Flowers

Mexican Sunflower | Growing Tithonia Rotundifolia from Seed

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Mexican sunflower plants (Tithonia rotundifolia) bring a bright pop of red-orange to the garden or landscape. Native to Mexico and Central America, these flowers are beautiful to see and also lovely for cutting.

Prolific blooms enliven the Mexican sunflower plant, which grows easily from seed. Blossoms range in size from 2 to 3.5 inches across with multiple flowers blooming at any given time.

Our girls enjoyed growing many different kinds of sunflowers over the years and the Mexican sunflower is no exception.

We found this plant to be fairly quick-growing and robust, standing up to hot summers and offering many blossoms to enjoy.

Also known as Tithonia speciosa, the Mexican sunflower belongs to the aster family of plants. Some popular varieties include Red Torch and Fiesta del Sol.

Attractive orange-red blossoms carry striking similarities to daisies with prominent petals. This plant branches a bit wildly, and may take on a bit of a haphazard appearance.

Still, the red-orange flowers set off the green foliage, making this plant a cohesive piece of the landscape.

If you have some space in your garden or yard, it’s worth it to grow Mexican sunflowers from seed. Let’s dig in!

Mexican Sunflower Bouquet with Zinnias

How Tall Are Mexican Sunflowers?

Mexican sunflowers generally grow to heights between 3 and 6 feet tall. This plant grows quickly during the hot summers, thriving even with little care. With a spread of 1-1.5 feet, this unique sunflower variety works well as a backdrop plant in the yard or garden.

Is Mexican Sunflower Invasive?

Not to be confused with a different plant altogether, Tithonia Rotundifolia is not invasive. You may plant it freely and comfortably. Another variety of Mexican sunflower (Tithonia diversifolia) poses a high invasion risk according to the University of Florida. This version of Mexican sunflower spreads readily and is considered invasive.

What Do Mexican Sunflower Seed Pods Look Like?

The seed pods of this multi-bloom sunflower resemble pointy, poky burs (burrs?). The Mexican sunflower seed pods are also sharp and painful if they prick you, just like burrs – those brown seed heads or sharp suckers – that you probably remember from childhood running around in the woods and brush with your friends.

What Do Mexican Sunflower Seeds Look Like?

Mexican sunflower seeds look like dark, flattened triangles with little barbs on the end and they feel like them, too. Use care when choosing seeds to plant, but even more so when harvesting Mexican sunflower seeds. These spiky seeds can and will hurt if you prick your finger with them at any time.

Mexican Sunflower Seeds on a White Paper Plate - like little barbs!

What Is Mexican Sunflower Good for?

Mexican sunflowers work well as background plants in the garden due to their height. They may attract butterflies, bees, hummingbirds, and beneficial insects like parasitic wasps to the garden. This plant makes a nice backdrop, featuring productive red-orange blooms and velvety foliage. The flowers of the Mexican sunflower plant also look lovely in bouquets and arrangements.

Benefits of Mexican Sunflowers

You’ll find so many different reasons to try growing Mexican sunflowers in your garden. Here are just a few:

  • Profuse Blooms
  • Quick Grower
  • Lovely Cut Flower
  • Easy to Grow
  • Deer Resistant
  • Not Picky about Soil
  • Heat and Drought Tolerant

Planting from Seed

Follow these steps to start Mexican sunflowers from seed easily and conveniently.

  1. Fill an egg carton or seed cell pack with potting soil.
  2. Place two Mexican sunflower seeds inside each cell, amounting to twice as many plants as you’d like to grow. (In case some don’t germinate)
    1. TIP: You may also direct sow Mexican sunflower once the temperatures remain above 55 consistently and the threat of frost has passed.
  3. Lightly water or mist each cell pack containing seeds for Mexican sunflowers.
  4. Place your seed trays under grow lights or in a sunny window if lighting is unavailable.
  5. Monitor daily for water needs.
  6. Harden off before transplanting Mexican sunflower seedlings to their final home out in your garden.

Tips for Growing Mexican Sunflowers

These bold and beautiful flowers grow readily in backyard gardens all over with a little care. Here are some tips on how to grow Mexican sunflowers.

  • Start Mexican sunflower seeds indoors. Plant the seeds 6-8 weeks ahead of your area’s last frost date to get a jump start on the season.
  • Plant in full sun if possible. The plant will do better with abundant sunshine.
  • Consider this plant for areas with lower soil quality. No need to buy special soil amendments for this guy!
  • Avoid fertilization. Adding fertilizer may cause an overgrowth of leaves that could overshadow the flowers.
  • Use care around these plants. The stems may not be as strong as you’d expect with a sunflower plant.
  • Deadhead Mexican sunflowers to promote more growth. The plants will have more flowers and a longer bloom season.
  • Harvest flowers to encourage more blooms. Enjoy cut flowers or give them to a friend or neighbor.
  • Let a few blooms go to seed for next year. When the blossoms are dried and brown, remove them from the plant and carefully remove the seeds. Be careful of the pointy barbs that may stick your fingertips!

Final Thoughts: Growing Mexican Sunflowers from Seed

In our backyard garden experience, growing Mexican sunflowers from seed became a pretty much set-it-and-forget-it experience. Way too easy!

In the 2020 growing season, we direct sowed these seeds outdoors by our hose, gave an occasional shot of water, and Mother Nature did the rest!

Finally, the blooms came and we snipped a few for bouquets, leaving the rest on the plant for the pollinators. It was wonderfully low maintenance and rewarding!

This year we started the seeds earlier indoors, back in mid-April.

I’m confident that we’ll enjoy even more blooms this year. We’re planning to deadhead until the end of the season when we’ll let those last blooms go to seed.

Do you enjoy growing Mexican sunflowers? Is this your first time growing them?

Hit us up in the comments so we can chat or answer any questions you may have about this low maintenance plant.

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