The marigold, resembling a bushy lion's mane, provides bright spots of tough, dependable color and gray-green, lacy leaves that will last through the heat of summer. Marigolds are great partners with tomatoes, discouraging any harmful pests and increasing growth success. There couldn't be a simpler, more practical annual plant.
Marigolds love soil rich with organic matter. Mix compost into your beds 6 to 10 inches deep prior to planting starts. Choose a location with good drainage and full sun. Leave 6 to 9 inches between French marigold varieties and up to 18 inches between the larger African hybrids.
Marigold seeds are some of the easiest annual flowers to start yourself. Sow seeds indoors as early as eight weeks before the last frost date. Germinate by sowing seeds in soil, covering lightly and keeping moist for up to two weeks. When seedlings are sturdy, transplant after all danger of frost is past.
Marigolds require little maintenance aside from deadheading old blooms. Pinch spent blooms just below the bud to encourage new growth and more flowers. Tall varieties can be staked with garden dowels or canes and tied loosely with twine to prevent buckling or felling during storms.