18 October 2023
Another month and another set of flowers to consider if you or someone you know has a birthday in October. Two choices: marigold or cosmos. Both are colorful and long blooming.
The early Aztecs credited this flower with magical, religious, and even medicinal powers. They are symbols of determination because they bloom long past the traditional period for annuals, and also warmth and creativity with their bright colors still prominent in the autumn months.
There are actually two plants that claim the name of marigold, Calendula and Tagetes, both part of the Asteraceae, but unrelated to each other. The official marigold is Tagetes and they have three varieties: French, African, and Signet. They are native to Central America. They flower starting with spring and last through autumn. Their common name is probably a contraction of Mary’s Gold, when the flower was used as an offering to the Virgin Mary, in lieu of money, in the Middle Ages.
The American marigold is part of the Compositae family, related to daisy. The marigold produces an oil that will repel insects so you will often find it as a border plant around entrances or vegetable patches. You can set out bedding plants in the spring or sow seeds after the last frost. They like full sun and, of course, well drained soil. They are native to North America so they do well and will bloom throughout the summer and into the fall, making them popular for homes and businesses.
Some of the special uses are:
- Mexico – For Dia de Los Muertos (Day of the Dead), they are used as part of the ceremony to honor and celebrate those who have passed away. As the story goes, two Aztec children, Huitzilin and Xochitl, presented flowers to the Sun God. As adults, these two fell in love. Alas Huitzilin is killed in battle and Xochitl prays to the Sun God that they be reunited. As a ray of sun lands on her face, she is transformed into bright flower. A hummingbird suddenly appears and touches the flower, and twenty petals open. Their love will remain as long as there are marigolds and hummingbirds.
- Hindu – Associated with Vishnu and Lakshmi (the Ideal Couple), they are frequently used at weddings. They can also be part of wall hangings, torana, displayed during festivals.
Native to Mexico but now their plantings range from North through South America and in parts of Africa. Also part of the Asteraceae, they bloom from summer through the fall. They are tall, self seed in the fall, and abundant pastel blooms. Chemically they contain compounds of butein and quercetin, that are used to treat inflammation, manage blood sugar, in cancer treatments, antibacterials, and more. Even with these properties, they are not toxic to pets or humans.
Their name derives from the Greek for world, order, or harmonious arrangement. Wouldn’t Carl Sagen love them? From this we infer that they symbolize balance, tranquillity, and joy. As with so many other flowers, the color has its own meaning:
- Red – Love and passion.
- Deep red brown – Referred to as chocolate and even smells like sugar, it says “I love you more than anyone could”.
- Pink – Kisses and hugs
- White – Romantic love and faithfulness
- Purple – Mystery
- Orange – Excitement
- Yellow – Friendship
These lovely blooms are said to attract fairies. They are also considered lucky, probably associated with their ability to repel insects, much like its companion marigold. Cosmos are associated with the throat chakra or energy and believed to remove blockages and energy the voice.
They will spring up a foot to six feet in height and easily spread one to two feet. While they are not invasive, they will self seed and be aggressive in your flower bed. They take full sun or part shade. For once, you don’t need good soil. In fact, in rich soil they tend to become leggy and weak. So put them where the soil is bad and neurtal or a bit alkaline in pH.
They are a traditional flower for second wedding anniversaries.