While some gardeners snobbishly declare that they only grow perennials, dahling, I like mixing annuals with my perennials. In fact, my favorite annuals give so much bang for so little buck, that I wouldn’t be without them. So there.
I do like to try new annuals, and every year I attempt something different. This year, for the first time, I grew Tithonia Rotundifolia, or Mexican Sunflower. This is definitely an annual in RI, and it is grown from seed – either direct sown or started indoors. When I found myself with a blank space in my perennial border, I rooted around in my seed collection and dug out a packet of Tithonia – the yellow ones. You can also grow “Torch,” which is the deep orange one in the photo above, and there’s a red cultivar, too.
I sprinkled the seeds on the soil, covered them lightly, gave them a sprinkle of water, and forgot about them until I weeded out some 3-inch seedlings by mistake. (I hate when that happens.) I didn’t think our growing season would give them enough time to amount to much, but fast forward to October and I have a really big one, still thriving despite the beating it took from Tropical Storm Irene. It’s about 4 feet tall and 6 feet across, and provides bees and passing monarchs with something to pollinate or just rest on. The flowers are also fine for cutting.
Tithonia likes things hot and dry, so you don’t have to coddle it with frequent watering. Just make sure you have lots of room for this shrub-sized plant!