I’ve always liked Mexican Mint Marigold (Tagetes lucida). Dr. William C. Welch, that great Texas plantsman at Texas A&M introduced me to this plant many years ago, and it is a staple in my sunny perennial borders. It certainly doesn’t seem like a marigold, certainly not like the common French or African type annual bedding plants which usually end up as spider mite hotels in a hot Texas summer. No, this marigold is very different. For starters, it is a perennial, coming back year after year from the root. It will also self-sow, giving new plants next year if an abnormally cold winter takes it out in Northeast Texas.
Mexican Mint Marigold is a fall bloomer, and apparently has a pretty strong short day photoperiod requirement, since it usually doesn’t start blooming ’till at least mid-October. It’s small, pretty, bright yellow flowers are held in abundance high on a 2 or 3 foot tall plant.
Since the first hard freeze, often in mid-November, ends the brief blooming season, is this plant worth taking up valuable space in your flower garden? It’s obvious I think so, since it is one of my favorites. The foliage is its other great quality. Unlike stinky annual marigold leaves, and very smelling Copper Canyon Daisy (another late-blooming perennial marigold), Mexican Mint Marigold’s foliage is delightfully aromatic. Does the word “Mint” in its name catch your attention? Another common name for this plant is Mexican, Spanish or Texas Tarragon, and in Mexico it is often referred to as Yerba Anise. The leaves have a distinct licorice smell and taste, and is sometimes used as a tarragon substitute. Since I don’t do very much cooking, I can’t comment much along those lines.
Mexican Mint Marigold blooms about the same time as Frikart’s Aster, and the purple/blue and yellow combination is just dynamite (thanks to Bill Welch for that suggestion in his classic book Perennial Garden Color).