A Mexican marigold plant is classified in the asteraceae family and is part of the genus tagetes. Species within this genus include tagetes erecta, lucida, and minuta. Another species is the aromatic lemmonii used in cooking. The flowers are native to the United States, Mexico and Central America and grow in other parts of the world such as Africa and France with the proper climate and moderate temperatures favorable to marigold growth. The Mexican marigold has a number of culinary and medicinal uses.
Generally, these plants fare best in US Department of Agriculture (USDA) growing zones 8 through 11. Marigolds grow in the eastern part of North America from Florida to Canada. The flowers also grow in Ohio, Kentucky, and Louisiana among several other states. In the west, the Mexican marigold is found in Utah and California.
Petals of the Mexican marigold flower are yellow, gold, or a blend of yellow and orange. Depending on the species, the flowers may grow in clusters or in single blooms on stems with medium-green foliage. The plant ranges in height from 1 foot (about 30 centimeters) to 10 feet (about 3.05 meters) and can spread out to several feet in width. The Mexican marigold prefers full sun and produces blooms during the summer, fall, and into the winter.
The sun-loving marigold has many uses. The height and width of the plant make it an ideal choice in landscaping as a border for flowerbeds or as colorful edging along fences. Planted in containers, Mexican marigolds make decorative additions to patios, decks, or situated around swimming pool areas. Pruning and deadheading will enhance the plant's productivity.
Marigolds can be used as additives to cooking, as a food coloring, and for medicinal purposes. The fragrance of the marigolds is strong with varying scents of anise, mint, and lemon. Gardeners use marigolds in the garden because its heavy scent serves as a deterrent to deer. The scent has the opposite effect on butterflies, bees, and birds attracted to the blooms.
As a natural medicine, the Mexican marigold has a long history. The plant has been used to treat upset and queasy stomach, help with digestive issues, and to soothe discomfort of toothache. The plant is also used as a treatment for colic and colds.
Used as a culinary additive, petals provide a colorful garnish for salads. The flowers can be combined with other edible herbs for cooking purposes, used as a substitute for tarragon, and steeped for a soothing tea. The oil of the marigold plant may be used as a flavoring in food products and perfumes.