Desert marigold (Baileya multiradiata) is a biennial or short-lived perennial desert plant that is native to desert areas of the American southwest. It grows in clumps, producing thick stands of yellow flowers that bloom after occasional rainfall from March through November. The name marigold or “Mary's gold' honors the Virgin Mary. Desert marigold flowers attract bees and butterflies; the seeds can be collected or bought from commercial suppliers.
Desert marigolds grow 16 to 24 inches tall and produce dense mounds of bright yellow, daisy-like flowers that are 1 to 2 inches wide.The flowers are located on the top of long stems that have rosettes of hairy or woolly, gray-green leaves at their bases. The seeds are located in the middle of the flower; immature seeds are yellow, turning a pale tan when they are mature.
Seeds can be collected from stands of desert marigolds that grow in the desert or in thick mats along the sides of roads. When the flower petals drop, the seed heads are mature, and the seeds begin to dry. Mature seed heads are removed with scissors or a knife and collected in paper bags. Plastic bags are not used because they retain moisture. Seed heads should not be collected when the plant is wet.
Removing and Storing Seeds
The seed heads are shaken vigorously in paper bags to remove the seeds. The seeds are then spread on paper towels or newspapers to dry completely at room temperature; this may take up to a week. When the seeds are thoroughly dry, they are stored in glass or plastic jars or sealed plastic envelopes.
Where to Plant
Desert marigolds are native to gravelly, sandy, dry desert soils. They are widely distributed in Arizona, Southern California, Nevada, Utah, New Mexico and Texas.They are naturally adapted to heat and like full sun; they do not like a combination of humidity and heat. If the seeds are planted outside of a desert, the soil should be well-drained; they may develop crown rot in wet soil. Desert marigolds are especially recommended for rock gardens.
Seeds are planted ¼ inch deep. Seeds sown in the spring should first be moistened and chilled. If they are planted in the fall, they do not have to be treated. Desert marigold seeds germinate erratically, so an abundance of seeds are ordinarily sown. Wildflower Mix recommends sowing seeds at the rate of 1 oz. per 1,250 square feet.