The Tithonia plant is more commonly known as the Mexican Sunflower. Other common names include tree marigold, Japanese sunflower, Nitobe chrysanthemum or Bolivian sunflower. Native to Mexico and Central America, this annual plant belongs to the Asteraceae family.
Being a member of the daisy family, this plant is also related to the sunflower. Locals are often known to refer to the Tithonia plant as the “Golden Flower of the Incas,” owing to the fact that this plant has large flowers that are showy and daisy-like.
The plant was named in 1799 by a French botanist, and the name is inspired by Greek mythology. There are two main species of the Tithonia plant. These are Tithonia rotundifolia and Tithonia diversifolia.
Features of the Tithonia Plant
This plant is characterized by bright, orange-red colored flowers. Sometimes, these flowers can also have a yellow tinge to them. They appear from midsummer to frost and are borne on stems that aren’t very strong.
Hence, they can easily be broken by birds. The flowers have a yellow disk in the center and measure approximately 2 to 3 inches. Bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds are attracted to this plant. The seeds of this plant are grayish-black in color.
They can be saved and then used to grow more of this kind of plant. The leaves of this variety are dark green in color and are oval in shape. They can sometimes even be triangular. The leaves have crenate margins and are three-lobed. They are hairy on the underside and are covered with downy fuzz.
Cultivation of the Tithonia Plant
This plant grows to a height of 3 to 6 feet on average. The USDA hardiness zones for this plant are 3 to 11. Full sun or part shade is ideal to ensure that the Tithonia plant grows well and reaches its optimal height. Alongside that, this plant has average water needs, which means that it is easy to maintain.
Soil that is well-drained can ensure that this plant grows to become healthy. Excess moisture is not really recommended when growing Tithonia; however, having said that, this plant can also tolerate soil that is not very fertile.
Before planting, a good amount of compost should be put in the soil so that it can grow to be healthy and strong. As mentioned earlier, the Tithonia plant does not have very strong stems. As such, you shouldn’t plant it in an area that faces strong winds.
If the wind blows too hard, it’s likely that the stems of this plant will break. An all-purpose fertilizer can be used to ensure that this plant gets all the nutrients it needs in order to become healthy. The best propagation method for Tithonia is by making use of its seeds.
The seeds should be sown indoors around 6 weeks earlier to ensure that the flowering starts sooner. It takes around 2 to 3 weeks for the seeds to germinate.
When planting, care should be taken to leave a space of approximately 3 feet between the plants to ensure that there is enough room for the roots to grow and for sufficient air to pass through. This plant does not really like cold weather.
In the colder season, you might notice that the plant doesn’t look very healthy. It is a summer plant through and through, and you know this due to the fact that Tithonia is drought tolerant, which makes it a really great plant for the summer season.
Deadheading is highly recommended for this plant. It can make sure that the plant looks healthy and fresh all year round. The ideal usage of the Tithonia plant is for cut flowers. However, the beauty of the plant can sometimes be its undoing.
Since this plant is very colorful and attractive, slugs and snails are frequently attracted to it. They can eat the new growth of the plant.
Types of Tithonia Plants
There are a few varieties of this plant, and these are written and explained below, alongside their special characteristics and ideal growing conditions.
Fiesta del Sol
This variety is a dwarf Mexican sunflower that grows well in the hot and humid weather. It typically grows to a height of 2 to 3 feet. It has orange-colored daisy-like flowers that measure around 2 to 3 inches.
They show up in the months between July and October, since that is the flowering season for this plant. The leaves of this variety are coarse and fuzzy. It is a butterfly magnet and is excellent for use as cut flowers. A lot of pretty bouquets can be made by making use of these flowers.
Generally, this is a pest-free plant, and deer are not attracted to it either. Deadheading is necessary for this variety to ensure that the plant looks fresh and healthy. Alongside that, this plant is drought tolerant.
Oftentimes aphids, thrips, and other insects can prove to be a problem, so care should be taken to manage this issue before these insects start to affect the growth of this beautiful plant. Regular fertilizing is not really needed, which makes this plant rather easy to maintain.
The best way to grow this variety is by making use of seeds. They can either be planted in the garden or in containers. Full sun exposure can ensure that this variety grows to become really healthy.
Alongside that, clay, loam, sand or chalk soils are ideal for the growth of this plant. The soil can be acidic, neutral, or alkaline. Care should be taken to ensure that the soil is well-drained. If the soil retains a lot of moisture, then this can be detrimental to the health of the plant.
This is an annual variety that belongs to the Asteraceae family and is hardy in USDA zones 10 to 11. It grows to a height of 3 feet on average. The flowers of this variety are bright orange in color and are around 3 inches in size, and they bloom from early summer to early fall.
This variety can grow really well in full sun and partial shade, and planting it in well-drained soil will ensure that it’ll be able to grow to its maximum height. The soil should also have a pH of 5.8 to 6.5. The best way to grow this plant is by makes use of its seeds.
The ideal temperature for the growth of this plant is 70 degrees Fahrenheit, and the approximate germination time is 10 to 21 days. The seeds should not be covered, and there should be a space of 12 to 18 inches between plantings to ensure that the roots have enough space to grow.
This also ensures that there is room for air circulation. This plant should be grown once the danger of frost has passed by. Alongside that, this variety is also a butterfly magnet, specifically the Monarch butterfly.
When this plant is deadheaded, it looks fresher and healthier. This half-hardy perennial is ideal for summer beddings, and its flowers can be used as cut flowers, owing to the fact that they are a very beautiful orange color.
The Tithonia torch is the most common variety of this plant. It is unscented and won the AAS award in 1951. The flowers of this variety are bright orange in color and are approximately 3.5 inches wide.
It has dark green leaves that have a velvety texture to them. A lot of beneficial insects like butterflies and hoverflies are attracted to this variety. The flowers bloom in midsummer to frost, which are the blooming seasons for this plant.
This plant grows to a height of 60 to 72 inches approximately. Deadheading is necessary to ensure that it grows to look healthy and fresh since the flower heads are usually broken off by birds. It has average watering needs, which means that you do need to see that it gets enough water.
However, when watering the plant, you must make sure that you don’t overwater it. Overwatering can be incredibly detrimental to the plant. Full sun is ideal for the growth of this plant. As for its soil requirements, the soil should be fertile loam or sandy, but it should be well-drained.
Poor soil can be tolerated, too. If this plant is given extra nitrogen by making use of a good fertilizer, then the plant can grow taller. Making use of Tithonia seeds is the ideal method of propagation here, but only after the danger of frost has passed.
It takes approximately 2 weeks for the seeds to germinate at a temperature of 70 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit. The seeds should not be covered so that they can get enough light for germination.
When planting, care should be taken to leave a space of 12 to 24 inches between then so that the roots can grow well and so that there is more room for air circulation.
This plant is mostly used for cut flowers. The flowers are also used for beds and borders. This variety does not have any serious disease and pest issues and attracts a lot of pollinators.
This variety is hardy in USDA zones 10 and 11. It has apricot, orange-yellow flowers that are mostly used as cut flowers, and grow to around 3 to 4 inches in size. The blooming season for this plant is from July to the autumn season. The plant is known to grow to a height of 4 to 6 feet on average.
The best propagation method for this variety is by making use of seeds. The seeds should be directly sown on seedbeds after the danger of frost has passed. At planting time, care should be taken to leave a space of 24 inches apart so that the plants have enough space to grow.
It takes a week for the seeds of this plant to germinate. The ideal germination temperature is 68 to 86 F. Full sun or the sheltered sun is ideal for the growth of this plant. Occasional fertilizing can help in its growth, but care should be taken to not over-fertilize as that can cause the plant to wither.
The soil should be clay, loam, sand, or chalk and can be acidic, alkaline, or neutral. For the best possible growth of this variety of Tithonia, the soil should be well-drained.
On the whole, Tithonia is a really beautiful plant. The flowers are a striking orange and can add color to any garden. Being an award-winning plant, it is a top choice for many!
Once you have these flowers in your garden, it won’t take long before your garden is transformed into a butterfly garden, owing to the fact that is plant is a butterfly magnet.
Since this is a rather low maintenance plant due to the fact that it does not have elaborate watering or fertilizing requirements, it is a great plant to grow in your home garden.