Mexican Sunflower – Tithonia rotundifolia
Mexican sunflower is a real presence in the garden. Closely related to the sunflower genus (Helianthus), Tithonia rotundifolia matches many sunflowers in its size and showiness – reaching up to six feet tall and four feet wide in a single season and producing dozens of large, orange to red flower heads. The flowers occur from mid-summer into the fall and are similar in appearance to many other flowers in the aster family. It is native to Mexico and Central America, but is easily grown as an annual in cooler climates.
Mexican sunflower is well-suited to dry, nutrient poor soils – in fact, it prefers them. Pampering the plants with rich soils and excessive water can cause them to grow weak stems that flop over. Its floral visitors are numerous and diverse and include hummingbirds, butterflies, moths, and bees. I even witnessed a mosquito perched atop a flower feeding on its abundant nectar.
You can find Mexican sunflower blooming in IBG’s Vegetable Garden. The cultivar we are currently growing is called ‘Torch.’
Written by IBG horticulturist, Daniel Murphy.