Tithonia - a different butterfly bush

CasaLester RTP, NC (7b)July 21, 2013

Butterfly lovers who would like to see a stronger visual effect than that of the official butterfly bush (genus Buddleja) may want to try one of the wild Mexican sunflowers (Tithonia). The fast growing annuals (4-5 ft in July after germination in late March) can be useful as fillers/placeholders in a garden under development. We have grown a cluster of a dozen of plants (spaced 2 ft, pinched at 12-18 in) of Tithonia speciosa 'Torch' that looks like a single bush and is covered with dozens of 3 in wide flowers of striking orange.

Pictured: flowers with Papilio polyxenes (black swallowtail) and Papilio glaucus (Eastern tiger swallowtail)

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CasaLester RTP, NC (7b)

Tithonia speciosa 'Torch' with female Papilio glaucus (Eastern tiger swallowtail)

    Bookmark   July 21, 2013 at 2:58PM
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dottie_in_charlotte(z7-8 NC)

Sounds like a great suggestion. I'll look for it next year.
When do they poop out and are the seeds they make sterile? Does it benefit by deadheading?

    Bookmark   July 21, 2013 at 10:06PM
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CasaLester RTP, NC (7b)

Since Tithonia is a tender annual, anything that pops out before the last freeze will die, so the effective germination start in the ground is the last freeze. This can be extended into the winter by pre-germinating in containers inside.
This is the first season so we haven't tested the produced seeds but we have no information that they would be sterile. Deadheading is indeed suggested to increase flowering and would also take care of self-seeding, although it may be useful to allow some seeds to mature for propagation. Also seeds are attractive to birds.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2013 at 4:57PM
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Plan to provide study stakes for Tithonia. Mine is at about 6' high today and still growing. Plant in groups of four or five set about 20" apart for a vibrant show of brilliant orange blossoms in full sun and covered with swallow tailed butterflies flitting about. Beautiful sight that stops traffic. Needs daily deadheading which is very easy. Sets viable seed heads much like sunflowers. A must plant annual which should be placed where all can enjoy the color. Lights up the neighborhood!

    Bookmark   July 22, 2013 at 8:15PM
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