Mexican Sunflower

Monarch Butterflies Hold a ‘Torch’ for Tithonia

Tithonia rotundifolia ‘torch’, Tithonia speciosa ‘torch’ common name: Mexican Sunflower

Mexican Sunflowers get Monarchs in the Mood for More Garden Visits- a Top 5 Butterfly Garden Plant.
Love ‘Mexican’ Style

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
From Florida to Minnesota, the bright orange blooms of Mexican sunflowers are a favorite lnectar source for magnificent monarch butterflies. More photos, video, info, and seeds...
Photo Courtesy of Linda Dunbar-Orgain, Fl.

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
Mexican Sunflowers bloom all summer long and are an Absolute Favorite Nectar Flower for both Magnificent Monarchs and Hyper-winged Hummingbirds.
Orange Brilliance

Tithonia ‘Torch’ Growing Tips

If you're a northern gardener, don't waste valuable bloom time by sowing Mexican sunflower seeds after final frost. Start spring sowing containers for early germination or buy plants. Your garden will be rewarded with a bounty of butterflies...
Minnesota Mexican Sunflower in Early June…with a head start!
  • 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 a half dose of all-purpose water soluble 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 ?

Hummingbirds Love Torch Tithonia and pretty much ignore the hummingbird feeder once these brilliant orange blooms unfold.
Summer Hummer

Pollinator Plus

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.)

It's not unusual to see multiple monarchs feasting on the nectar-rich blooms of Mexican sunflowers....a must have annual for a successful butterfly garden!
A Feast for the Eyes

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’:

1. Find Mexican Sunflower Plant and Seeds on Etsy

2. Tithonia Rotundifolia Seeds from Joyful Butterfly

3. Find Orange, Yellow, or Red ‘Torch’ Mexican Sunflowers

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:

Share the Joy of Butterflies


  1. Hi Tony. Just have a question about dead heading. Do you remove just the flower bud? Or do you cut back he stem as well?

    Thanks for sharing your knowledge and experiences with us!


    1. Hi Alane, for Mexican sunflowers, we cut back the spent blooms, but we also cut back some stems to promote bushier growth…it grows back quickly

  2. I’m pretty sure I started with Torch, but I’ve been saving seeds for the past three or four years, so they could have mixed with some other varieties by now. I let Lathyrus tingitanus vines grow up through the tithonia, which helps anchor the tall plants to adjacent structures. Hummingbirds like the pink flowers on the Tangier sweet pea vines, and the color contrast is fun.

  3. We live in between Orlando and Daytona beach Florida. My wife planted Mexican sunflowers from seed. We get butterflies all day long. It seems like we get more the day after a heavy rain. We sit in our swing late in the evening with our favorite beverage and enjoy the show. We will plant more as time goes on.

  4. Hi Tony . . . Love your website and blog. Thank you for sharing your knowledge with the world!

    I have ‘Torch’ Tithonia and I agree that it feeds a plethora of flying objects . . . LOL

    My problem: It gets sick early and gets worse as the season progresses. First, the leaves turn brown/grey. Then it gets powdery mildew.

    Do I strip the plant of leaves if they are all infected? Are there any sprays I can make/use that will not harm the monarchs, hummingbirds, bees, etc.?

    I’m in a condo, so I do not have control of the irrigation. It goes on for about 10 minutes three times a week. The ground is typically pretty dry . . . if I hand water, would that help?

    I also have asclepias growing amongst the tithonia. They too get sick with spider mites.

    Woe is me! Please help! Thanks so much!

  5. I live in zone 9b in Florida. Have a plant that was transplanted last year. It grew to 6 feet but never bloomed.

    I have transplanted it again to full sun. It is now 9 feet and healthy. Still
    No sign of blooms.

    There was a bloom on the 1 gallon plant I purchased last year, so I know it bloomed once.

    I bought my friend one, too. Hers has never bloomed either, though it too is huge and healthy.

    1. Hi Joyce, are you fertilizing? If so, you might want to try a fertilizer that promotes flowering and not a general fertilizer. I’m not sure if there are other issues specific to the growing conditions in your region. I have never experienced this issue in our northern garden…

  6. I have mine in a container how can I save the seeds some flowers have died but so many are just beautiful want to keep it growing Did not know about cutting it back to make it fuller thanks for the link so helpful I live in Fl. so it is hot

    1. Hi Pyllis, we typically cuts ours back to encourage bushier growth…depending on the size of your container, that chould also limit its growth…good luck

  7. Thanks for responding! And for the tip. I’ll be sure to give them lots of room.

  8. I’m planning a new garden this year & want to include Mexican Sunflowers. I know the standard sunflowers are allelopathic – do you know if that’s true for this plant as well? I’ve not been able to find much online. Thanks!

    1. Hi Lisa, I have never heard of any chemical issues growing Mexican sunflowers has had on other plants. I’d be more worried about planting too close because of the growth habit…tall and wide.

  9. I bought two packets of Mexican sunflowers. Planted seed from one package which ended up being around 50 seed in peat pellets. They took less than a week to sprout (at least 2/3 of them) Anything special I need to be doing for them while they are growing and waiting to be planted outside? NE Ohio

  10. Hi,
    I have a Mexican sunflower in a container that I put in our unheated garage in order to save the plant’s seed heads for planting in the spring. We have had many below freezing days here in Pennsylvania. Will freezing damage the seeds? I didn’t get a chance to harvest them and bring them inside.

    1. Hi Donna, it will probably kill some of the seeds, but I would guess many would still be viable…all you can do is try planting them in spring. good luck!

  11. When do you cut your Mexican sunflowers back and by how much. I grew about six of these on your advice and they were a HUGE hit with my butterflies and hummingbirds. Unfortunately, about 2 weeks before the fall migration began we had a late season thunderstorm here in Oklahoma (zone 7a) with high winds and torrential rains that toppled my 7 foot plants ?? I felt like I had sufficiently staked them… I’m thinking next year I might try the tripod tomato cages for staking?

    1. Hi Gina, we cut back at some point in July, and then ended up staking one in early August because of all the rain we were having…yes, a tomato cage sounds like it will protect the plants a little more…good luck!

  12. I live in Baltimore Maryland , zone 7. Mexican sunflowers are a must for my garden, I just throw the seeds around . then when they are ready they come up all over my garden. They attract a lot of different butterflies. They are easy to grow and very dramatic and look like orange velvet. Most of the photos of monarchs that I have taken are on Mexican sunflowers. Tiger swallowtails love them too. You can buy seeds from eBay and Amazon too.

    1. I’m from Carlisle PA (about an hour or so north of Baltimore) and my plants are at full maturity and are attracting more Monarchs than I have ever seen. It’s a beautiful sight. I grew them from seeds indoor.

  13. This is my first year for Mexican Sunflowers and WOW! am I ever in love. My butterflies are absolutely loving them!

  14. I nipped the bud s off my thithonia this spring in the hopes of keeping bushier and less tall thithonia plants
    Seems to be working in Illinois but the flowers are just starting to bloom now on July 15 which seems a bit late
    Was this the only way to keep bushes growing shorter and fuller?

    1. Hi Sheila, we start with plants which makes a big difference in northern regions. You are in good shape though if yours have started to bloom…many in cooler regions still have small plants that aren’t even close to putting out flowers. I’m not aware of any other way to promote bushy plant growth. You don’t have to cut it back very far though…it shouldn’t delay flowers for too long.

  15. I started my seeds in early March this year (central Indiana), no flowers yet but my two plants are about 12″ high and I expect them soon.
    I’m so impatient for blooms – do you have tips for overwintering these plants so I get a jumpstart for next year’s blooms? Could I overwinter some stem cuttings? Thanks!!!

    1. Hi Laura, we have never overwintered Mexican sunflowers (T. rotundifolia) before and I’m not sure how that would work, but it would make for an interesting experiment. We have successfully overwintered tithonia diversifolia but that is considered more of a perennial.

      Starting with plants in northern regions makes a big difference. Our first Mexican sunflower bloomed yesterday, July 1. Good luck with your plants and check out this overwintering info:

      Overwintering Butterfly Plants

    2. I’m also in central Indiana. I started my Mexican sunflowers from seed indoors in March. I also directed-sowed a few after frost. My plants are probably no higher than 8 inches with no sign of blooms to come! They get full sun. I can’t figure out what has gone wrong!

  16. I have what I’ve been told is a Mexican Sunflower; however, it is a very tall bush with large yellow flowers. Does anyone know if this is also a Mexican sunflower but a different cultivar than the orange, zinnia-looking plants?

    1. Hi Kathleen, there is a yellow version of the ‘torch’ variety which is the plant most people are familiar with. There is also Tithonia diversifolia, which is commonly called the Bolivian sunflower.

  17. Do you know a place where I can purchase the plants that have not been treated with Neonics by mail order?

  18. Hi! Bought a packet of seeds in a hardware store and planted them. It is now thriving and blooming so beautifully! And I live in the Philippines! A tropical country and the flowers havent withered at all. Such a delight and breathe of fresh air from the usual flora you can see in my neighbor. Doesnt take much effort to take care too!

  19. I am new to the Melbourne Palm Bay Area and I saw a hug sunflower/daisy type bush! It was over 10′ tall and full of boooms! I took a cutting off it and it smells so sweet, it looks like the Mexican sunflower based on some of the pictures I have seen. But I want to know how easy or hard it is to root a cutting from this plant? Anyone got any advise?
    Also I wanted to know if there are any seed/plant swap in this area? How would I find out about them? Are the posted somewhere?
    Thanks for your time

  20. I started both Red ‘Torch’ Mexican Sunflower seeds and Yellow ‘Torch’ Mexican Sunflower seeds. The Red ‘Torch’ Mexican Sunflower seeds germinated, but the yellow ones did not sprout. I tried the yellow ones again, and still no success. Have you noticed that the yellow ones are more difficult to start from seed?

    1. Hi Terry, I’ve only grown the yellow ‘torch’ one time, but only one plant survived. Part of it was poor germination, the dagger was rabbit munching. I have never heard anyone discuss this, but maybe someone will chime in with their experience.

  21. In addition to my above question do the deer bother the Mexican sunflowers?

    1. Mexican sunflowers are supposed to be deer resistant, but I’ve heard several reports that the deer don’t agree ?

    2. I live in a neighborhood with many deer. When my orange Torch sunflower was small, I protected it with a commercial deer repellent spray made with putrefied egg solids. At 4 feet tall, some leaves were eaten. Now that it is over 7 feet tall, I still spray it occasionally, but the deer have not been bothering it.

  22. I read in one of your responses that you have had trouble with rabbits eating the Mexican sunflowers. Do the rabbits seem to leave them alone when the sunflowers get larger?

    1. Hi Terry, the problem was they weren’t given the chance to grow large! Rabbits never bothered them before, but a couple years ago they started mowing them down. We have a rabbit fence around our entire garden (s) now… If that’s an option for you, I highly recommend it!

      Rabbit Fencing Options

  23. I live in south central Pennsylvania, and have six plants of Tithonia “Torch”. I started the plants from seed in the spring, and planted them in soil heavily amended with compost, alfalfa meal, well-rotted manure, and beneficial microbes/fungi. The plants are going nuts in this dirt, since they now range from 8 to 12 feet high, with a super-abundance of blooms (I religiously dead-head daily to keep the flowers coming). Now in mid-September, the blooms are frequented by monarchs (the first I’ve seen here in six years), great-spangled fritillaries, tiger swallowtails, and ruby-throated hummingbirds. I love these plants.

  24. i saw Tithonia for the first time at Sissinghurst UK yesterday. The flowers are so healthy and bright that I am going to find the seed and try them . I live in East Anglia , the driest and sunniest part of the UK. I am interested to see which butterflies would be attracted here..maybe painted ladies

    1. Hi Sally, if you have any swallowtail species in the UK, they will probably find it. I look forward to hearing how this works for you and what it attracts…tithonia is an amazing butterfly draw across the entire US.

  25. What does it mean the plant needs to be regularly deheaded? Sorry, but this is the first year I’ve had this plant. I started them from seeds & now that my first one has bloomed, I think they’re incredibly beautiful – I live in an apt. so I have them in a 26″ half whisky barrel along w/some varieties of Sunflowers (Chianti Reds & Mammoth) – they seem to be doing quite well w/just the first flower coming out today & there are more that look close to opening up. Any help/comments appreciated.

      1. I don’t deadhead my Tithonia, and I have plenty of repeat flowering. If you leave the flowers alone, they will produce seeds for the birds to enjoy.

  26. Why you don’t find this plant more often is a mystery to me – healthy, huge, bright and hands down the best butterfly attractant in the garden. All that and it’s a nitrogen fixer. That’s right it improves the soils where it’s planted organically.

    1. I agree. Very underrated annual. BUT, I cannot find Fiesta del Sol seeds anywhere online this year. Everyone is sold out or not available. I wonder why? I used to find the seeds so easily I never bothered saving seeds myself. I’d love to get my hands on some again.

  27. I live in midlands of south carolina . As I was preparing my garden this spring, I had tilled a little and fixed my raised bed I noticed my zinnias from last year coming up and I noticed something that I knew was not a weed coming up. Last year I had gotten a small packet of Mexican sunflower seed and planted in the garden. I even saved some of the seed for this year. But I did not need them. I have about 2 dozen plants coming up in my garden now. I have moved some of them to another flowerbed. The are so beautiful, can’t believe I had never seen them before.

  28. Ooh, ooh, ooh. I take my dogs out walking early in the morning and I see these types of plants growing wild everywhere (and by the way in those areas I see lots of butterflies). Do you think that I could dig them up to plant in my yard? This is so dang exciting. If I take some pictures of the other plants, do you think that you could tell me if they are good for butterflies?

    1. Hi Melanie, I’ve never transplanted a large plant, but I would guess it might work since it is not a rhizomatous plant. If some of the flowers/foliage look too stressed after transplanting, you can also cut them back since it’s a continuous growing plant. If it’s T. diversifolia, you could just take stem cuttings and start new plants. Good luck!

  29. Hi,
    I was wondering if it is possible to buy the mexican sunflower in florida and if so where would I find it.Any info would be appreciated.

    1. Hi Becky, your best bet for plants would be a local nursery. The do grow pretty quickly from seed in warm regions.

    2. I bought my seeds at Lowes in South FL, Broward County. I planted them last week and they sprouted in 4 days!

  30. Can I grown Mexican Sunflowers in containers, and will they stay smaller that way? We don’t have a big enough yard for a 3 ft x 6 ft flower, but would love to try them in a container if it would result in a smaller plant!

    1. Hi Tina, I haven’t personally grown them in containers, but that should keep them in check and limit their growth. I would love to hear how this is working out for you later in the season…good luck!

  31. I am still raising Monarchs in Southern California, …all through December I brought caterpillars inside and fed them cuttings each day. I think we benefited from the migration in early fall ..I am now finishing the cutting back of the tropical milkweed plants.
    We released several beautiful Monarchs. .the most recent one I feed sliced orange with sugar sprinkled on it to try to give the poor guy n some energy. Had been cloudy but we did have a few hours of sun. He flew up on our tile roof and then away.
    Currently I have two chrysalises and one mid sized caterpillar in my indoor cages. Then this will be it until later on this spring. Has been an interesting year. .problems in the hot summer with the Tachnid Fly but not in the fall months. .
    I’ve had many hobbies during my life (78 later this month). Never anything as rewarding as my Butterflies.thanks for all the information and assistance.
    Ginny Belba, Duarte,CA.

    1. Hi Ginny, I’m so glad you have found such a rewarding hobby, and one that is helping to support monarchs and other pollinators. Enjoy your extended season…

  32. I grew Mexican Sunflowers for the first time this year in our big field (about a 50 foot row, in front of four 100 foot rows of more traditional sunflowers), and they attracted a wide variety of butterflies. Only saw a few monarchs, but saw a lot of other kinds. Did not see hummingbirds. When they were in full bloom there were 100’s of different kinds of butterflies attracted to them, and I did get a few great pictures.

    1. Hi Thomas, that must have been amazing to witness so much butterfly activity. Perhaps all the butterfly activity scared the hummers away. Hopefully you can host both next season…good luck!

      1. Absolutely will plant again; they were one of my wife’s favorites this last year. We took several pictures of different kinds of butterflies on them, and used them to make note cards. This flower is very prolific, and makes a great cut flower as well.

  33. Hi! Love the Mexican Sunflower, Torch Flower. I am photography from out my window the Monarchs on them right now, mid October, and the Hummers were here before I think they all flew south. I am in Tennessee. They just love this Flower. The two Monarchs I seem to have, I am kind of in the woods, hard to find, go repeatedly from one flower to the next and then repeat. So happy I have something so nourishing to feed them. My Butterfly Bush Flowers kind of did not do so good this year. Needed to weed under them and got too busy with other stuff. But these Sunflowers are their favorite anyway. Do you know what makes them feed the Hummers and Butterflies so well? I read what was in them but I have forgotten the details; all I know is that they are super nutritious for them. Great website! Thanks!

    1. Hi Patty, I’m glad you have been able to experience the sheer magic of tithonia. I’m not sure why monarchs and hummers flock to it, but they obviously prefer the nectar over many other garden flowers. Butterfly bushes are good too but, like you said, you have to keep up with the deadheading.

  34. I live in central Florida zone 9b. It’s the beginning of August so we still have some warm days before winter. I want to start plants now. Would that work for me and the butterflies? Please reply. Flower beds are all set to go.

    1. Hi Thelma, are you planning on starting seeds or plants? If starting seeds your hot summer might be too much for the seedlings. You could try planting plants now, but if you’re starting seeds I would wait until it cools down a bit. Also, I suggest talking to a local nursery with experience growing in your region. I am growing ‘torch’ up in Minnesota…good luck!

  35. I live in southeastern PA and started my seeds indoors in March. I planted outside at end of May, due to late frost this year. My plants are still only 3″ tall. Hoping they will take off in July. If I ever get flowers this year, I’ll save seeds & start in February next year.

    1. Hi Tammy…they really start to take off in the summer heat. We used a combination fish/seaweed fertilizer on our small plants this spring and that really jump-started them. They are over 4 feet except the ones that got mowed down by rabbits :/

      Check out the fertilizer on our resource page…I’m sure other fertilizers would be effective too:

      Butterfly Garden Resources

  36. Hi Tony,

    We live in Northern California (East Bay) area close to Napa, Sonoma.

    I want to plant my two tier 60′ long retaining wall which faces NW for the Monarchs & hummingbirds to thrive in.

    Which plants/flowering are best suited for this NW facing exposure to give us possibly year round color and attract those beautiful visitors?

    P.S. our Zip Code is 94526=Zone 9b

    Thanks, Diane

    1. Hi Diane, I am a northern butterfly gardener so I can’t speak from first-hand experience about what will grow best in your region. You are on the right track with Mexican sunflowers. If you want continuous blooms, lantana and zinnias come in a variety of colors and are butterfly favorites. For more info check out this local resource for ideas:

      Butterfly Gardening in Northern California

  37. Hey, thank you so much for the info. I am a “northerner” planting the torch mexican sunflower this year in hopes of attracting hummingbirds. When/where is the Fiesta Del Sol?

    1. Hi Frank, hummingbirds love torch. I would stick with the regular variety though. When we planted Fiesta del sol, I never saw a hummingbird on it. And if you do try it, I would suggest planting both varieties in case it’s a dud for you too. There is also a yellow torch variety that attracts lots of pollinators. Good luck!

  38. Hi Tony,
    Do you have any leads where I can get some plants?

    1. Hi Chris, your best bet is to find them at a local plant sale, but you can also start seeds 4-6 weeks before last frost….

      1. If I cut back my plant, and cover before frost (Michigan)… Will it come back in spring? Or do I have to start over? Drying seeds from plant for next year just in case.

        1. Hi Theresa, it’s an annual in northern gardens. Starting seeds indoor about a month before planting will extend the bloom season. good luck!

    2. Hi Chris,
      FYI, if you want to purchace Mexican Sunflower Plants you can purchase them at
      However, shipping is bit expensive, but if you didn’t plant seeds this year, it’s an alternative. Mine were all gobbled up by birds, next year, I will start them indoors as I have in the past.
      Good Luck!

  39. Tithonia torch is definitely a butterfly magnet for Monarchs and Swallowtails, as well as bumble bees and hummingbirds. Cardinals also love the seed heads.

  40. We started growing them 3 years ago. We love them so much. Never have I seen so many hummingbirds in my life. Also, I noticed the monarch butterflies too. And that has been a treat. Such a resilient flower/plant. I picked up a pack of seeds out of curiosity while getting regular sunflower seeds and it has been one enjoyable year after another. We also dont need to buy seeds anymore. We have been using the seeds from the first plants we planted. Amazing!!!

    1. Hi Richard, I am happy to hear you have had great success with yours too! The hummingbirds are a huge bonus. We also have a lot of swallowtails and bees that visit. Seeds are a great option for southern gardeners, but the plants take to long to bloom up north. A good compromise (for northerners) is getting one or two plants and then also planting seeds. It really extends the flowering season and attracts more pollinators to your garden.

  41. I love the Mexican Sunflower,I grow it on all three light posts .

  42. Does just one Mexican sunflower seed grow a large bushy plant or just one main stem?

    1. yes Crystal….one seed can grow a very large plant, with lots of additional stems growing from the main one.

Comments are closed.