Looking for a flower that doesn’t mind the heat? Tithonia (also known as Mexican sunflower) is a drought-tolerant and heat-loving annual plant native to Mexico and Central America. Bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds love the bright blooms. Tall branching plants bloom for several months (right up until frost), and make an excellent cut flower. Learn how to grow Mexican sunflowers and add them to your garden.
5 Tips for How to Grow Mexican Sunflowers (Tithonia)
1. Plant tithonia at the right time
Tithonia is a frost-tender annual flower that grows best from seed. Tithonia seeds need light to germinate; cover lightly (¼”) with soil. Mark the planting area well and be patient because seeds take between 1-3 weeks to sprout. Space seeds about 2 feet apart.
2. Choose a location with plenty of sun to plant Mexican sunflowers
Tithonia prefers warm weather and grows best in full sun (even full Arizona sun). Mexican sunflowers grow well in most types of soils. The soil should be well-draining.
3. Give tithonia plants room to grow
Mexican sunflower plants grow large, often ranging from 4 to 6 feet in height and up to 4 feet wide. Growing tithonia plants in the back of a border provides a colorful backdrop for smaller plants.
Plants spaced about 2 feet apart will provide support for each other. Grow staked plants 3 to 4 feet apart. Leaving enough space between plants helps provide adequate airflow and makes plants healthier.
4. Care for Mexican sunflowers correctly as they grow
Overall, tithonia is an easy plant to grow and it’s fairly pest and disease resistant.
- Tithonia does not require additional fertilization.
- Plants are drought-tolerant, but need regular water in hot summer areas with little rainfall.
- Provide support by staking for tithonia as it grows; this is especially important in windy areas.
5. Enjoy the blooms
Tithonia blooms are between 2”-3” wide. The colors range from yellow to orange and almost red depending on the variety you grow. The blooms, nectar, and seeds attract a large variety of wildlife including butterflies, bees, and hummingbirds.
Mexican sunflowers make excellent cut flowers. Handle tithonia stems gently as the flower stalks are hollow and somewhat brittle.
Keeping spent blooms deadheaded will encourage more blooms. At the end of the season, allow several blooms to remain on the plant and collect the seeds inside to plant the following year.