop to the ground, they can self-seed.
  • Hardy.
  • To prevent rot on flowers and powdery mildew on leaves, water from below

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Plant Spotlight: Gaura

Since gardening is a huge part of my life and this blog, I figured I’d start sharing a few of my favorite plants.

I live in growing zone 9b, so your experiences may differ from mine.

First up is a perennial that I’ve loved since childhood. Gaura was one of the first plants I grew when my mom set aside a corner of the yard for me to garden. I remember picking it for the wispy stems and the name, which I’m almost certain had the word “fairy” in it somewhere (I was really into fairies as a kid). However, I can’t find a “fairy” variety now, so it was probably Belleza.

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When I moved into my current house, gaura was also one of the first flowers with which I started the pieces of butterfly garden scattered across my backyard. Although some varieties are not self-seeding, the ones I planted are (again, probably Belleza). This spring, half a dozen volunteers popped up around my backyard. As many were growing on foot paths, I tried to transplant them to my front yard. Unfortunately, none survived. I’m sure this was at least partly my fault, though, because I attempted to plant them straight into the ground with fertilizer (rather than with potting mix, like what comes with store-bought plants).

I ended up buying several more mature gaura to plant around my front yard, and they’ve done well in the blazing sun and south Louisiana summer heat. Although they die back in the winter, gaura returns in the spring in my zone (9b). In my yard, it was a little slower to grow back than some of my other perennials, like Mexican Terragon.

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Lantana growing to the left and coreopsis behind. Hellooooo, butterflies.

I have at least a dozen gaura between my front yard and backyard, and I’m looking forward to more self-seeding in the coming years.

Highlights:

  • Wispy, pretty stems and little white or pink flowers that attracts bees and butterflies
  • Very hardy once established; can survive blazing sun and poor soil
  • Most varieties self-seed but the plant has shallow roots if they pop up in undesired places
  • Volunteers may not transplant well
  • Grows up to 2-3 feet tall but dies back in the winter

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