Tithonia Torch Flower Mexican Sunflower

Husky and coarse with spectacularly gaudy flowers is how one garden reference describes Tithonia. Well, they are tall and open branched with stems as thick as a small tree, but oh, how the butterflies love those gaudy flowers. Every sunny hour of the day this month, assorted butterflies will be sitting on the flowers while swaying in the wind on Tithonia’s sturdy branches. 

Tithonia rotundifolia has a few common names: Torch Flower , Golden Flower of the Incas and Mexican Sunflower but the seed packets say Tithonia.  

Many of the nectar-providing flowers that are  blooming now are members of the Aster or Asteraceae plant family.  Tithonia is in the Sunflower tribe of the Aster family. Their native range goes from Central America, through Mexico and into the Southwestern US.

There are several varieties but T. rotundifolia or Torch is the only one that shows up in the flower seed racks in the spring.  It grows 6-feet tall and 3 feet wide by the end of the summer. The orange flowers are 2-inches across. Other varieties can be ordered online. 

Tithonia Arcadian Blend mixture contains seeds that grow into plants only 2 ½ feet tall and the flower colors are gold, orange and yellow. Aztec Sun is 4-feet tall with apricot flowers, Fiesta del Sol is 2 ½ feet tall and Goldfinger is 4-feet tall with deep orange flowers. Tithonias would make a good summer screening hedge.

Each fall our seeds are collected and spread out over a screen to dry and then stored in a bottle with a silica packet. In the spring they are planted in a well-drained, sunny location. They love heat so they will take their time coming up if the ground is cold. 

They want an average amount of water and can tolerate dry soil for a few days.  Removing spent flowers will help them re-bloom. For containers, use a large pot and place it in full sun.

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