I have to say that I love this plant. Nothing says ‘good morning to you’ like a bright orange flower. But it’s not just me! The hummingbirds, bees, and butterflies have all cast their votes too. Just this afternoon I saw a ruby throated hummingbird feeding on one of the flowers. Tithonia is great for attracting and feeding pollinators. Mix it in with a few zinnias and you’ll have a busy garden.
This is my first year really growing Mexican sunflower. I had one from some absent-mindedly sprinkled seeds last year, but that doesn’t really count. This year I started the seeds indoors under my grow light and then transplanted them throughout my garden. They are easy to grow from seed.
Mexican Sunflower Description
Tithonia rotundifolia is an annual, grown from seed. It blooms continuously in the summer to early- to mid-fall. The flowers are bright orange with an orange center about 3 to 4 inches in diameter. This is the reason this plant is a showstopper. You’ll get multiple blooms from each plant and they are quite attractive to pollinators.
This is a very tall plant. If you don’t want to have a 4 to 6 foot tall plant in your garden that gets a couple of feet wide, this is not the plant for you (although there are some smaller cultivars). If you don’t mind its height, it is certainly worth it. I suggest planting several together to create a nice solid clumping of orange flowers. The plants themselves aren’t much to look at (they’re kind of gangly), but each plant produces multiple blooms from branches off of the main stem.
The leaves are hairy on the upper side, similar to the texture of a sunflower leaf. The leaves are about 4 or 5 inches in length and equally as wide — though they are arrowhead shaped.
This plant is very low maintenance and has no real insect or disease problems. It prefers full sun and soil that is well-drained. It is even drought tolerant and deer resistant which is great for our Mississippi summers and those hungry four-legged friends.
How to Grow Mexican Sunflower
Plant your seeds in full sun after the threat of frost is over and cover with a sprinkling of soil. Keep the soil watered but not wet until the seedling is established. Keep your plant evenly watered until they are a few inches tall and then they should be able to handle normal weather conditions.
If the plant gets buffeted by winds and starts to lean, you may need to stake your stems to keep it upright.
You can collect the seeds from your flowers and dry them for storage. Be sure they are completely dry before putting them away for next year.
Like other sunflowers, asters, and daisies, this bloom is actually made up of two types of flowers! The petal-like parts that create the border of the flower are actually ray flowers. The center of the bloom is made up of tiny little disk flowers. If you look closely, you’ll see little protruding flowers in the middle of the bloom. Learn more about these composite flowers.
Check out this amazing video of multiple monarchs feasting on a patch of Mexican sunflowers. Video from Monarch Butterfly Garden.