Tagetes lemmonii For Winter Color in Mild Climates

Jill Staake

I almost never begin a post here on Birds & Blooms by giving the botanical name of a plant instead of the common name, but I found so many common names for this one I didn’t feel like I had a choice! Tagetes lemmonii is known as Copper Canyon Daisy, Mexican Bush Marigold, Mountain Marigold, or Mount Lemmon Marigold, and I couldn’t find one that was used more than another. So you can pick the one you like the most, and then decide if it might be right for your garden.

Tagetes lemmonii

Tagetes lemmonii is native to high mountain canyons in Arizona and Mexico, and is related to other more familiar marigolds. It will grow well in zones 8 – 11, although it will freeze back to the ground in zone 8 and return the following year. It’s ideal for areas that have warm dry autumns and winters, since that is the bloom time for this sprawling shrubby flower. It’s photosensitive, meaning it blooms only when the days grow shorter in the fall. It will continue through to early spring (if it’s not killed back by frost), when longer days will cause it to rest throughout the summer.

Grow T. lemmonii in full sun and well-drained soil. Once it’s established, it definitely doesn’t want to be over-watered. If you have the right spot in your garden for it, it will do just fine on its own throughout the fall and winter months. In the spring, when the blooms are done, you can cut it back if you need to, but the foliage remains fragrant and attractive until the flowers return. You can grow more plants from seed, root stem cuttings, or divide the plant in spring.

Tagetes lemmonii

A single plant becomes fairly large and sprawling, but stays pretty low to the ground. T. lemmonii has very fragrant foliage, which to my nose smells like a mix of lemon and tarragon. Others describe the smell as minty and fruity, and there are those who don’t care for it at all. Like the name, that’s a call you’ll have to make for yourself! One word of warning: some people are sensitive to the oils in this plant, and will sprout an itchy rash if their skin is exposed to the oils and then to sunlight. If you’re working with this plant, wear long sleeves and gloves or wash your hands and arms immediately after you’re done.

Do you grow T. lemmonii? Tell us about your experiences with it in the comments!

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