December 3rd, 2009
Tagetes erecta ‘Kilimanjaro’ (white marigold)

white marigold Kilimanjaro
2009-12-03. The best bloom from the ‘Kilimanjaro’ white marigold.’ It opens very yellow green and hasn’t turned white yet.

I love white flowers. In the heat of summer, they look so crisp and refreshing like wealthy women who never sweat in their white gloves and linen dresses. In Austin’s summer, it’s hard to be out in the garden when the sun is. White flowers, which reflect the most light, make wonderful twilight or moonlight gardens.

Marigolds are one of the easiest heat-tolerant annuals available. They are so easy to grow that they are often included on plant lists for children’s gardens. And they make good companion plants in the vegetable garden because the distinctive smell of the leaves throws off the bugs looking for tomatoes and other goodies.

If bluebonnets can come in colors other than blue, can’t marigolds come in colors other than gold? (Clearly the marketing name for screaming orange). I’m not the first gardener to wish for a white marigold. Others have been obsessed by the idea. For over 20 years Burpee offered a $10,000 prize to the breeder of a white marigold. 80,000 people tried for the prize. In 1975 Burpee awarded it to Alice Vonk. They called the new marigold ‘Snowbird’.

Garden History

Tweeted @MargaretRoach that I always wanted to try white marigolds but that I wasn’t sure about ordering seeds from Burpee.

Receive a packet o white marigold seeds from Pinetree Garden Seeds a gift from @indygardener who says life is too short not to try what you want to try.

Seed packet description: Vanilla white 2″ flowers on 18″ tall plant.

Plant the marigold seeds in a flat of 2″x2″ cells.

Marigold seeds sprout. (4 days). Almost every seed sprouted.

Plant out 9 marigold plants. Out of 24 which sprouted, 15 damped off. I plant these marigold in prime garden real estate next to my tomatoes. This raised bed is filled with bought soil from the Natural Gardener and gets a lot of sunlight with some afternoon shade. Because I water the tomatoes every day, I’m reminded to water the marigolds.

Pillbugs eat 2 of the marigold plants, leaving 7.

In May, we go to San Francisco for several days. When we return, only 5 plants have survived the heat without being watered. In September, we are gone for another week and on our return only 2 plants have survived. In the drenching rains that follow the penultimate plant dies, leaving a lone survivor. It is about 20 inches tall but has fallen on its side. Along the horizontal stem, new growth and buds spring. But the buds never seem to open.
white marigold Kilimanjaro
2009-12-03. The remaining plant on its side.

I send @indygardener a photo of a bud I hope will open for GBBD. It doesn’t.

The first bud which has almost formed a flower opens, although some petals are dwarfed or missing. It is not a clear white or even pale ivory (or vanilla, as the seed packet describes it, which I assume means it is supposed to be a bit yellowish). It is a greenish tint.
white marigold Kilimanjaro
2009-12-03. More than a week later, this first bloom finally looks white.

The first flower which opened finally looks white. New opening flowers still look greenish yellow. Tomorrow (12/4) a possibility of snow is forecast for Austin and then by Saturday morning we will flirt with our first hard freeze with temperatures around 28°F. So I despite half a dozen buds, I think this is the last day for white marigolds.
white marigold Kilimanjaro
2009-12-03. The remaining buds will probably never get a chance to open.

In Other People’s Gardens

Carol @ May Dreams Gardens (aka @indygardener) also planted some ‘Kilimanjaro’ marigolds.

A contributor to Dave’s Garden had a negative rating for ‘Kilimanjaro’. Even though she grew them in Madison, WI she experienced many of the same problems I did.

by M Sinclair Stevens

6 Responses to post “Tagetes erecta ‘Kilimanjaro’ (white marigold)”

  1. From compostinmyshoe:

    You certainly are a trooper! A sad progression with a happy ending……

    I probably would have torn them out when I took out the tomatoes if they hadn’t been a gift. But I really, really wanted to write this post and thank Carol @ May Dreams Gardens for her thoughtfulness. Maybe they were sulky from the many times I walked past and muttered, “Bloom, dammit! Bloom!” — mss

  2. From Carol, May Dreams Gardens:

    And I thought waiting from an outdoor sowing on May 19th until the first bloom started to show at the end of July was a long time! That’s quite a saga, but in the end, you got a white bloom.

    ‘Kilimanjaro’, by the way, didn’t wildly bloom for me, not by a long shot, but I’m intrigued enough by white marigolds to try another variety next season.

    Thanks again for encouraging me to try it by placing the seeds in my hands. If we hadn’t had the worst summer ever they might have done better. I’ll look forward to hearing how your experiments with other white varieties go. — mss

  3. From Iris/Society Garlic:

    How cool–I must try these, too! I had no idea they existed and had resigned myself to living with the regular gaudy orangey-yellow ones in the veggie garden. Love your wealthy women in white gloves and linen who never sweat simile.

    It was fun researching the history of white marigolds. It’s amazing that the first one was bred more than 30 years ago and yet they still are rarely seen. — mss

  4. From Mr. McGregor's Daughter:

    Well, you gave it the old college try, as they say. I don’t like Marigolds, so I’ve never grown them. Will you be trying a different white cultivar next time, or just tossing in the towel on them?

    I had much better luck with the white zinnia ‘Polar Bear’ and think I’ll stick with that next year. — mss

  5. From Robin Ripley:

    I hear you had snow down your way today. I hope everything survives the sudden shock.


  6. From Gloria Bonde:

    Lovely pictures. I have a New Dawn Rose and it gives maybe 1 flower. I think here in my Zone 4 it might be too cold. Gloria