The Tithonia, also known as The Mexican Sunflower is a member of the Daisy family and native to Mexico and Central America where it grows in the brush or among the scrubby grasses at the sides of roads or forests. Spanish explorers discovered the plant during their early excursions into Mexico and brought it back to Europe in the 1500's. By the 1700's it was being grown in the United States and Thomas Jefferson had included it in his Monticello gardens.
In the wild, the plant grows to 6 or more feet on stems which can be hairy. It produces orange-yellow, daisy-like flowerheads. The cultivated plant grows to a height of 3-6 feet and produces large, deep orange to rust colored blossoms that are 3-4 inches in diameter. The flowers resemble single layered dahlias. The flowers make excellent cut flowers usually lasting for well over a week. The plants are known to produce prolifically if they are routinely deadheaded.
Mexican Sunflowers are fairly easy to grow from seed. When the danger of frost has passed, plant the seeds 1/2 inch deep. The seeds will germinate in less than 14 days. Thin seedlings to 8-12 inches. The plants will grow in many soil types, but they thrive in composted soil. The plants must also have full sun. They are extremely drought and heat tolerant and deer do not appear to like them.