Tithonia rotundifolia. Mexican Torch seeds produce exceedingly bright orange flowers atop massive plants that grow to 1.8m (6') in just a few months. Tithonia does not produce edible flowers, and is not a true sunflower. Grown in large containers (3-5 gallons minimum), plants will stay more compact, growing only to 60cm (24") tall. Tithonia is highly attractive to pollinators, including hummingbirds, and looks great when planted in big clumps or rows. The seeds are easy to collect and dry for future planting, and the massive stalks from the plants can be used for trellising peas or pole beans the following year. Mexican Torch won an AAS Award in 1951.
Tithonia is a heat-loving annual plant that grows very much like a sunflower. It gets quite tall, so works best in the back of the border, but it looks wonderful planted in large groups. The orange flowers of the Mexican sunflower are large and amazingly bright. Continue reading below for guidance on how to grow Tithonia from seed.
Season & Zone
Exposure: Full sun
Start seeds indoors 6-8 weeks before last frost, and transplant out once night time temperatures are reliably above 10°C (50°F). Seeds germinate in 5-14 days.
Sow seeds on the surface of the soil under bright lights, and maintain a soil temperature of 21°C (70°F). Seeds can be direct sown outdoors in spring, but well after last frost, and only where winters are mild.
Stake plants, particularly in windy areas, and water only during prolonged dry weather. Plant in full sun, allowing 60cm (24″) between plants. Any light soil will work.