Can You Plant Marigolds and Zinnias Together?
Thinking of planting some marigolds with your zinnias this season but want to make sure they'll be good companions before you start? In this article, gardening expert and cut flower farmer Taylor Sievers walks through if it's safe to pair these flowers together, and what you can expect when you do.
If you’re a new gardener or long-time plant lover that is easily distracted by all the plants, it can often be overwhelming when deciding what flowers to plant where in the garden. In most cases, it is beneficial to group plants with similar light, water, and soil requirements to make care much easier throughout the growing season.
Zinnias and marigolds are both common and popular flowers sold in nurseries and garden centers today, and their bright, cheerful blooms just beg to be paired together in a pot or in the landscape.
So, can marigolds and zinnias be planted together for a dazzling impact or should these plants be separated in the landscape due to differences in plant growth requirements? There’s a short answer, and a longer answer to this question, and we cover both. Ready to learn more? Let’s dig in!
The Short Answer
Absolutely! With similar growth requirements, zinnias and marigolds are perfect together in a cut flower garden, landscape, or in a pot. They are also both relatively easy to grow, and they will not compete too aggressively for nutrients in the area that they grow. Marigolds can also be helpful in keeping away common garden pests, making this pairing a win-win scenario.
The Long Answer
Marigolds are members of the Tagetes genus. These flowers come in many different forms and sizes. They usually have finely-cut dark green foliage and flowers in colors of orange, red, yellow, gold, white, and bicolor shades.
The most popular colors you will see are orange and yellow. Some varieties are short and therefore excellent for containers, while others are tall. Tall varieties make excellent landscape plants or cut flowers. Marigolds are native to Central and South America, and most plants have a strong odor, which repels certain pests.
Zinnias are members of the Zinnia genus and are native to Mexico and Central America. These flowers also come in a variety of forms, colors, shapes, and sizes. Red, yellow, pink, purple, white, orange, wine, lime, peach, bicolor, and other shades in between are the colors you may see in a patch of zinnias.
Zinnias usually have rough, bright green foliage with hairy stems. Their flowers can be single-petaled, semi-double, or double in form, and they usually have a center with bright yellow stamens.
Both flowers are part of the Asteraceae family, a family that is also home to sunflowers and dandelions.
Both of these popular flowers are typically treated as annuals in most hardiness zones. Both can be perennial, but don’t tolerate frost very well at all, and also don’t do well in extreme heat. So they are usually best replanted each season for optimal results. Let’s take a look at the needs of each flower.
Both marigolds and zinnias are warm season annuals. This means that they will flower and set seed within one year. They also prefer the warmer temperatures of summer. Both types of flowers have perennial and annual forms, depending on where they are grown.
Marigolds do have some perennial varieties, but the more popular types of marigolds you see at garden centers are typically annuals.
Zinnias also have some perennial varieties, but the same applies. Most of what you see at local garden centers will also be treated as annual flowers, needing to be replanted each season.
Both types of flowers prefer a location in full sun. This means that they need at least 6 to 8 hours of direct sunlight per day in order to properly grow and bloom.
Marigolds will grow in almost any type of soil, but well-draining soil is best. Some varieties are exceptionally tolerant to drought. Marigolds prefer a slightly acidic soil pH between 6 and 7, but a pH below 5.5 is not recommended. Zinnias prefer a soil pH of 6.5 to 7.5.
Both flowers do well in well-draining soil that is slightly on the drier side. However, they are both tough plants that can tolerate a range of soils. Soggy soils can be an issue.
Both flower types will benefit from pinching and deadheading. Pinch your zinnia or marigold seedlings when they are 4 to 6 inches tall. This will promote more branching and therefore more flowers! You can pinch your seedlings by snipping off the tip of a plant just above a set of leaves.
Deadheading is the process of removing faded flowers. This will promote new stems with new flowers. Instead of clippings off just the faded flower, be sure to clip deeper into the plant to produce longer, stronger stems. Clip the flower stem just above a set of leaves. You can continue deadheading until the Fall to have a Summer full of blooms!
Neither flower has high nutrient requirements. A well-balanced fertilizer with relatively equal parts of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium that is incorporated into the soil at planting should be sufficient for both flowers.
If marigolds are fertilized too heavily, they will produce less blooms. Instead, the plant will focus on green leaf growth. Zinnias may benefit from fertilization once a month after planting with a high phosphorus fertilizer to encourage new blooms.
How to Grow
Start both flowers indoors 4 to 6 weeks prior to your estimated last frost. Both are quick starters, though I would say zinnias are always my first and easiest flower to germinate. Using a heat mat to jumpstart germination is recommended with these two flowers, but not absolutely necessary.
You may also direct seed these flowers into the garden or in a pot outside well after your last estimated frost. The soil must be at least 60 degrees F.
Pinch off our seedlings at 4 to 6 inches in height to promote branching. Deadhead the faded flowers!
Both marigolds and zinnias usually produce an abundance of seed that you can harvest at the end of the season. Be aware that some varieties are hybrids and therefore will not produce seeds that will germinate and go on to look like the parent plant.
Harvesting and Use
Both zinnias and marigolds are used as cut flowers, landscape plants, potted plants, and as companion plants in the garden!
Marigolds are said to repel certain insects in the garden, which is why you will often see marigolds interplanted with vegetable crops. There is some debate as to how effective marigolds are at repelling insects, but due to their strong odor they are considered deer resistant.
In fact, some would say that marigolds are best used as a trap crop because they attract certain pests away from other ornamental plants. When planted as a cover crop, certain varieties of marigolds have been known to suppress root knot nematode prevalence, due to a natural chemical they release that inhibits the hatching of nematode eggs.
Some marigold flowers are used in salads or as a garnish. The flowers have a bitter taste. Marigold flowers have also been used to make natural dyes.
Zinnias are a great addition to a vegetable garden that needs pollinator insects to promote fruit set. Zinnias attract several pollinators, so you will often see them being grown near veggie gardens for that reason!
Popular Varieties of Marigolds
Marigolds are separated into three main “types”: French, African, and Signet marigolds.
The French marigolds (Tagetes patula) are compact in growth habit (usually between 6 and 12 inches tall). They come in single and double forms, but the doubles are most popular. Blooms are typically 2 inches across.
The African marigolds (Tagetes erecta) are not technically from Africa, but are so-named because of the trade route through Africa that brought these marigolds to Europe. These double blooms are very large at 5 inches across or more. The plants can reach up to 3 to 4 feet in height.
The Signet marigolds (Tagetes tenuifolia) are the smallest at 6 inches tall or less. Their growth habit is mounding and upright. These marigolds are considered edible (with a spicy tarragon flavor) and are usually small at 1 inch across or less. The flowers are typically single.
There are a few other species of marigolds to note, like the perennial lemon-scented Mexican marigold (Tagetes lemonii), anise-flavored Spanish tarragon (Tagetes lucida), and the white-flowered Irish Lace marigold (Tagetes fillifolia) that is licorice-scented.
Popular Varieties of Zinnias
The most popular species of zinnia grown in the garden or in pots is the species Zinnia elegans. Within this species, there are several different varieties that can either be short and compact or tall and robust.
The ‘Benary’s Giant’ series includes mostly double flowers that are 4 to 5 inches across. This series comes in several colors like red, white, gold, yellow, pink, purple, coral, carmine, salmon, wine, orange, and more. ‘Benary’s Giant’ zinnias will reach up to 3 to 4 feet in height.
The ‘Magellan’ series is a dwarf zinnia reaching 12 to 14 inches in height and producing a profuse amount of 4 to 5 inch blooms. The 7 colors of this variety include cherry, pink, coral, ivory, yellow, orange, and scarlet.
Other species include the smaller-flowered and often bi-colored Zinnia haageana and the lower-growing Zinnia angustifolia.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do both flowers require full sun?
Yes, both of these flowers require full sun (at least 6 to 8 hours of direct sunlight per day) in order to grow properly. Plants will become leggy (sprawling and lengthened space between leaf nodes) or yellowed if they are not receiving enough sunlight. You may notice the plants stretching towards light or the plants may produce very few blooms.
Can you plant them both together in pots?
Yes! They both make great potted plants. If you have soggy soils, planting these flowers in pots may be the best option for you, because both of these flowers like well-draining soil. Pots or raised beds usually have excellent drainage. Be sure to pick out more compact or short varieties that are bred to be bedding plants if you decide to grow both of them in pots.
Both zinnias and marigolds are native to warmer climates and members of the Asteraceae family. They have similar growth requirements, such as a preference for well-draining soils, full sun, and low fertilizer requirements. Because they are both beautiful, easy to grow, and require the same type of growing conditions, you should definitely try planting marigolds and zinnias together!