Common Eastern Bumblebee and Gulf Fritillary Butterfly
Photography by Curtis and Norma Beaird
Article by Norma Beaird
Praise God for Mexican Sunflowers!! Earlier in the Spring, we were at Walmart looking around in the Garden Shop, checking out the bird feeders, the ceramic pots and flower seeds. When we saw the seed display, we knew that we wanted to plant sunflowers again. I caught a glimpse of a packet that featured a vivid orange flower with a golden center. Curtis and I thought that these flowers would be fun to plant. So, on a whim, we bought some Mexican Sunflower seeds. We have read on the website, The Gardener's Network, that Mexican Sunflowers are drought tolerant. However, after we planted them here in rural Southern Georgia and observed, here is what we have learned:
This summer, we have had extremely hot weather with temperatures soaring to 100 degrees. At times, the Heat Index feels like camping next to a volcano. It has been a burning heat this summer. In addition, the humidity (which plants love) has been off the chart. Just walk outside and break a sweat. Even though plants love humidity, the intense heat has been tough on the blooms and the leaves. Therefore, we have watered the Mexican Sunflowers every day, especially after we watched them, time and time again, go into total droop mode. Sometimes, we turned on the mist feature on our garden hose attachment and generously misted them after we watered them at the roots. We have also deadheaded the scorched blooms. Between the watering and the deadheading, we've had a very successful blooming period. And, the lovely winged creatures have enjoyed their bright orange garden!
Here is some great information taken directly from The Gardener's Network:
How to Grow Tithonia, Mexican Sunflower Plants
Annual, Tithonia Rotundifolia
Tithonia, also called Mexican Sunflower, is an annual plant that is native to Mexico and Central America. This drought tolerant plant likes warm weather.
Tithonia blooms from summer to fall. The daisy-like flowers in orange and yellow, grow 2 1/2" to 3 inches across. Remove spent blooms to promote new flowers.
Grow Tithonia plants at the back of the border. You can also grow them in groups. They will grow 36" to 60" tall. Some people grow them in containers. If you choose to do so, put them in large floor pots.
Mexican Sunflowers attract butterflies.
Tithonia is also referred to as ""Golden Flower of the Incas".
Torch - grows 4-6 feet tall.
Goldfinger - grows just 2-3 feet tall.
Tithonia are grown from seed. In colder, northern areas, you may want to start them indoors. In warmer climates, they can be started outdoors. Keep soil moist until seeds have sprouted.
Sow Tithonia seeds outdoors after the last frost in your area, and after the soil has warmed to 60 degrees.
Important note: The seeds will take 10-21 days to sprout. So, make sure the location of outdoor starts is well marked.
Cover lightly with soil, only 1/4". Space seeds 6-8 inches apart. Final spacing should be two feet apart.
How to Grow Mexican Sunflower Plants:
Mexican Sunflower plants like warm weather, and do not take a liking to the cold. Grow them in full sun. Soil conditions can vary, from average to rich soil. But, it should be well drained. Mix in plenty of compost prior to planting to promote optimum plant growth.
Tithonia plants are drought tolerant. Allow the top three inches of soil to dry out between watering. Applying a general purpose fertilizer early in the season will promote healthy growth.
Staking plants will keep them from falling over, especially in heavy winds.
Flowers will begin to bloom in summer. Deadhead spent blooms to encourage the plant to produce more blooms all the way to cold weather in the fall.
Insect and Disease:
Tithonia experience few insect and disease problems.
Perhaps best of all, the deer avoid them. Deer do not like the hairy leaves.
An Eastern Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly
Georgia's Official State Butterfly
Ruby-throated Hummingbird Female
If you've ever wondered what the backside of a Mexican Sunflower looks like......here it is!
Red-banded Hairstreak Butterfly
For the first time, we were blessed with a Pipevine Swallowtail Butterfly.
Gulf Fritillary Butterflies love Mexican Sunflowers!
A Cloudless Sulphur had to check out the popular orange flowers!
Copyright 2016, Curtis and Norma Beaird. All rights reserved.