Tithonia diversifolia: Mexican sunflower

Family: Asteraceae
Common name: Mexican sunflower, Tree marigold, Mexican tournesol, Bolivian sunflower, Japanese sunflower, Shrub sunflower, Wild sunflower, Nitobe chrysanthemum

Mexican Sunflower is a strikingly beautiful, fast-growing perennial plant with bright yellow or orange flowers. Though they originated in Mexico and Central America, this vibrant and hardy plant has found its way into gardens and landscapes across the globe.

These plants can reach a height of 1.8 to 3 meters with an upright and bushy growth habit. They have sturdy, hollow, hairy stems and large, coarse leaves that are deeply lobed. The leaves are about 15 to 45 cm in length, dark green, and slightly greyish on the lower surface.

The Mexican Sunflower is renowned for its stunning, daisy-like flowers that come in vibrant shades of orange and yellow. Each flower head can measure around 7 to 15 cm in diameter, creating a bold splash of color wherever they bloom.

These flowers have 7-15 brightly-colored ray florets, and numerous disk florets at the center. Their bright hues and large size make them highly attractive to pollinators, especially butterflies and bees, adding not only beauty but also ecological value to your garden.

Once pollinated, the flowers produce small, dry fruits called achenes, each containing a single seed. These fruits are not as ornamental as the flowers but are essential for the plant’s reproductive cycle.

Mexican Sunflowers thrive in full sunlight. So make sure you plant them in a location where they receive at least 6 to 8 hours of direct sunlight daily for optimal growth and abundant blooms.

They is relatively drought-tolerant and need flowering only during summer months to encourage lush foliage and abundant flowering. Though Mexican sunflower plants grow upright, they might need occasional support during windy season to prevent them from breaking or bending towards the ground.

These plants are used as fertilizers since they grow quickly producing a lot of biomass, that can decompose quickly providing nutrition to the plants around. Some gardeners consider these plants as an invasive nuisance since they grow quickly and cover large areas. Mexican sunflower plants can be pruned or uprooted to remove them, but new growth can happen from seeds that lie dormant in the ground.

These plants have several medicinal uses in the treatment of fever, skin diseases, urinary tract infections, stomach disorders, stomach pain, malaria, sore throat, liver ailments, cuts, and wounds. They are knows known for their anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties.

Mexican sunflower plants can be propagated through seeds or stem cuttings. Seeds can be planted directly in garden beds or pots. Cuttings need to be dipped in rooting hormones and planted in a well-draining potting mix.

Photo credit: Arshi Zaman