Marigolds are vibrant, colorful, and a common addition to many homes and gardens. They have natural pest-resistant qualities, which makes them slightly easier to maintain.
Despite their unique odor and their ability to keep some pests at bay, there are more than a few that find marigolds to be a tasty snack. Growing from spring through fall, marigolds can be six inches and grow all the way to four feet.
So, if you have noticed that your marigolds have become a snack despite its natural pest repellent qualities, here are a few of the more common culprits.
1 – Birds
Here’s an interesting one: birds don’t actually like to eat marigolds. But there are some birds, such as blackbirds and crows, that will often tear into marigolds, shredding the leaves to bits.
This is because they are looking for insects to munch on and there are some that like to hang around the marigolds.
Depending on how heavy the bird traffic is in your area, you might be fine, or you may need to implement some scare tactics. Birds are generally deterred by shiny or loud objects. That makes creating your own deterrent relatively easy.
Keep windchimes in the area or perhaps something shiny such as ribbons on the branches or fence near the marigolds. If you go this route, it is a good idea to move those items around from time to time.
If you leave them in the same spot, the birds will become accustomed to them and simply work around those distractions.
2 – Slugs
One of the marigold’s biggest predators is the slug. Slugs will eat large holes through the leaves of mature marigolds and can even totally devour some of the younger plants.
The worst part about it is that you will not likely see the slugs feasting on your marigolds. This is because slugs are nocturnal and only come out at night. You may, however, begin to notice some slime trails that commonly get left behind by the slugs.
You will have to wait until dark if you want to get rid of these pests. Bring a flashlight with you so that you can find them in the dark. You can swipe them off of the marigolds or, if you want to totally eliminate them, drown them in a bucket of soapy water.
Keep an eye on your marigolds before the problem becomes too big. You will notice your leaves beginning to look worn down and, in some cases, destroyed. Your marigolds won’t last long if you don’t get the slug problem under control, so be aware and be vigilant.
3 – Rabbits
Rabbits are another natural predator to the marigold. If you see nibbled plants, that is likely the first indication of rabbits. Of course, they could be a little more obvious by leaving their droppings or letting you see them eating the plants.
If rabbits are the cause of your damaged and destroyed marigolds, a fence may be the best deterrent. The idea here is to restrict access to the garden. Then again, fences may not be your ideal situation if you don’t want to look at them.
There are natural rabbit repellents that you can use to keep the rabbits away. Spray it around the marigolds and on their leaves as well. Marigolds are edible, but once that spray has hit the leaves it is no longer edible.
4 – Grasshoppers
Grasshoppers tend to chew on the plants that they intrude upon. They start by chewing the pedals, moving to the leaves, and then eventually getting to the stems. Marigolds are just one of the plants they tend to favor.
Generally speaking, you will see grasshoppers come out during the daytime. They will rest on your marigolds, oftentimes eating them at the same time. Their ability to jump lets them get to even the tallest of marigolds, perching on top of them and enjoying a snack in the meantime.
You can keep them away by introducing natural predators to the area. The best thing about these predators is that they have no interest in the marigolds and will keep the grasshopper (and even a select few other pests) away from your garden area.
There are also some grasshopper repellents out there that may do the job but be sure to read the manufacturers instructions carefully. Spraying an herbicide on your marigolds could wind up damaging or killing the marigolds when all you were looking for was protection.
5 – Diseases
While it may seem like there is some nasty critter in the area doing damage to your marigolds, that may not be the case.
If you keep regular tabs on your marigolds, even checking them at night, it is possible that you will see damage being done to the leaves but can’t find any natural predator to catch in the act.
When this happens, it is possible that there are diseases creating those holes in the leaves of your marigold. Wilt diseases, for instance, don’t actually eat the plant but they can lead to improper growth and even cause your marigolds to die off.
The verticillium wilt, which is caused by a type of fungal infection, will attack the marigolds all the way down at the roots. This can become evident if you see your marigolds wilting during their growing season.
When you notice that your marigolds may be infected, you’ll need to dig them out completely. That means the roots, too. Destroy those infected marigolds through either aerobic composting or burning them completely.
After you have finished getting rid of the infected plants, you should disinfect the tool that you used for digging. Do this by cleaning it thoroughly with soap and water and then soak it in 10% chlorine bleach for around two minutes or so.
To prevent diseases such as verticillium wilt, you will want to avoid a few things. Keep away from herbicides, soggy soil, fertilizers that are high in nitrogen, and try to dig around any other growing marigolds.
Growing up with a mom who filled her home (inside and out) with all sorts of plants, Lisa got her start in gardening at a young age. Living now on her own with a home and yard full of plants (including an indoor greenhouse), she shares all the gardening tips she’s gained over the years.