Mexican sunflowers, also known as Tithonia diversifolia, are striking flowers that have been gaining popularity in recent years due to their vibrant colors, easy care and ability to attract pollinators. Native to Mexico and Central America, these sunflowers can grow up to 10 feet tall and produce stunning orange-red flowers that can brighten up any garden or landscape. In this article, we will explore the beauty and versatility of Mexican sunflowers, and provide tips on how to grow and care for these magnificent plants.
Mexican Sunflower and Tithonia Rotundifolia
Tithonia rotundifolia, commonly referred to as Mexican Sunflower, is a warm-favoring annual flower that produces vibrant daisy-like blooms. They come in shades of orange, yellow and red and tend to appear from midsummer to late fall. This ornamental flower typically grows up to six feet tall and has a bushy appearance with fuzzy hearts in its center. Furry foliage and a repulsive smell discourages most deer from grazing on it. It is perfect for any garden or borders and can also be used as a cut flower in bouquets.
Mexican Sunflower belongs to the Asteraceae family and is classified as an annual flowering plant.
The plant gets its common name from its prominent, eye-catching flowers that are believed to resemble the sun. Its Latin name, Tithonia, was sent in honor of an English botanist, Dr. Tithonus, and its species name, rotundifolia, is derived from the round-shaped leaves that the plant bears.
Meaning and Symbolism
In many cultures, the sunflower is associated with light and the solar cycle, and it stands for enlightenment, vigor, life, power, warmth, and joy. In the Victorian language, the flower means “solemn duty” and “adoration”.
History, Mythology, and Religious Significance
Sunflowers hold important symbolism throughout history and mythology. Egyptians, for example, are said to associate sunflowers with the Sun God, Ra, and the Incas used it in religion and healing ceremonies. The Native Americans believed that sunflowers could bring good health, long life, and bravery while they were also seen as a symbol of adoration by Christians. Additionally, sunflowers have an interesting relationship with space exploration – the solar panels used on Voyager featured photographs of the Earth encircled by a sunflower.
Flower Varieties and Their Defining Characteristics
The Mexican Sunflower comes in a variety of colors and sizes, and the defining characteristics include:
• ‘Atlas’: this variety produces yellow-orange flowers and grows to a height of 2-3 feet. It’s highly tolerant of heat, drought and humidity.
• ‘Torch’: this variety produces red-orange flowers and grows to a height of 2-3 feet. Thrives in hot climates and is even more heat-tolerant than the Atlas variety.
• ‘Oaxacan Sunset’: produces bright yellow blooms with deep orange centers, and grows to a height of 5-6 feet. It’s the largest of all the varieties, and blooms earlier.
• ‘Valentine’: this variety produces cream colored blooms with a deep red center, and grows to a height of 2-4 feet. It blooms late in the summer and is more resistant to extreme heat and humidity.
How to Plant and Grow Mexican Sunflower
Tithonia rotundifolia is a very low maintenance plant and is easy to care for. The best place for planting Mexican Sunflower is in full sun. Soil should be well-draining, slightly acidic and rich in organic matter. Water should be given to the plant regularly, but it should not be over-watered. Take care not to let the soil become soggy. Fertilize your Mexican Sunflower once a month with a balanced fertilizer. The ideal temperature for Mexican Sunflower is around 60-85 degrees Fahrenheit. A light trim once or twice a year can also help encourage it to continue blooming.
How to Pot and Repot
When it comes to potting Mexican Sunflower, be sure to use a container with plenty of drainage holes. Fill the pot with potting mix, make a hole in the soil, and then gently place the plant into the hole. Fill the hole with soil, pressing down gently. Water the Mexican Sunflower thoroughly and place it in an area that gets plenty of sunlight. It is important to repot Mexican Sunflower every two to three years since the growth will slow down if the same pot is used for a longer period of time.
How to Prune
Pruning of Mexican Sunflower should be done in the early spring. Pruning helps to improve the overall shape of the plant and encourages more blooms. Begin by cutting off any dead or dying branches and removing any twiggy growth. next, cut away any stems that are too tall or look “leggy” and trim off any shoots that are growing too far out from the base of the plant. Mexican Sunflower is a very hardy plant and will come back well after pruning.
How to Propagate
Propagating Mexican Sunflower is quite easy. The most common method is by stem cuttings. The stem cuttings should be taken from a mature plant and planted in moist soil, preferably in a pot or a container. Keep the soil moist and the pot in an area with bright but indirect sunlight. The cutting should take root within two to three weeks and start to grow more stems and flowers. It is also possible to propagate from seed, which will take much longer to reach maturity.
Common Pests and Diseases
Mexican Sunflower is quite resistant to most pests and diseases. However, it is prone to aphids and other sucking insects, which can cause plant leaves to become yellow and wilted. Powdery mildew is another potential problem, but this can be prevented by ensuring that the plant is spaced properly and is provided with plenty of air circulation. Proper watering techniques and regular checking for any signs of pests or diseases will help to keep your Mexican Sunflower looking healthy.
Three Frequently Asked Questions About Tithonia Rotundifolia
1. Is Tithonia Rotundifolia deer resistant?
Yes, Tithonia Rotundifolia is usually considered to be deer resistant due to its furry foliage and unpleasant smell.
2. How long does it take for Tithonia Rotundifolia to flower?
The Mexican Sunflower typically begins blooming in the summer and continues to bloom until late fall.
3. Is Tithonia Rotundifolia easy to care for?
Yes, Tithonia Rotundifolia is rather easy to care for and is fairly low-maintenance. As long as it is provided with plenty of sunlight, good soil and regular watering it should thrive.
A Table Fact Sheet, With Data:
|2 to 6 feet tall
|Midsummer to fall
|Orange, yellow and red
|Mexico and Central America
Landscaping with Mexican Sunflower
Mexican Sunflower blooms from midsummer to fall, adding vibrant and tropical looking flowers to any garden. Its large, showy and colorful blooms make it a wonderful choice for floral arrangements and bouquets. When planting it in the garden be sure to leave enough space between other flowers so that the plant can grow and spread. It is also important to give it plenty of room to breathe. The plants can become large and bushy, so cutting back on its foliage can help keep it in check.
Tithonia rotundifolia is hardy in USDA plant hardiness zones 3-9. It grows best in warmer climates and can easily withstand full sun and heat. It can also tolerate cold temperatures but will die back in winter.
Although Mexican Sunflower does better in the garden, it can very much grow in containers. Choose a container at least 18 inches deep and wide, and make sure there are plenty of drainage holes. Fill the pot with potting soil, water thoroughly and position the container in a warm, bright spot. Water the plant regularly and prune back any excess foliage.
Mexican Sunflower Care
The bright and cheerful Mexican Sunflower requires a sunny location. The plant performs well in full sun and can also tolerate some shade. The soil should be well-draining, slightly acidic and rich in organic matter. Water regularly and fertilize with a balanced fertilizer once a month. Pruning back excess foliage and deadheading spent blooms can help keep your Mexican Sunflower in good condition.
Lifespan of Mexican Sunflower
Tithonia rotundifolia has a short lifespan, typically lasting only one season. Seeds can be replanted and grown for another season, but for the most part, it is an annual plant.
Harvesting Mexican Sunflower
Tithonia rotundifolia can be harvested to be used in flower arrangements and bouquets. The flowers should be cut when they are fully open and have a bright color. When picking, be sure to cut the stem just below the base of the flower, and immediately remove any leaves that may be near the waterline. The flowers can last up to a week in a vase, as long as they are kept in clean water and away from direct sunlight.
Mexican Sunflower Uses
Mexican Sunflower is a versatile and attractive plant, with many uses and benefits. It can be used in gardens and borders, as a cut flower in bouquets and arrangements and as a dried flower. It adds texture and color to any garden and is a favorite among both hummingbirds and butterflies. The plant is also known for its medicinal properties.
Mexican Sunflowers in Floristry
Mexican Sunflowers are popular choice when it comes to floristry and flower arrangements. The large, vibrant blooms, long-lasting quality and tropical look make Mexican Sunflowers stand out in any setting. Both the blossoms and the leaves can be used in a variety of different arrangements and combined with other flowers to create interesting and eye-catching displays.