Mexican marigold is also called Mexican tarragon or Texas tarragon. This plant needs well-drained soil and is drought-tolerant. Mexican marigold is propagated from stem cuttings and divisions in the spring. This anise-flavored plant is used as an ornamental and a culinary treat. It is grown as a substitute for tarragon in regions that are too hot and humid for true tarragon to thrive.
Mexican marigold plants stand erect up to 3 feet tall. The leaves are slightly glossy green with a fern-like, feathery appearance. The flower stalks are topped by tiny yellow-orange flowers grouped in clusters.
Mexican marigold grows native in warm grasslands. This perennial flower originated in Mexico, Central America, Argentina, Chile, Bolivia, Peru and Paraguay. It is found growing in disturbed area. During the Spanish Conquest in 1492 to 1580, Mexican marigolds were introduced to Europe, Asia, Africa, Madagascar, India, Australia and Hawaii.
Mexican marigolds have been used as a beverage, medicinal tea and condiments by Native Americans in South America before 1492. To make the tea, steep half a handful of dried Mexican marigold in a cup of hot water for 3 to 5 minutes. This flower was used as a Native American remedy for the common cold, stomach upset and diarrhea. They also used the Mexican marigold to flavor rice dishes and stews.
Mexican marigolds are commercially grown and harvested for essential oils call Tagetes oil. This oil is used to scent perfume. It is also used to flavor cola beverages, alcoholic drinks, frozen dairy desserts, candy, baked goods, gelatins, puddings, condiments and relishes.
Mexican marigold seeds are sown directly into the soil after all frost danger has passed in the spring. They grow best in full sunlight since competition with other plants for sunlight tends to create tall, spindly marigolds. Pinch the plants back to encourage stem branching. Harvest the Mexican marigolds by cutting the plant down at ground level. The entire above-ground portion is useful. It will grow back from the roots next spring.