The Orange Daisies of Summer

Summer is coming. I know because last Saturday I planted Mexican Sunflower (Tithonia rotundifolia). This is the moment every year when I feel that spring is starting to fade away and summer is coming over the horizon.

tithonia just planted
Mexican Sunflower tucked into the Driveway Border.

Mexican Sunflowers are something of a signature plant for my garden in summer and early fall.

2014-07-04 16.28.05 Tithonia, Mexican sunflower
Mexican sunflower with bee.

I buy my Mexican Sunflowers as young plants from Anton’s, a nursery about a mile from my house. Anton’s is run by people who are all about the plants, and I feel lucky to have this independent business right in the neighborhood. I rely on Anton’s for annual plants because frequent travel makes it difficult for me to grow annuals from seed.

anton 3
Anton’s is a pretty no-frills establishment.

May can be a frustrating month for me. So much is happening in the garden, but it is also a very busy time at work. I’m typically out of town Monday through Friday, and garden deprivation can make me pretty grumpy.

anton's 2
I like poking around the cold frames.

However, a visit to Anton’s on a Saturday morning can restore the feeling that at least some things are right with the world.

Timing can be tricky when it comes to planting Mexican Sunflower. It’s a fairly tender annual that will rot in the ground if the soil is too cold. On Saturday I thought conditions were probably right for the Mexican Sunflower but not ready for the tomatoes, which will wait for another week.

7-22 Cardinal Flowers 2
Cardinal Flower

In addition to the Mexican Sunflowers I also bought several Cardinal Flowers (Lobelia cardinalis). I had stopped growing these perennials because they tend to be short lived. However, I grew one in a container last year and decided it was so beautiful that I would just replace it every couple of years if I had to.

new plants
Part of last Saturday’s haul from the nursery.

After that my CPBD (Compulsive Plant Buying Disorder) kicked in and I started grabbing plants at random. Plant nurseries can do that to me. The extent of my purchases didn’t really sink in until after I had driven home and returned to normal consciousness.

Now while I am out of town I can think about those Mexican Sunflowers tucked away in my garden, with their promise of warm summer days and orange daisies.

36 Comments on “The Orange Daisies of Summer

  1. Do you pinch your Mexican sunflowers so they make more lateral branches, and therefore more flowers? I started a bunch of these from seed this year, and I’ve been hoping to get them in the ground soon. I didn’t realize they were so susceptible to cold. It’s still very cold and wet here.

    • I generally don’t pinch them but maybe I should. Mainly I just cut off broken stems, which become common late in the season.

  2. I started some!from seed this year and just transplanted them outside. I suspect they won’t make it, but thought I would give them a try.

  3. It is funny how we can lose all conscientiousness when we step into a nursery especially this time of year. It will be nice to see those tall sunny orange daisies bouncing about in the wind this summer. The butterflies and bees will thank you.

  4. I don’t think I’ve ever seen Mexican Sunflowers for sale here, so you are lucky to have a nursery near you that carries it. Luckily, I have a couple seedlings started from seed–now I just have to remember to plant them where they will have room to grow:) I, too, am afflicted with CPBD; my back porch looks like a nursery right now:)

  5. They are beauties! It must be very hard to be so busy in May, prime gardening time.

    • It is hard, I confess I am frequently grumpy in May – especially when I finally have a couple of days at home and it rains!

  6. I love Mexican Sunflowers, which I got to know from your blog. I can’t get plants here, so I sow my own seed…. but this year only one germinated! It has pride of place in a large pot in front of my living room window, but is so much smaller than yours! I hope it flowers well to make up for the lack of plants. I shall in any case look forward to your summer photos!

    • Do you have mild summers? Mexican Sunflower likes hot summers – which we have, along with our cold winters. Anyhow, I hope your Tithonia gives you lots of orange flowers!

      • We do have hot (very hot) summers. I have sad news, the sole Tithonia plant succumbed to snails. No Tithonia for me this year! 😦 Hope to see lots of pictures of yours as consolation! 😉

  7. I always enjoy reading your blog and hope you get back to your garden ASAP.. We’re finally warming up her in Oregon, so we’ll be planting our containers soon – can’t wait.

  8. Your Tithonias are way ahead of mine, which still look tiny. I much prefer the jam packed, no-frills nursery operations to the glitz of chains, especially those that bring in the not-so-common varieties.

  9. Bought Tithonia seeds this year because of enjoying yours in past years. Didn’t get them planted yet. Buying plants sounds like the way to go.

  10. I do love your Mexican sunflowers! It must be hard being away from the garden so much, I hate leaving mine, don’t mind that much in February though. I can imagine you thinking about your garden while working away, I bet you can’t wait to retire. I’m the same as you, every time I visit a garden center I go slightly crackers, supermarkets are the same, I forget about food and buy

    • You’re right, I really can’t wait to retire. Another 3 to 6 years, depending on whether or not I can take a reduced pension.

  11. I’m so allergic to sunflowers, and they are so pretty. Maybe Mexican sunflowers aren’t REAL sunflowers?…Something else I need to check on. CPBD takes over the mind and leaves you vulnerable. Don’t feel bad.

    • Well, sunflowers and Mexican sunflowers are in different genera – Helianthus and Tithonia. They’re both in the Aster family, though. Apparently, some people are allergic to Tithonia, according to a quick google search.

  12. I love the look of Mexican sunflowers, another to add to the list! I understand about plant buying compulsion ….it’s an addiction, but such a productive one!

  13. Nice haul! I wouldn’t know anything about compulsive plant buying but I’ve heard about this disorder in others. I haven’t grown Mexican sunflowers for years but love them. Maybe I’ll have to go nursery hopping to try and find some.

    • Yes, I’m sure that you would never commit compulsive plant buying. Your self-control in garden centers is legendary!

  14. Hello Jason, I love the red of the Lobelia Cardinalis, if I remember, I think they need damp or even boggy conditions and full sun to thrive? You said they were short-lived but I wonder if you could renew them through seeds or cuttings?

    • Yes, they do like a lot of moisture but they don’t require full sun – part sun can be adequate. If conditions are good they will self-sow.

  15. I laughed when I read about your compulsive plant buying! I too do that and when I get home I wonder where the heck I am going to put them all! Going to the garden center or nursery with a list or plan in my mind never seems to work out!

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