Feeding Cape Marigolds: How To Fertilize Cape Marigolds

Feeding Cape Marigolds: How To Fertilize Cape Marigolds

By: Tonya Barnett, (Author of FRESHCUTKY)

For many novice gardeners, the thought of growing and maintaining annual flowers from seed may be one which is very intimidating. These feelings continue to grow as one begins to delve further into specific feeding and watering requirements of various plants. Fortunately, even beginner gardeners are able to have great success when planting flowers that are robust, tolerant to adverse conditions, and bloom profusely. One such plant, the cape marigold, rewards growers with a deluge of bright and cheerful flowers, and both watering and feeding cape marigolds couldn’t be easier.

Feeding Cape Marigolds

Also known as Dimorphotheca, cape marigolds are small and brightly colored annual flowers. Low growing, these flowers are perfect for planting in areas which receive little rainfall. Due to their adaptability to various soil conditions, cape marigolds often spread when planted in locations with ideal growing conditions. As one may imagine, this too, means that the fertilizing needs of this plant will vary from location to location.

For the most part, cape marigold plants don’t need much in the way of fertilizer. In fact, the plants tend to become leggy and unattractive when the soil becomes too rich, or even with excessive water.

How to Fertilize Cape Marigolds

Fertilizing cape marigold plants is very similar to that of feeding any other annual and perennial flowers. These are most commonly direct sowed into flower beds. As a means to encourage strong growth from the start, cape marigold fertilizer should be applied to a well amended and well-draining garden bed before the seeds are sown.

Once the seeds have germinated and the plants become established, growers will need to pay special attention to the plants in their gardens. While some growers may find that feeding cape marigolds on a monthly basis is a necessity, others may find the garden soil to have adequate amounts of nutrients. Your current soil conditions will dictate whether or not the plants require any additional feeding.

Typically, the plants can get by with only a couple feedings throughout the growing season. If your soil isn’t the best, you can provide monthly applications of a balanced fertilizer – although, it’s a good idea to perform a soil test first to see what, if any, specific nutrients are lacking. This way you can adjust the feeding as necessary.

Signs of over-fertilization may be apparent by lush, green growth with slowed flower production. Fertilizing cape marigolds should be done with a regular, balanced flower fertilizer composed of nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus. As always, make certain to read fertilizer instructions carefully to ensure that it is safe for use in the garden.

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Orange Symphony (Osteospermum hybrid) Photo by: Proven Winners

At first glance, African daisies (Osteospermum) look like typical daisies, with symmetrical petals that radiate from a central eye. But upon a closer look, this South African native is anything but ordinary. The flowers come in many colors from white to deep purple, with single or multi-colored centers and petals that can be double, fringed, or spoon-shaped.

A member of the daisy family (Asteraceae), osteospermum is a half-hardy perennial or subshrub most commonly grown as an annual. A relative newcomer to the horticultural industry, African daisies first become available to home gardeners in the 1990s.

Although commonly called African daisy, it’s important to remember the botanical name of Osteospermum, as other garden plants such as Dimorphotheca and Arcotis go by the same common name. Other names include South African daisy, Cape daisy, Cape marigold, blue-eyed daisy, or sunscape daisy.

Growing a Marigold from Seeds

Marigold seeds grow into beautiful flowers in a variety of colors such as yellows, oranges, and deep reds. These annual flowers are very easy to grow and come in sizes ranging from 6 inches to over 2 feet tall. They can be grown alone or mixed with other flowers, and do well in containers indoors.

Step 1 - Know When to Plant

The marigold is a hardy flower but it cannot withstand frost. Therefore, you should plant the seeds only when the danger of the last frost has passed.

You can plant the seeds in a container indoors six weeks before the last frost and transplant them to an outdoor location later. Select a clay or peat pot with good drainage holes. Fill it with good potting soil and mix and space the seeds 4 to 6 inches apart. Place the pot near a sunny window or under a bright lamp, and water lightly. Indoor or outdoor germination takes between three days and two weeks.

Step 2 - Select Location and Prepare the Soil

Marigold seeds are typically planted in and along flowerbeds, in vegetable gardens, or along walkways. Select an area that will receive at least six hours of direct sunlight and one that has good drainage. Adding lots of compost will improve soil quality. Loosen the soil with a garden trowel to prepare it for planting.

Step 3 - Plant the Seeds

Marigold seeds resemble dry blades of grass and are very light, so plant them carefully to avoid their blowing away. Plant the seeds ¼ inch into the soil. Spacing between the seeds will depend on the variety of marigold you wish to grow, so follow the instructions on the seed packet. Back-fill and add a layer of mulch to remove weeds and retain moisture. Slightly water the soil, making it moist but not too wet, and lightly fertilize.

Step 4 - Care

Established marigolds are easy to grow, and do well even if they are left unattended. They need to be watered once a week, and twice during dry spells to keep the soil fairly moist. Feed them a general-purpose fertilizer once a month to produce healthy plants and flowers.

Thinning may be required to increase the space between the plants and help them grow well. Pinch back tall varieties to encourage bushy growth. Flowers will begin to grow around mid-summer and continue until fall. Removing fading flowers will enable the plants to produce new buds.

Step 5 - Pest Control

Marigolds are generally pest-free because of their pungent odor and are often grown in vegetable gardens to repel insects that may damage the crops. Slugs, however, can pose a threat to your marigolds. In wet weather, they can be seen crawling up the plants to reach the leaves they like to chew. Since they can ruin entire marigold gardens, keep a lookout for them. If a problem occurs, treat it immediately to prevent major damage.


Photo by: iMarzi / Shutterstock.

When to plant:

Taller African varieties (Tagetes erecta) should be planted in early spring after all danger of frost has passed. Starting these taller varieties early in the season will allow them more time to grow and mature. French and Signet types (T. patula and T. tenuifolia) can be planted any time from spring through mid-summer.

Where to plant:

Most marigolds prefer to be located in an area with full sun but will tolerate some shade. During times of extreme heat, some afternoon shade is beneficial. T. erecta varieties should be planted in an area protected from strong winds and damaging rainfall. These taller varieties may also require some light staking for support.

How to plant:

Marigolds germinate quickly, sprouting within a few days and blooming in about 8 weeks, making them easy to grow from seed. Sow seeds directly outside after all danger of frost has passed and the soil has begun to warm up. Sow seeds 1 inch apart and water thoroughly after planting. After the seeds sprout, they should be thinned to the following guidelines: French or Signet varieties 8 to 10 inches apart, and African varieties 10 to 12 inches apart. Use landscape scissors or small garden shears to cut the seedlings out, as pulling them out can disturb the roots of the seedlings left behind. Seeds can be started earlier indoors, but with their fast germination time, this really isn’t necessary. Seedlings can be transplanted when 2 inches tall.

When transplanting marigolds purchased at a nursery, dig and loosen the soil about 6 inches down, with the final planting hole just slightly larger than the rootball. Backfill with soil and press firmly into place. Water thoroughly. Adding a 1 to 2-inch layer of mulch between the plants will help keep the soil moist and discourage weeds.


Marigolds grown in containers can become overcrowded, so be sure to space them accordingly.

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