June 22, 2017

South of the Border

Tithonia rotundiflora - Mexican sunflower

Janine Pineo Photo | Tithonia rotundiflora – Mexican sunflower growing at The Heirloom Garden of Maine in Center Montville

Hailing mostly from Mexico with but 11 species in the genus is Tithonia, a member of the aster family. Among the most common is T. rotundiflora, a sturdy plant that is covered with a downy fuzz. Known as Mexican sunflower, this annual produces masses of orange daisylike flowers that could be mistaken for a zinnia, too. The plant can grow to about 5 feet in height, with a spread of 3 feet or so. It is fairly drought-tolerant and can withstand a bit of shade. If given a long enough season (such as that in the southwestern United States), tithonia can actually reach maturity and reseed itself in June and grow from those seeds to produce more blossoms that will mature by October. It can reseed itself for another year even in Maine’s climate, but it is easily grown from seed. A number of cultivars have been offered, including ‘Torch,’ which is an All America Selection. Tithonia makes a great cut flower, but with one caveat: The stem is hollow and easily bends, so it needs to be cut carefully so as not to collapse.

Photographed during Open Farm Day at The Heirloom Garden of Maine on July 22, 2012.