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How to make cempazuchitl flowers for Day of the Dead

As the long shadows of dusk blanket my hometown on the evening of Dia de los Muertos, and bright candles are lit to guide the way for the souls of both the living and the dead, the orange and yellow petals of cempazúchitl flowers—known in English as marigolds—dominate the color palette of the altars for Day of the Dead.

Photograph by Silvia Martinez

For me, seeing them produces an indescribable, yet unmistakable, feeling that is unique to the sacred holiday. It’s a blended emotion, beginning with a feeling of community to which is added part reverence, sadness, happiness, dread, and acceptance. It’s a feeling both familiar and comfortable to me by now.

Even if you don’t have access to this special flower, you can still include them in your celebration by making them out of paper. Invite your kids to help you, the process is fast and fun. Just follow this simple step by step guide.

Photograph by Silvia Martinez

You will need the following items to make this craft:


  • Ruler

  • Pencil

  • Scissors


  • Green wire, (cut as long as you prefer; I used 7 inches in length) or green pipe cleaners

  • Crepe paper or tissue paper sheets in yellow and orange (deep burgundy can also be used along with the other two)
Photograph by Silvia Martinez

First cut a 4 inch section off the sheet, which comes folded in multiple layers from my craft store, and results in having a handful of layers of paper sheets when you are done. See photo. Next, cut through the center of each folded end to create multiple flat sheets. Take six of the 4 by 4 inch sheets and lay them on top of each other.

Photograph by Silvia Martinez

Fold the sheets like you would a fan, making a ⅜ to ½ inch fold, then flipping the entire group of sheets over and folding again, alternating until completely folded.

Take your piece of wire or a pipe cleaner and twist it carefully around the fan at the center point.

Photograph by Silvia Martinez

Cut off a small portion of each of the four corners of the fan.

Make two small, straight, ¼ inch, lengthwise cuts at each tip of the fan starting about ⅓ of the way in from each edge.

Photograph by Silvia Martinez

Now carefully separate each sheet from the other being careful not to tear them until it looks like the picture above.

Photograph by Silvia Martinez

Make your tissue paper flowers in different shades of oranges and yellows.

Once you make your flowers, spread them around your altar as you wish. If you make enough, you can also spread them out in a path in front of your altar or display them around the house.

Photograph by Silvia Martinez
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