Do Marigolds Do Better in Pots or in the Ground?

Marigolds are among the most popular annuals because of their bright colors and long flowering period that can last about 80 days. But when it comes to planting them, there is a debate about whether they do better in pots or n the ground. 

Larger marigold varieties, such as African marigolds, do better in the ground because it allows for more space to grow. On the other hand, smaller varieties, such as French marigolds, are more suitable for containers as they don’t require too much space.

The rest of this article will discuss the optimal planting conditions for marigolds in both pots and the ground and which varieties are best suited for each. I’ll also cover how to care for them once they’re planted and any potential problems you may encounter with each planting location. 

Optimal Planting Conditions for Marigolds

When deciding whether to grow your marigolds in pots or in the ground, there are three main factors to consider: the climate or weather conditions in your area, the quality of the soil, and the plant’s watering needs. These factors can greatly affect how successfully your marigolds can grow in your chosen location.

Climate or Weather Conditions

Marigolds thrive in full sun, with at least six hours of direct light daily. Therefore, they should be ideally grown outdoors, where they can receive enough sunlight.

The local climate and frost dates should be considered when planting these flowers. Marigolds can handle light frosts, but most varieties won’t survive temperatures below 25 °F (-4 °C). 

In colder climates, start the plants indoors and transplant them when temperatures are consistently above 50 °F (10 °C). It’s also best to wait until the last frost has passed before sowing the seeds outside or start them indoors several weeks before the last frost date.

Growing them in pots will make it easier to move them whenever the daytime and nighttime temperatures fluctuate significantly in early-to-mid spring.

In warmer climates, marigolds can be directly sown into the ground in mid-to-late spring. This will ensure they have enough time to bloom before the summer heat sets in. However, in some cases, they may need to be started indoors earlier, as the soil may not warm up quickly enough.

The Quality of the Soil

The soil for marigolds should be well-draining and kept consistently moist but not soggy. Marigolds prefer soil high in organic matter. Adding compost or aged manure will provide the right nutrients for healthy growth. 

Fertilizing marigolds is unnecessary, but supplemental nutrients may be added if the soil does not contain enough of them naturally. A balanced fertilizer should be applied at half the recommended rate and spread lightly over the soil surface. 

These resilient and easy-to-care-for flowers have a shallow root system, so they need to be planted in areas with plenty of space for their roots to develop. 

Growing Marigolds in Pots

If planted in containers, the container should be at least six inches (15 cm) deep and wide and have adequate drainage holes. 

Larger containers will be needed for planting several plants together. The spacing of each plant should be at least six inches (15 cm) apart to provide adequate space for growth. 

Growing Marigolds in the Ground

For planting in the ground, it’s important to prepare the soil first by adding a layer of organic matter and tilling or digging it into the top 6 inches (15 cm) of soil. Each plant should also be spaced six inches (15 cm) apart to give them room to grow.

Watering Needs

The shallow root systems of marigold flowers require frequent watering, especially during hot weather. To prevent over-watering, consider installing a drip irrigation system or making sure to water deeply but infrequently. Luckily, marigolds are fairly resilient and can withstand short periods of drought.

Varieties Suited for Pots or the Ground

Planting marigolds in containers is preferable for most varieties since it allows for easier control of soil conditions and moisture levels. This can help ensure that your plants receive the best possible care.

Dwarf varieties such as French marigolds (Tagetes patula) and Signet marigolds (Tagetes tenuifolia) are perfect for adding a splash of color to containers, window boxes, and other small spaces. These usually reach a height of 12 inches (30 cm) and have short stems and deep-green glossy foliage.

Bushy or taller varieties, such as African marigolds (Tagetes erecta) and Mexican marigolds (Tagetes lemmonii), are best suited to planting directly in the ground. These varieties can reach up to 36 inches (90 cm) tall and often have large, fragrant flowers.

Pros and Cons of Planting Marigolds in Pots


  • You can plant marigolds in pots at any time of the year. Marigold plants are easy to grow and don’t need much water, making them ideal for containers. However, you should use the right pot size and a quality soil mix that drains well.
  • Planting marigolds in pots makes moving the plants around the garden easier. You also don’t have to worry about them taking over your garden beds. This makes it easier to keep them in check and contain their spread as needed.
  • You can also grow other plants with your marigolds in pots. For example, if you have purple petunias or yellow daisies in your pots, you can combine them with marigolds to create a stunning display of colors that will look great anywhere in your garden.


  • Potted marigolds have higher watering needs. The main downside of planting marigolds in pots is that they will require more frequent watering, as the soil dries out faster in containers than when the flowers are planted directly in the ground.
  • The pots must be checked regularly to ensure the soil isn’t getting too dry. If this happens, water your plants more often, or consider installing a drip irrigation system to make the process easier.
  • You will need to repot your perennial marigolds every few years when their roots start to outgrow the container. This can be labor-intensive, requiring additional expenses for new pots and soil. The flowers may also suffer a bit as you transfer them.

Pros and Cons of Planting Marigolds in the Ground 


  • Planting marigolds in the ground is a good option if you have a larger garden space. This allows the plants to spread out and fill in any gaps, creating a vibrant display of color all season long. 
  • Marigolds require less maintenance when planted in the ground. Once established, marigolds don’t need much water or fertilizer, so they can be an easy, low-maintenance addition to your garden. They also don’t require frequent pruning or deadheading to keep them looking their best.
  • Planting marigolds directly in the ground helps to keep weeds at bay. The thick foliage of the marigolds can shade out any emerging weeds, helping to keep your garden looking neat and tidy.


  • A marigold’s spread can be difficult to control. Some varieties, such as African marigolds, can quickly take over a garden bed or crowd out other plants. As a result, you may need to regularly thin out your plants or move them elsewhere if they become too large. 
  • Weeds can sometimes be a problem as marigolds are slow to germinate. This gives weeds a chance to gain a foothold in the garden. It’s important to keep an eye out for weeds when planting marigolds in the ground.

Caring for Marigolds in Pots and in the Ground

Marigolds are susceptible to pests such as aphids, thrips, and spider mites. Regularly inspecting your plants and using a pesticide or insecticidal soap if needed can help reduce pest damage.

  • Deadhead the marigolds to encourage continued blooming and a tidy appearance. Use pruning shears to snip off the dead flowers and leaves as needed to keep your plants looking their best and prevent spreading.
  • Water your marigolds regularly. However, avoid overwatering as this can cause root rot and other problems. Marigolds need about 1 inch (2.5 cm) of water each week, regardless of whether they are in pots or planted directly in the ground. Don’t water your plants from overhead, as this can increase the risk of diseases such as powdery mildew. For potted marigolds, ensure the container has plenty of drainage holes at the bottom. 
  • Ensure potted marigolds receive plenty of sunlight. These flowers love the sun, so ensure you provide them with at least 6 hours of direct sunlight daily. The drainage holes will also help keep the soil from becoming waterlogged, which can quickly lead to root rot in container-grown plants. 
  • Use good quality soil rich in organic matter. You can fertilize the plants every few weeks for the best results. An all-purpose fertilizer is usually enough to keep your marigolds happy and blooming.


The decision between planting marigolds in pots or the ground ultimately comes down to your personal preferences and gardening goals. Both options can provide beautiful displays of color, but the amount of labor involved and the maintenance requirements are different for each option. 

Consider your own circumstances to decide which is best for you. With a bit of care and attention, marigolds will thrive and bring a splash of color to your garden all season long. Happy planting!

Alexander Picot

Alexander Picot is the principal creator of, a website dedicated to gardening tips. Inspired by his mother’s love of gardening, Alex has a passion for taking care of plants and turning backyards into feel-good places and loves to share his experience with the rest of the world.

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