The Q&A Archives: Marigolds shriveling and dying

Question: I started growing marigolds from seed indoors in a 2-gallon plastic water jug with the top cut off and holes poked through the bottom for drainage,about 5-weeks ago(a school project with my son). They are about 41/2-inches above the soil, level now. They seemed to be growing okay until a couple days ago. Now the tiny leaves are starting to curl, shrivel, and turn dark greenish-black on a couple of them. What is going on? I think I may have overwatered them or failed to fertilize them. I have not used fertilizer on them and I have kept the jug on a table near and,or directly in an east-facing windowsill. At one point I got the brilliant idea(yeah right, brilliant) Smiling to place them in the tub with a heat lamp shining on them from above. It gets really warm in there throughout the day. Was this wrong to do? When this became too inconvenient for the family. I moved them back to the east-facing windowsill. I planned to move them to either my east-facing balcony which gets sun from about 6a.m.-2p.m. Or my west-facing windowsill which gets sun from about 3p.m.-7p.m. when the danger of frost is over for my area. Is this okay? It still gets rather cold at night here in Northern IL,therefore, I have not placed them outdoors yet. Are these plants salvageable? Or should I start them over again. The soil they are in stays rather wet below the surface,but the top tends to dry out alot. Please tell me what to do from this point on. Also I would really appreciate advice and complete instructions on growing marigolds from seed for the next time I attempt to grow this flower. I remember when my mother used to grow them in her garden. It seemed so easy for her. Why are mine going wrong? Thanks in advance for any and all advice.


Answer: I am not sure exactly what is happening but it could be due to overwatering, hot dry air, or crowding or poor air circulation or any number of factors such as a poor draining soil. Seedlings need ample sunlight (indoors you usually need to provide an ordinary fluorescent light to supplement a window sill, keep the bulb close to the plants); the soil should be a sterile soilless mix kept evenly moist yet well drained; they need air circulation; they should not be kept crowded -- once they are an inch tall or so you need to give them individual containers or thin them so they are not competing for sun and air.) I would suggest you transplant them into individual containers (about 6 to 8 ounces, you could use recycled yoghurt containers or similar, or small pots, just make sure they are clean and have drainage holes in the bottom) using a soilless potting mix formulated for container plants. Water so the soil is damp but not saturated or sopping wet. Pinch the top growing tip off to encourage some branching and help keep them stocky. Allow them to rest in a bright location but out of direct sun for a day, then move them outside to your east balcony on warm days. Set them in the shadiest spot there, then each day move them over so they will be in the sun a little longer each day until they are in the sun as long as possible. Set them outside when the temperature is in the 40's or above, bring them inside on cold nights when the temperature goes below abolut 40 or if frost threatens. After a couple of weeks they will be hardened off and ready to go in the garden or be moved to a larger container for the summer. You can also start fertilizing about once or twice a week with a watr soluble fertilizer such as 10-10-10 plus minors at about a quarter the recommended rate. I hope you can save them, but there is still time to start over.

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