14 Common Problems With Marigold Flowers

Marigolds are hardy flowers, but they are not immune to problems. There are a few common issues that plague many flower gardeners, no matter the climate. In this article, gardening expert Natalie Leiker walks through the most common marigold problems, and how to fix them!

marigold problems

Marigolds are a popular flower amongst home gardeners. They are low-maintenance, and provide beautiful blooms for long periods. Grown as an annual, Marigolds do best in warm climates and are quite tough. Although they are quite tough and able to withstand numerous conditions, they aren’t immune to some common plant issues.

Things that are out of our control such as too much rain, bug infestations, or hungry deer are a few things that can harm your marigolds. So what can you do once you see issues start to pop up?

The first step is actually identifying the problem. Once you’ve identified what’s going on with your plant, you can put a plan of action together that will help bring your marigolds back to a happy, healthy state. Let’s take a deeper look at some of the most common marigold problems, and how to fix them!

Wilted Leaves

Marigold flowers withered
One of the most common causes of wilted leaves is too dry soil.

Wilted leaves can be caused by a few things. The most common reason leaves wilt is that the soil is too dry. If this occurs, increase your watering frequency. It can be tempting to keep your plants moist after seeing wilted leaves, but don’t!

Once they perk back up, simply maintain a consistent and frequent watering schedule. If you keep your plants too moist, especially marigolds that don’t like to be kept moist, you can stress your plant out further.

Plants will also show signs of wilting when they are experiencing heat stress. This usually occurs in the warmer summer months and has almost nothing to do with moisture. Heat stress occurs when the temperatures remain high and the plant cannot use the water in the soil fast enough to cool themselves off.

It can be tempting to water your plants if heat stress happens, but it is important to stick to your regular watering. Soaking heat stressed plants can deprive the root system of oxygen and will further stress your plants out.

A tell tale sign between wilting from being dry and wilting from heat stress or overwatering is the color of the foliage. A plant that is too dry will look faded in color and sometimes appear brown or crispy. A plant that is overwatering or heat-stressed will still have normal dark green foliage.

Leaves Turning Brown

Marigolds with brown leaves
The leaves of the plant turn brown due to excessive waterlogging.

Tips of leaves begin to turn dark brown when the plant has been overwatered. It usually appears on the tips of leaves but can also affect stems. Whole leaves can begin to turn brown and get crispy, eventually falling off.

Remove the affected leaves and allow your plant to slightly dry out before watering again. Once the plant has begun to dry out, return to a consistent watering schedule. Marigolds do not like to be kept too moist, so keep this in mind when watering your plants.

Floppy Stems or Leaves

Marigolds withering
Due to excessive watering, the plant becomes floppy.

The most common reason plants become floppy or lose their turgidity is from overwatering. Plants that are not allowed to dry out in between waterings can become waterlogged causing the stems to appear limp and sometimes lean or fall over.

These floppy stems can hinder the plant from taking up moisture and nutrients properly. Most plants will bounce back from this if given time to adjust. Allow your marigolds to dry out in between waterings to prevent overwatering.

Not Flowering

Young Plant of African Marigold
Your marigolds do not bloom due to lack of sunlight.

Plants that are not producing flowers usually means they aren’t getting enough sunlight. Marigolds are full sun plants and will take all the sunlight they can get. If your plants are getting too much shade due to location or surrounding plants or trees, this can hinder them from flowering. If your plants are receiving too much shade, move them to a sunnier location.

If your plants are receiving a good amount of sun, but still aren’t flowering, consider deadheading the old blooms. This can promote new growth and will help the plant produce new flowers.

Young plants will not flower until they reach a certain maturity. If you transplant young plants, give them some time to adjust to their new area and mature. If planted in the right conditions, they should flower in no time!

Leaves Turning Purple

Marigolds with purple leaves
Leaves turn purple due to phosphorus deficiency.

Plant leaves turn purple for a couple of reasons. The leading cause is usually a phosphorous deficiency. Marigolds are not super needy when it comes to fertilizer or nutrients, but depending on the soil and other surrounding factors, they can require more phosphorus.

Low night temperatures can also cause leaves to turn purple. If temperatures dip below 55, your plants can react in many ways. One way is that the leaves will start to turn purple.

If you suspect phosphorus deficiency, apply a fertilizer to your plants. A low grade all purpose should do the trick if you haven’t fertilized recently or at all. If you have been fertilizing your plants, maybe switch to another fertilizer or find one that provides a good amount of phosphorus.

Yellowing Leaves

Yellowing Marigold Leaves
Yellowing leaves are caused by nutrient deficiencies and Aster Yellows disease.

Leaves turning yellow can be caused by a few different things. Lack of nutrients could be one reason your marigold leaves are turning yellow. Applying a fertilizer will help the coloration go back to normal.

Leaves can also turn yellow due to a disease called Aster Yellows. Aster Yellows affect plants in the Asteraceae family, and cause stunted growth, yellow leaves, and can affect buds and blooms.

This disease is spread by insects that can be found on your plants or weeds surrounding the area. Keep the planting area weed free and keep an eye out for insects all season.

Brown Stems

Brown Stems of Marigolds
Brown stems are a sign of root rot.

Marigolds do not like to be kept in moist conditions. Allowing your plant to dry out in between waterings can help prevent certain problems from arising such as stem and root rot.

If your plant’s stems are turning brown, this can be a sign they are rotting. Oftentimes the rot starts in the root system where too much moisture is being held and will work its way up the plant affecting the main stem first and so on.

Applying a fungicide can help stop this from destroying your plants, but if the problem has already affected a decent amount of the plant, it might be too late. Make sure you’re planting in fresh, healthy soil to help prevent this problem from occurring.

Brown Spots or Leaf Tips

Brown Spots and Leaf Tips
Use a fungicide to get rid of the leaf spots.

Brown spots can be caused by bacterial leaf spot, or an excessive amount of iron. Marigolds do not grow well in soils that have low pH, and this can lead to iron toxicity. A soil test can help determine if you have a low soil pH.

If the spots seem more sporadically located, they are likely caused by bacterial leaf spot. Treat leaf spot with a fungicide.

Leggy/Stretched Out Stems

marigolds withered and strechted in the garden
Due to the lack of sunlight, your marigolds can become leggy and look stretched.

Plants become leggy when they aren’t getting enough sunlight. Marigolds grow best in areas that receive full sun, as much as they can get. If your plants are in an area that is receiving too much shade or just not enough sunlight, the plant will become leggy and look stretched out as it is reaching for more light.

Be sure to rotate containerized plants to ensure they receive even sunlight. Transplant-shaded plants into a new sunnier location and they will soon adjust to normal growing patterns.

Gray Powdery Leaves

Powdery Mildew
The most effective methods to get rid of powdery mildew are copper soap and sulfur fungicides.

In conditions where humidity is high, or plant leaves aren’t allowed to dry out and get good airflow, Powdery Mildew can form. Powdery Mildew is a fungus that appears as a sticky white substance on the tops of leaves.

It often occurs on older growth where leaves are more bushy and close together, but can affect new growth in certain conditions. It is important to eradicate this fungus as soon as possible as it can do a number on the host plant and spread to your other plants.

There are home remedies that can help prevent the spread of Powdery Mildew, but if it is severe a fungicide application might be necessary. Copper soap or fungicides with sulfur as an ingredient seem to be the most effective.

Speckling on Leaves

Speckling on Marigold Leaves due to pest damage
The most common pests that damage marigold leaves are aphids and spider mites.

Yellow or brown speckling on leaves is usually caused by a bug infestation. Aphids or spider mites are usually the culprits on flowering annuals such as marigolds. Aphids appear as tiny green insects on the undersides and stems of plants.

They feed on foliage, creating a brown speckled appearance. Since aphids have such an extensive life cycle, it is important to treat them accordingly so they don’t get out of hand.

Spider mites are tiny white bugs that will create small webs that look similar to normal spider webs. They create a sticky substance across the plant and will feed on foliage which will create a yellow speckling on the leaves. Spider mite infestations start small but can increase quickly. Pyrethrum sprays are a good option for eradicating spider mites.

Black Spots on Leaves

Black Spots on Marigold Leaves
If you notice black spots on the leaves of a plant, then it is recommended to remove the affected leaves.

Small black spots can appear on the tops of the leaves. This is generally unsightly and can become a nuisance if the condition worsens. Remove affected plant leaves to clean the plant up and help prevent further spread. A fungicide application should eradicate the problem.

Curly or Distorted Leaves

marigolds with Distorted Leaves and withered flowers
The warping and curling of marigold foliage are most commonly caused by insects such as aphids.

Distorted leaves is another symptom that can be caused by the disease Aster Yellows. Aster yellows will often be accompanied by other symptoms such as distorted buds and blooms, and yellowing of leaves.

Curly leaf growth is often caused by foliage-sucking insects such as aphids. Aphids are usually found on the undersides of leaves and can be present all throughout the growing season.

These tiny green insects latch onto leaves and stems and can kill your plant if the problem is severe. An insecticide that contains pyrethrum or spinosad soap can kill aphids effectively.

Holes in Leaves

Holes in Leaves
Japanese beetles, slugs, and snails gnaw marigold leaves leaving holes on them.

Leaves that have holes on them or if parts of the leaves are missing completely, something is probably eating them. Japanese beetles can do a number on plant leaves and will destroy an entire plant if given the chance. Slugs and snails can also chew on leaves leaving parts missing.

It can be hard to determine if snails or slugs are the culprit as they come out at night and hide in cooler spots during the day. The easiest way to tell if you have a slug or snail problem is to keep an eye out for the white slime they leave behind.

Japanese beetles are fairly large beetles and are shiny green and black. They make fairly large holes in plants and are usually easy to spot. You can pick them off if you catch the problem early, but if there are a lot of them you might benefit from using a spray.

Final Thoughts

Whether or not you are growing them from seed, or are buying transplants, Marigolds are tough plants that you’ll find in most home gardens. They are known for their ability to ward off certain pests, tolerate heat, and attract pollinators. Marigolds can be very easy and low maintenance to grow, and with a little love and observation, they can be essentially problem free.

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