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A girl who's graduating just got a pot with a pretty little flower in it from her a capella group as a parting gift. She's about to fly away across the world, so she can't take it with her, so she gave it to me to tend to.

Now that we some background, just for interest: First I try to ID the flower. I'm 90% sure it's a French marigold. Looks almost exactly the same, but can't be sure and I don't have a camera to show you at the moment.

But assuming it is, I see that this is an annual, and can be expected to die. But I also see that it's possible to resurrect the plant through its petals, which apparently function as seeds.

Can anyone explain to me (quite thoroughly, as though to an idiot) how and when to do exactly what in order to keep this plant alive for the whole season, and to bring it back in future seasons?

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Marigolds are about the easiest thing I know of to save seed from. When the flowers die, let them stay (don't deadhead), then when they are thoroughly dry just pull the centers from the dried up flowerhead. The seeds are about ½" long.

The only complication I can think of in your situation is that you only have a single plant. It might be self-fertile, but another marigold might be better to provide cross-pollination. I'm on my third generation of saved marigold seed, but the seed is from plants where there are at least 20 others in the area.

In terms of care, I've never kept a marigold in a pot, but I'd suggest the same generic care you'd give to any small potted plant:

  • Make sure the pot is big enough.
  • Don't overwater; make sure the pot has a drainage hole in the bottom.
  • Make sure it gets plenty of light.
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