Titonia: how to plant and care in open ground

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Titonia: how to plant and care in open ground
Titonia: how to plant and care in open ground

Characteristics of the titonia plant, recommendations for planting and care in the open field, breeding rules, diseases and pests during cultivation, interesting notes and applications, species and varieties.

Tithonia is botanically classified as belonging to the Asteraceae family, which is sometimes referred to as Compositae. This is a fairly significant association of flora representatives, containing dicotyledonous plants, that is, those in the embryo of which there is a pair of cotyledons located opposite one another. The genus Titonium has eleven species. The area of ​​natural distribution is in Mexico, but one species extends in the southwestern United States, and several species in Central America. Two such species, Tithonia diversifolia and Tithonia rotundifolia, are widely cultivated and have escaped weed in tropical and subtropical regions around the world.

Family name Astral or Compositae
Vegetation time Perennial or annual
Vegetation form Herbaceous or semi-shrub
Reproduction methods Seeds
Open ground transplant period In June
Landing rules Not less than 0.5 m and more from each other
Priming Loose, nutritious, well-drained
Soil acidity values, pH 6, 5-7 (neutral)
Illumination degree Open and sunny place
Humidity parameters Moderate watering
Special care rules Fertilizers are needed in poor soil and a garter of the stems
Height options Up to 1, 5-2 m
Flowering period From late July to autumn
Type of inflorescences or flowers Basket inflorescences
Color of flowers Yellow, orange or reddish
Fruit type Achene with a tuft
The timing of fruit ripening At the end of summer or in September
Decorative period Summer-autumn
Application in landscape design For planting on flower beds and flower beds, for the formation of hedges or arches, for cutting
USDA zone 5 and higher

The roots of its name, the plant, in all likelihood, goes back to the name of the ruler of Troy - Titon, who is the favorite of Eos, the goddess of the morning dawn. Since the plant grows in nature in the Mexican lands, the people call it "Mexican sunflower".

Tithonia are divided into perennial and annual plants with a herbaceous or semi-shrub vegetation form, some species, such as Tithonia koelzii, are a small tree. In our latitudes, a Mexican sunflower is grown in the form of an annual. The stems of these representatives of the flora are characterized by branching, often lignification at the base. The height of such bushes can reach 1.5–2 m, while its diameter is almost the same size (about 1.5 m). A large number of shoots are formed in titonia, and through them a crown with spherical or pyramidal outlines is formed. Although the stems have rather significant parameters of height, they are distinguished by their firmness and density, do not require a garter, so they are not afraid of gusts of wind.

The leaf plates on the stems are arranged in the next order, attaching to them with petioles. Foliage is solid or divided into three lobes. The color of the deciduous mass is a rich green hue. Tithonia leaf plates take on oval or ovoid outlines. The apex is pointed, and at the base there is often a heart-shaped contour. There are so many leaves that the stems of the plant are practically hidden under them.The upper side of the leaves is glabrous and smooth, with pubescence on the back.

During flowering, which in titonia begins in mid-summer and can stretch until autumn days (often to the very frost), inflorescences form on the tops of the peduncles, their shape corresponds to all representatives of the Astrov family. So the inflorescences are represented by large baskets, in which there are a number of reed (marginal) flowers of rather large sizes along the edge, and a large number of small, tubular (central) flowers are located on the flower disk. With full disclosure, the diameter of the inflorescence is measured 5-8 cm.


Although the people have the name "Mexican sunflower", but titonia with this representative of the flora is united only by the structure of the inflorescence, which is rather separated by petals, reminiscent of dahlias.

The color of the reed flowers in the inflorescence is always very bright and takes on a yellow, orange or even reddish tint. Tubular flowers in the central part are only slightly (just a couple of tones) lighter than reed flowers, which is why the entire inflorescence has a more saturated color. The flower-bearing stems are elongated, strong and persistent, often towering above the deciduous mass, they are characterized in titonia by a green color and a bare smooth surface.

A distinctive feature of the genus is the pedicel, which is fistulosis (i.e., hollow and expanding towards the apex). When flowering over the plantings of a Mexican sunflower, a pleasant light aroma with a sweetish note is heard. After pollination of the inflorescence baskets, the fruits, represented by achenes with crests, ripen. Fruits begin to ripen from the end of summer.

It is not difficult to grow titonia, and even an inexperienced gardener can cope with this. Since in our regions the plant completely dies off for the winter months, but in essence is a perennial, then by transplanting a Mexican sunflower into a flowerpot and placing it in a heated room, it will be possible to grow such a representative of the flora for more than one season.

Recommendations for planting and caring for titonia in the open field

Tithonia blooms
  1. Landing place It is recommended to pick a Mexican sunflower open, and well-lit by the sun's rays from all sides. This will be the key to lush flowering and excellent growth of the bush. Do not place titonia in lowlands, where moisture from precipitation accumulates or there is a proximity to groundwater, since such a "neighborhood" can provoke the appearance of putrefactive diseases. Since the plant is thermophilic, it is worth protecting it from drafts and cold winds; for this, such plants are planted next to fences or garden buildings. In the case when the place is windy or the summer turns out to be cold and rainy, then this will immediately affect the titony. Its growth will be slowed down, and few buds will be formed, but, even when it opens, the duration of flowering will be greatly reduced.
  2. Soil for titonia it is important to choose nutritious, loose and high quality. This will be the key to the subsequent development of deciduous mass and long and lush flowering. It is better not to use heavy soil, since moisture stagnation in it will lead to the onset of putrefactive processes. If the substrate is dining, then a large number of buds will not open on the bush. To improve the characteristics of the soil mixture, in the first case, it is better to add river sand (for looseness), in the second - humus or compost (for nutritional value).
  3. Planting titonia in open ground should be carried out no earlier than the last days of May in order to protect plants from possible return frosts. Since the adult bushes of the Mexican sunflower are distinguished by their splendor, it is recommended to leave at least 50-60 cm or a little more between the seedlings. Before planting Tithonia seedlings, the soil is enriched with nutrients by adding compost or a standard dose of complete mineral fertilizer (for example, Kemiri-Universal).The soil needs to be dug up twice and fluffed up with a rake. A hole must be dug out commensurate with the earthy clod surrounding the root system of the titonia seedling. At the bottom, so that the roots of the plant do not become waterlogged in the future, it is recommended to lay a layer of drainage material (river sand or fine expanded clay). The seedling must be installed in the hole so that its root collar is at the same level. After planting Mexican sunflower seedlings, it is required to slightly squeeze the soil and water it abundantly.
  4. Watering when caring for titonia, regular but moderate is required. This is necessary to support the lush foliage so that the stems reach their maximum heights. It is also worth moistening the soil depending on the weather, in rainy days - watering is reduced. In dry and hot weather, planting Mexican sunflowers is watered every week, while trying to wet the substrate well and deeply. To prevent moisture from evaporating quickly, it is recommended to mulch the soil under the bush. For this, compost, peat or humus are used as mulch. This mulch layer should be at least 5–7 cm.
  5. Fertilizers when growing, titonia is not used, since planting requires the use of a fertile substrate. If the soil mixture was selected incorrectly or the soil mixture has become scarce, then during the growing season it will be necessary to perform three additional fertilizing. The first one 30 days after planting in open ground (you can use compost, ammonium nitrate, humus or the complete mineral complex Kemiru-Universal), which will contribute to the growth of deciduous mass. The second - at the budding stage for titonia, they introduce something like FloraBloom from GHE, Bona Forte, or use wood ash. The third - for the splendor of flowering at the very beginning, it is recommended to use mullein, Zircon or Agricola. If the dosage of fertilizers is exceeded, a large amount of green mass is formed and rot disease can begin.
  6. General rules of care. When growing titonia, pruning, as well as pinching the tops of the shoots, is not required, since by nature the plant has a lush and neat bush shape. It is important to regularly cut off withering inflorescences so that self-seeding does not occur, and the duration of flowering stretches to the very frost. If the planting was carried out on the windy side of the site, and the stems exceeded the meter indicators in height, then their lodging and curvature is possible. If a violation of the outlines of the titonia bush has begun, then it is recommended to tie the stems to the pegs dug in nearby (a circular method is used).
  7. Collecting titonia seeds it is recommended to be carried out in the middle of autumn (not earlier than October). At the same time, it is important to be careful so that when cutting the seed material does not spill out of the ripe and dry achene. The heads must be carefully cut from the flowering stems and laid out on a horizontal surface to dry. This can be done outdoors (under a canopy) or indoors, but it is important that ventilation is provided and the collected seeds are not blocked. After complete drying, these seed heads are folded into a cloth or paper bag and sent for storage until sowing.
  8. The use of titonia in landscape design. The plant will look great both solo (in the middle of the lawn or next to ground covers) and in group plantings (flower beds, flower beds or borders). Since the shoots of some varieties are of considerable height, such bushes of the Mexican sunflower can be planted next to the gates or gazebos. The same quality makes it possible, through the planting of titonia, to form hedges or arches, cover posts and mask garden buildings (sheds, latrines, etc.). Such bushes will become an excellent backdrop for representatives of garden flora that do not have similar sizes, therefore it is recommended to plant a Mexican sunflower in the background of mixborders.The best neighbors for titonia are peonies and chamomile, cochia and sage, marigold or verbena. You can also plant lupine, daisy and zinnias nearby. You can form a bouquet or other phytocomposition from bright inflorescences.

See also tips for growing arctotis outdoors.

Breeding rules for titonia

Titonia in the ground

In our latitudes, the Mexican sunflower is grown as an annual and for this, the seed propagation method is used, and it is recommended to grow seedlings. If the seed is sown directly into the soil, then the emerging plants will be weak and this will lead to a reduction in the duration of flowering and also affect the maturation of the seeds.

The last week of March or early April is suitable for sowing seeds. You need to bury the seeds in a container filled with fertile soil. The soil mixture can be a purchased composition intended for seedlings or peat combined in equal parts with river sand. Since the seeds of titonia are elongated and large in size (about 1 cm in length), as well as a rough surface, sowing is not difficult. It is recommended to leave a distance of about 10-15 cm between the seeds.


In order for the seeds of titonia to germinate better, it is necessary to prepare before sowing - soak for 3-4 days in a weak solution of potassium permanganate, wrapping it in a cloth (for example, in gauze).

When sowing, the seeds must be slightly pressed into the substrate and sprinkled on top with the same substrate. Then it is required to spray the crops from a spray bottle with warm water. The container with the crops is placed on the windowsill, with good lighting, but shading at noon, so that the direct streams of ultraviolet radiation at lunchtime do not burn young plants. The germination temperature should be around 18–20 degrees Celsius. When caring for the crops of titonia, it is recommended to let the soil surface dry out slightly, but not to bring it to acidification.

Young Mexican sunflower seedlings will appear together, in about 2-3 weeks. When 2 pairs of leaves develop on them, then you can start picking into separate pots. Maintenance also requires regular watering with warm water. Also, the seedlings of titonia must be hardened before planting in open ground. To do this, it is taken out for 10-15 minutes in the open air and such “walks” are gradually increased by 10-20 minutes, so that in the end the plants are spent outside around the clock.

Transplantation to a flower bed is carried out no earlier than the end of May. So that return frosts do not damage the plantings of titonia. Since the plant tends to grow, it is recommended to maintain the distance between the seedlings at least 0.5 m.

When growing a Mexican sunflower in the middle lane, sowing seeds can be carried out in open ground, but in greenhouses or greenhouses. Conditions should be semi-warm. Sowing time in this case can fall on April or March. The seedlings obtained in this way will be more robust. Picking is also done in garden containers or pots, but if at first the cultivation is carried out in the ground, it will give an excellent effect.

Read also about breeding saliva from seeds or dividing a bush

Possible diseases and pests when growing titonia in the garden

Blooming Tithonia

When grown in the garden, the Mexican sunflower shows amazing resistance to harmful insects, but cannot resist the invasion of aphids. Small green bugs settle on the back of the leaf plates and, piercing the leaf, suck out nutritious juices. Then there is a violation of breathing and the exchange of nutrients, due to which the foliage of the titonia turns yellow and falls off. In addition, aphids are a carrier of viral diseases that cannot be cured and the bushes will have to be destroyed.

Both traditional and commercial chemicals (insecticides) can be used to combat aphids.In the first case, an infusion is made on its own based on strong-smelling ingredients, such as wormwood, tobacco or chili pepper, garlic gruel or onion husks, pine needles. Biomass is poured into a container with water and left to ferment. After that, the solution is filtered and again diluted with water in a ratio of 1:10. Then the affected plants can be treated with titonia.

Of industrial insecticides, such drugs as Aktara, Actellik or Fundazol have proven themselves well. In any case, the treatment will have to be repeated after 7-10 days in order to destroy the new pests hatched from the eggs.

The next problem when growing titonia in rainy weather is slugs or snails. These gastropods crawl down and nibble on the foliage of the Mexican sunflower. To protect the planted shrubs, gardeners sprinkle crushed eggshells, lime or wood ash between them. You can collect pests by hand or use metaldehyde products like Meta-Thunder.

Also, if the rules of agricultural technology were violated, in particular watering and the soil became very wet, without the possibility of drying out, then the titonia can be affected by various rot. At the same time, the foliage wilts, as if in drought, but the stems are covered with bloom or dark spots, and the inflorescence baskets become brown and rot. It is important to recognize the disease in time and treat the bushes with fungicidal agents (for example, Fundazole or Bordeaux liquid). It is necessary to equalize the irrigation regime, and in rainy weather, stop watering altogether.

Read also about diseases and pests of acroclinum

Interesting notes about the titonia flower, application

Titonia grows

In areas of natural growth, Mexican sunflowers are actively used as a material for the preparation of fertilizers (compost). Tithonia diversifolia can be used as biomass of organic fertilizers. Biomass refers to materials obtained from a plant, such as its leaves, that are introduced into the soil as dry fertilizer. To increase the nutritional value of the soil, the aboveground part of the plant is used as mulch, which can be spread on the surface of the soil or buried under it. The advantage here is that the fertilizer application increases the yield. T. diversifolia has the ability to reduce phosphorus in large quantities in the soil, since it contains 1.76% N, 0.82% P and 3.92% K as a fertilizer. All three properties are lower in cattle manure, and P is higher. from poultry and pig manure.

Research on the use of this “green manure” on tomato plants shows that it serves to increase yields that benefit farmers. In other studies, it has been found that for maize, the overall demand for such a titonia feed compared to the financial outlook is meaningless, especially in areas with unpredictable rainfall. The same study also showed that the cultivation of Tithonia diversifolia on farmland is not economically beneficial. Instead, it is better to collect such plants outside of the cultivated area of ​​agricultural land and transport them to the fields.

Interestingly, the fields that received only conventional full fertilizers generated an income of $ 50 / ha for the farmers. When only titonia varifolia was used, this income rose to US $ 494 / ha. Collecting and distributing this fertilizer on the ground by hand is very labor intensive. The best yields are obtained when this plant is grown directly on site so as not to occupy the growing space. For this reason, once the time spent on wages has been accounted for, this approach may not be beneficial to the farmer.

Since the use of titonia as a fertilizer requires a lot of effort, it is recommended to combine it with such valuable crops as tomato, cabbage, carrots and corn.For this use, the plant is first grown on hedges around the edges of forest land. However, it is important to maintain the maximum growing area that the farmer has.

The green stems (non-lignified parts), leaves and flowers of Tithonia varifolia can be removed from the plant at a time chosen by the farmer, although it is recommended that cutting every 5 months provides sufficient nutrients in the biomass. Biomass can also be used as mulch and can be left on the soil surface to decompose to the ground. It was found that parts of the plant quickly break down and quickly release nutrients. When mulch or biomass of Tithonia varifolia is introduced into the soil, it should be applied in an amount of at least one ton per hectare of land. However, the best yield is obtained with an application of 5 tons / ha.

The disadvantage here is that a lot of foliage is needed to cover a small area of ​​land because it has a high water content. Mixing this biomass with synthetic fertilizer will yield higher yields. The study showed that when using Tithonium with triple superphosphate (TSP), the yield increased by 220% compared to a control test containing only inorganic nitrogen fertilizer (urea). When using T. diversifolia, it should be supplemented with magnesium fertilizer, as this nutrient is insufficient compared to other green fertilizers.

Various-leaved titonia has found its application in poultry and animal husbandry. Such biomass can also be used as feed for chickens, firewood, soil erosion control and building materials.

In the native territories of natural growth of Tithonia varifolia, it is actively used by folk healers for the treatment of many diseases.

Types and varieties of titonia

Despite the fact that there are almost a dozen species in the genus, the following varieties and varieties derived from them are mainly grown in our gardens:

In the photo, Tithonia is round-leaved

Tithonia rotundifolia

is a herbaceous annual, the stems of which can vary in height in the range of 0, 4–1, 5 m, but under natural conditions, some specimens can grow up to 8 meters. The color of the shoots with a slight reddish tinge, there is a slight pubescence on the surface. The leaf plates are characterized by large sizes, their shape is heart-shaped and three-lobed. The leaves are crenate, their upper side is glabrous and smooth, with a silky pubescence on the back. Foliage is attached to the stems with petioles.

During summer flowering (from the end of July to the first frost), inflorescences-baskets are formed on long flowering stems of round-leaved titonia. Their diameter reaches 5–8 cm. In their outlines, the inflorescences are somewhat similar to dahlias with a non-double structure. Along the edge there is one row of reed colors, painted in orange, reddish-orange or red color. In the central part there are tubular flowers of a yellow hue. During flowering, a light pleasant aroma spreads.

Tithonia round-leaved as a cultivated plant has been cultivated since 1733. The plant, when flowering, attracts a large number of butterflies to the backyard. Designed for planting on flower beds or borders (due to the size of the shoots in the background). If the plantings are single, then protection from the wind will be required by tying the shoots. Can be grown as a pot plant.

In its native lands, this species is called "red sunflower" or "Mexican sunflower" and is sometimes grown as an ornamental plant and has become naturalized in some of these places. In Africa, the plant has been recorded at 1580 m above sea level.

The basic type of round-leaved titonia was used in breeding robots for the development of new varieties. The most popular today are:

  • Red lantern is a bushy plant, the shoots of which reach a height of one and a half meters.In summer, large inflorescences-baskets resembling bright daisies or gerberas open on flower-bearing stems. The color of the reed petals in the inflorescences is terracotta and orange.
  • Torch - a variety of round-leaved titonia, not exceeding the height of its shoots of 1.5 meters. In this case, the width of the bush is half a meter. On the bush in the summer, flowers open with a reddish tint, while the peduncle has the same color.
  • Fiesta del Sol it is characterized by a shrub shape and a height of no more than 50 cm. The size of the flowers covering it is slightly smaller, their color is orange.
  • Yellow Torch the height of the shoots of this variety of the round-leaved titonia bush is measured at 1, 2 m, flowers of a yellow hue flaunt on the peduncles.
  • Goldfinger is the lowest member of the genus, characterized by orange flowers.
In the photo Titonia varifolia

Tithonia diversifolia

is native to Mexico and Central America, but has an almost pan-tropic distribution as an introduced species. The species was transferred to parts of Africa and Asia as an ornamental plant and became a widespread invasive weed. It is most often found in areas with an altitude of 550 to 1950 m. In these lands, the plant can be called Mexican Tournesol, Mexican sunflower, Japanese sunflower or Nitobe chrysanthemum. Depending on the area, they can be either annual or perennial. Tithonia varifolia has shown great potential for increasing fertility in nutrient-poor soils. When applied to the substrate, biomass increases the productivity of plants and nutrients in the soil of nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P) and potassium (K).

The height of the stems is 2–3 m with vertical and sometimes woody stems in the form of woody shrubs. The large, showy flowers range in color from yellow to orange. The width of the flowers of Tithonia variegated at full disclosure reaches 5–15 cm, the length is 10–30 cm. The leaves are oval, serrated, sharp, 10–40 cm long, simple or predominantly 3–7 lobed, somewhat glandular and slightly grayish below. Seeds are seed, quadrangular, 5 mm long. The seeds are spread by the wind. The leaves of the plant alternate to the sides, on the stalks where they grow, because of this, the plant is called diversifolia. In places of natural growth, the species can grow throughout the year, and its seeds are spread by wind, water and animals.

Titonia diversifolia is marketed in Taiwan for herbal medicine applications. The plant is recognized as the symbol of Mae Hong Son province, Thailand, and is also the unofficial symbol of Dalat, Vietnam.

Related article: Planting and caring for ageratum in the open field

Video about growing titonia in open ground:

Photos of titonia:

Photo of Tithonia 1 Photo of Tithonia 2 Photo of Tithonia 3 Photo of Tithonia 4 Photo of Tithonia 5

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