Marigold: The Day of the Dead flower that gives life

November 03, 2022

More than just a beautiful flower and a symbol of the Day of the Dead

The marigold flower has several hidden secrets; keep on reading and discovering them!

The origin of the marigold flower

You know it by the name “marigold”; in México, it’s known as the “Day of the Dead flower' or “cempasúchil.' This last one comes from the Nahuatl “sempôwalxôchitl' or “cempohualxochitl,' where “sempôwal' means “twenty” or “many” and “xôchitl' means “flower”. It was named after the legend of Xóchitl and Huitzilin. By joining both words, its meaning would be “twenty flowers' or “many flowers.' 

On the scientific side, it comes from the Tagetes genus and only grows in wild places and mountainous areas. There are 58 different species, and Mexico has 30 of them, the center of this flower’s evolution.

The main differences between one species and another are the number of flowers, leaves, or their size, which can vary between 10 cm and 2 m. Another difference is the color of its petals. Although there are flowers with red petal edges, most have their iconic yellow-orange color.

In what season does the marigold flower grow?

In Mexico, the states with the best weather conditions for the reproduction of this flower are Guanajuato, Hidalgo, Michoacán, Puebla, and Mexico State. That’s why if you visit these places, you will find a significant quantity of these flowers if you see these places. 

The marigold flower blooms after the rainy season between July and November. If you are considering getting some, you should know they have a short life span. They only live for one season and then die, but don’t worry, they have many seeds, which makes their reproduction easy.

Properties and benefits of the marigold

Besides decorating our altars and homes, this flower has also been used to color textiles and food, to make insecticides, perfumes, and even medicine. 

One of the benefits of the marigold flower is that it has antibacterial properties and helps us fight intestinal and respiratory problems. But it is also suitable for relieving postpartum pain, cesarean section wounds, colic, and toothache.  

In addition to having medicinal benefits, this flower can also be used as a pain reliever to treat nervousness and insomnia. Although still investigated, the flower has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties that could treat skin infections and reduce split ends and eyelid diseases.

The meaning of the marigold on the Day of the Dead

The Day of the Dead is a Mexican tradition celebrated on November 1st and 2nd. On this day, families remember their loved ones who are no longer with them. For this celebration, Mexicans use an altar as an offering for the dead with different elements, among them the marigold flower. 

The marigold is used to create paths to guide the dead to the world of the living. 

The legend of the cempasúchil flower: Xóchitl and Huitzilin 

Legend has it that long ago, there were two children, Xóchitl and Huitzilin, who knew each other from birth. They played and grew up together. Over the years, their love blossomed, and with the blessing of the Sun god, Tonatiuh, they married. 

Unfortunately, this union did not last long, as Huitzilin had to leave for war, where he died on the battlefield. Shortly after, Xochitl found out that her beloved had died, and devastated by the news, Xochitl decided to climb the mountain to implore Tonatiuh to allow her to see her husband.

Distressed by the misfortune, the Sun god granted Xochitl’s request, transforming Xochitl into a flower that shed light during the nights. For a long time, the flower remained closed until a hummingbird landed on its stem. Xóchitl could recognize the touch of her husband Huitzilin, who, after so long, had come to her by her scent. 

At that moment, the field bloomed, and thousands of buds with an orange glow were born from the earth, illuminating the night. Soon after, people began to name the flower “cempohualxochitl,' the flower that gives light and life.  


Now you know a little more about this beautiful flower, which aside from guiding the dead, also has a beautiful message of love.

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