If You Plant Just One Annual for Pollinators …

Pollinators love Mexican Sunflower (Tithonia rotundifolia). DSC_0101

I like to squeeze a few of these annuals into my perennial beds every year. I do it for the brilliant orange flowers, in part.

DSC_0937But I also do it because the Monarch butterflies love it.

DSC_0920Swallowtails and all kinds of other butterflies also love it.

DSC_0034And bees love it.


fennelEven Hummingbirds love it.

DSC_0044It’s a big, sprawling plant that grows 6-7 feet tall in our garden. It likes sun and hot weather.

DSC_0062In our garden at least, it’s not a plant that creates dense bursts of color. Rather, it provides a scattering of bright orange polka dots in the border. This year we planted four Mexican Sunflowers: three in the Driveway Border, and one in the Herb Bed.

DSC_0047One drawback to Mexican Sunflowers is that the branches have a tendency to break off of the main stem. For this reason I like to plant it with sturdy neighbors capable of providing support, like the Bronze Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) above. Either that or I stake it, securing the main stems with twine.

DSC_0024I first planted Mexican Sunflower almost by accident, when I bought some young plants out of curiosity at Anton’s, our neighborhood plant nursery. Ever since then, I’ve been hooked.

If you already grow Mexican Sunflower, you know what a great plant it is. If you don’t and you have a sunny spot, give yourself and the pollinators a favor and try it.

That’s all for now.

40 Comments on “If You Plant Just One Annual for Pollinators …”

  1. I love this plant and I’m so glad you are highlighting it! I did a large planting of it, using orange Cannas as the support plant and Verbena bonariensis as an accent/weaver plant. It turned out spectacularly and boy, did the Monarchs love it! We’d routinely see dozens of them at a time- and many other butterflies as well. Of course, in those day there were many more Monarchs.

  2. What great photos, Jason! Over the last few years, you’ve made me a believer. But so far, my success with them has been limited. Last year I planted them in too small a space, not realizing how big they could get. This year is a sad story, though: I planted them near a shed where they would get lots of sun and have room to sprawl. I neglected to tell my husband they were, there, though, and well…let’s just say they don’t respond well to weed-killer:( Hoping next year will be “third time’s the charm” and I can finally get it right for the pollinators.

  3. I would love to grow it, but it’s possible I’m allergic to it since I’m allergic to sunflowers. (I get a poison ivy-like rash & itchy blisters all over, plus my joints swell.) The thing is I’m not allergic to all plants in the aster family. I’m not allergic to asters actually. I’m on the fence. It’s so lovely.

  4. It was from you that I first learned of tithonia. Since then, I have grown them from seed every year. I have them in a couple of community gardens with which I’m involved and always get comments and questions from visitors and passers by. In my own garden today, they were covered with swallowtails, one monarch, and a bevy of bees. It’s hard to deadhead when the critters are there.

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