"Marigolds" takes place in a shantytown in rural Maryland during the Great Depression. Lizabeth, the narrator of the story, recalls that it was a "dry September" when the situation with Miss Lottie's marigolds took place.
Written in 1969, the plot of the short story "Marigolds," by Eugenia Collier, is driven by the interactions between Lizabeth, Lizabeth's brother, Miss Lottie and Miss Lottie's marigolds. As the story begins, Lizabeth recalls how her mother and her father left Lizabeth and her brother home alone while they went to work. Lizabeth's brother suggests that the two should go bother Miss Lottie because it "was always fun." The brother and sister gather a group of friends and head to Miss Lottie's house. Once there, the group proceeds to throw rocks at the marigolds planted outside Miss Lottie's house. Eventually, Miss Lottie comes out and chases the children away.
Later that night, Lizabeth overhears her father relate how helpless he feels that he can't provide for his family. Hearing her father cry incites Lizabeth into a rage, and she sneaks out and races to Miss Lottie's house in order to destroy all of Miss Lottie's marigolds. Miss Lottie comes outside and discovers what Lizabeth has done. Looking back on that moment, Lizabeth recalls how Miss Lottie was nothing more than "a broken old woman who had dared to create beauty in the midst of ugliness and sterility." This event marked the end of Lizabeth's innocence as a child.