Monarch Butterflies Hold a ‘Torch’ for Tithonia
Tithonia rotundifolia ‘torch’, Tithonia speciosa ‘torch’ common name: Mexican Sunflower
Tithonia Rotundifolia Plant Specs
- Annual plant (perennial flower for USDA hardiness zones 10-11)
- Tithonia diversifolia is hardy to zone 9a
- Full sun to part shade
- Height: 4 to 6 feet
- Spacing: 3 to 4 ft
- Flowers: vibrant orange, red or yellow
- Blooms summer to first frost
Mexican Sunflower Pros
- Long bloom period
- Dark green leaves make a striking contrast with bright flowers
- Tall plants make it easy to view butterflies
- drought tolerant
- Easy to start from seed
- No serious pest issues
- Attracts a wide variety of pollinators
- Attracts swarms of migrating monarchs
Mexican sunflower Cons
- Must be regularly deadheaded
- Flower heads often broken by birds
- too large for pots
Tithonia Rotundifolia ‘Torch’ Plant Propagation
- Start tithonia seeds indoors 1-2 months before final frost
- Sow seeds directly after last frost
- Buying plants is a good option for colder regions
- Tithonia diversifolia can be started with stem cuttings
Tithonia ‘Torch’ Growing Tips
- These need heat to germinate and really take off. If you live in USDA hardiness zone 6 or below, buy plants or start seeds in a spring sowing container 1 month before final frost.
- Deadhead every 2-3 days for a bounty of beautiful blooms.
- Our largest Mexican Sunflower eclipsed 8 feet last year…grown in morning sun and partial afternoon shade.
- Try an all-purpose fertilizer to boost initial plant growth (at least 2 weeks after planting)
- Average water needs. Don’t overwater.
- Stake tall plants to avoid toppling over or
- Cut back plants to encourage bushier growth (This puts less pressure on the base of the stalk, and the plants will grow into each other adding further support.
I know several gardeners who have lost magnificent (8′ plus) Mexican sunflower plants to wind events because they didn’t preventatively stake or cut back plants. Considering all the pollinators this attracts, it’s a devastating loss to the butterfly garden ?
This nectar plant also attracts bumblebees, eastern tiger swallowtails, eight-spotted forester moths, fritillaries, giant swallowtails, honeybees, hummingbirds, native bees, painted lady butterflies, pipevine swallowtails, skippers, spicebush swallowtails, sulphurs, tiger swallowtail butterflies, queens, and more… (If you know of others, please comment below.)
Buy Mexican Sunflower Seeds and Plants
The ‘Torch’ cultivar has been widely reported by butterfly gardeners to attract lots of butterflies, but some of the lesser planted varieties might bring home the butterflies too.
There are also dwarf varieties like goldfinger and fiesta del sol if you’re seeking smaller plants. In my experience, they did not attract many pollinators so if you decide to experiment, make sure to also get some of the regular varieties listed below listed as tithonia rotundifolia/speciosa ‘torch’:
Find More Monarch Magnets on our Butterfly Flowers Page
Please post below if you have any questions or comments about growing Mexican sunflowers in your garden: