After yelling out a “Grito de Dolores” in celebration of Mexico’s Independence, those with an eye toward a horticultural calendar should consider getting some marigolds and zinnias in the ground (or containers) in preparation for a seasonal splash of color this fall. The Mexican marigold, tagetes erecta, native to Puebla and neighboring states, is perhaps best associated with Día de Los Muertos (Day of the Dead) celebrations by many indigenous cultures, perhaps most notably the Aztecs. For this reason, Aztec marigold is another common name for this species.
The stereotypical Mexican marigolds that thrive in Puebla, and closer to us, the highlands of Michoacán, are not suited to the hot humid summers of Puerto Vallarta and shouldn’t go in the ground locally until after the Day of the Dead. The variety better suited to do well locally at this time of the year are known as cempasúchiles enanos (dwarf marigolds). These have less of an inclination to become “leggy” but the plants should still have their tops pinched off once they become established. This will encourage them to grow bushier and help induce blooming.
Zinnias are another excellent native Mexican wildflower to plant now for the fall season. They have even greater variety of color than marigolds and they’re excellent butterfly attractants. At the beginning of the rainy season few butterflies can be found in their adult stage, but they’re emerging now in full force and will remain at their peak abundance until about November. So your zinnias will provide you not only with color for your home landscape, but with a source of delight to enjoy the interactions with our favorite pollinators.
The Vallarta Botanical Garden has a supply of wildflower seeds for sale as do Home Depot, Walmart, and many local grocery stores. Online suppliers are also offering products on Amazon Mexico and Mercado Libre.
Those with the option to travel this coming month might consider a road trip through the highways and byways of Puebla. By mid to late October the countryside becomes dominated by vast fields of vigorously growing marigolds in preparation for harvest just before the day of the dead. This bright brassy sheen of blossoms gives way to backgrounds of towering volcanoes, including ever-active Popocatépetl, often blanketed in snow by that time of year. While in Puebla some off the beaten path treasures can be found in the town of Cholula including an intimate and inspiring ethno botanical garden and a pyramid, Tlachihualtepetl, which, when measured by volume, is larger than any of the pyramids of Egypt.
Mexico has no shortage of surprises for those with a heart for adventure, but its greatest treasures are its incredible natural assets. Long may we steward them for future generations.