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Tithonia rotundifolia
( Torch Mexican sunflower )

Torch has vivid red or orange-red flowerheads. In general, Tithonia rotundifolia is a perennial sunflower, usually grown as an annual. It is a fast growing, somewhat coarse plant, with green hairy leaves, reaching 4 to 6 feet tall rapidly. Spectacular flowers, yellow centered with scarlet to orange rays. Can be used as a temporary screen, or in a kid's garden. Smaller varieties have been developed. The stems are hollow and must be cut carefully to avoid bending the stems. Seed can be sown directly. Tolerant of drought, heat, and humidity. Attracts hummingbirds, butterflies.
Important Info : Prone to slugs and snails.


How to Grow this Plant:


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Characteristics
Cultivar: Torch  
Family: Asteraceae  
Size: Height: 0 ft. to 6 ft.
Width: 0 ft. to 1 ft.  
Plant Category: annuals and biennials, perennials,  
Plant Characteristics: low maintenance, seed start,  
Foliage Characteristics: medium leaves,  
Foliage Color: green,  
Flower Characteristics: long lasting,  
Flower Color: oranges, reds,  
Tolerances: drought, heat & humidity, rabbits,  
Requirements
Bloomtime Range: Late Summer to Mid Fall  
USDA Hardiness Zone: 7 to 10  
AHS Heat Zone: Not defined for this plant  
Light Range: Sun to Full Sun  
pH Range: 5.5 to 7.5  
Soil Range: Mostly Sand to Clay Loam  
Water Range: Semi-Arid to Moist  

Plant Care



Fertilizing
How-to : Fertilization for Annuals and Perennials

Annuals and perennials may be fertilized using: 1.water-soluble, quick release fertilizers; 2. temperature controlled slow-release fertilizers; or 3. organic fertilizers such as fish emulsion. Water soluble fertilizers are generally used every two weeks during the growing season or per label instructions. Controlled, slow-release fertilizers are worked into the soil ususally only once during the growing season or per label directions. For organic fertilizers such as fish emulsion, follow label directions as they may vary per product.

Light
Conditions : Light Conditions

Unless a site is completely exposed, light conditions will change during the day and even during the year. The northern and eastern sides of a house receive the least amount of light, with the northern exposure being the shadiest. The western and southern sides of a house receive the most light and are considered the hottest exposures due to intense afternoon sun.

You will notice that sun and shade patterns change during the day. The western side of a house may even be shady due to shadows cast by large trees or a structure from an adjacent property. If you have just bought a new home or just beginning to garden in your older home, take time to map sun and shade throughout the day. You will get a more accurate feel for your site's true light conditions.

Conditions : Light and Plant Selection

For best plant performance, it is desirable to match the correct plant with the available light conditions. Right plant, right place! Plants which do not receive sufficient light may become pale in color, have fewer leaves and a "leggy" stretched-out appearance. Also expect plants to grow slower and have fewer blooms when light is less than desirable. It is possible to provide supplemental lighting for indoor plants with lamps. Plants can also receive too much light. If a shade loving plant is exposed to direct sun, it may wilt and/or cause leaves to be sunburned or otherwise damaged.

Conditions : Full Sun

Full Sun is defined as exposure to more than 6 hours of continuous, direct sun per day.

Watering
Problems : Waterlogged Soil and Solutions

Waterlogged soil occurs when more water is added to soil than can drain out in a reasonable amount of time. This can be a severe problem where water tables are high or soils are compacted. Lack of air space in waterlogged soil makes it almost impossible for soil to drain. Few plants, except for bog plants, can tolerate these conditions. Drainage must be improved if you are not satisfied with bog gardening. Over-watered plants have the same wilted leaves as under-watered plants. Fungi such as Phytophthora and Pythium affect vascular systems, which cause wilt.

If the problem is only on the surface, it maybe diverted to a drainage ditch. If drainage is poor where water table is high, install an underground drainage system. You should contact a contractor for this. If underground drains already exist, check to see if they are blocked.

French drains are another option. French drains are ditches that have been filled with gravel. It is okay to plant sod on top of them. More obtrusive, but a good solution where looks aren't as important, think of the French drain as a ditch filled with gravel. Ditches should be 3 to 4 feet deep and have sloping sides.

A soakway is a gravel filled pit where water is diverted to via underground pipes. This works well on sites that have compacted soil. Your soakway should be about 6'wide and deep and filled with gravel or crushed stone, topped with sand and sodded or seeded.

Keep in mind that it is illegal to divert water onto other people's property. If you do not feel that you can implement a workable solution on your own, call a contractor.

Tools : Watering Aides

No gardener depends 100% on natural rainfall. Even the most water conscious garden appreciates the proper hose, watering can or wand.

    Watering Cans: Whether you choose plastic of galvanized makes no difference, but do look for generous capacity and a design that is balanced when filled with water. A 2 gallon can (which holds 18 lbs. of water) is preferred by most gardeners and is best suited for outdoor use. Indoor cans should be relatively smaller with narrower spouts and roses (the filter head).
    Watering Hose: When purchasing a hose, look for one that is double-walled, as it will resist kinking. Quick coupler links are nice to have on ends of hoses to make altering length fast. To extend the life of your hose, keep it wound around a reel and stored in a shady area. Prior to winter freezes, drain hose.
    Sprayers: Are commonly thought of as devices for applying chemicals, but can really be a step saver for watering houseplants or small pots of annuals rather that dragging out a hose or making numerous trips with a watering can. The backpack sprayer is best suited for this. Take care not to use any kind of chemical in tanks used for watering!
    Sprinklers: Attached to the ends of garden hoses, these act as an economical irrigation system. Standing Spike Sprinklers are usually intended for lawns and deliver water in a circular pattern. Rotating Sprinklers deliver a circle of water and are perfect for lawns, shrubs and flower beds. Pulse-jet sprinklers cover large areas of ground in a pulsating, circular pattern. The head usually sits up on a tall stem, except for when watering lawns. Oscillating sprinklers are best for watering at ground level in a rectangular pattern.


Conditions : Semi-Arid

Semi-Arid is defined as very little water/rainfall occurring only during certain times of the season.

Conditions : Normal

Normal is defined as regular watering to a depth of 18 inches, but periodically dries out in the top 7 inches between waterings.

Conditions : Regular Moisture for Outdoor Plants

Water when normal rainfall does not provide the preferred 1 inch of moisture most plants prefer. Average water is needed during the growing season, but take care not to overwater. The first two years after a plant is installed, regular watering is important. The first year is critical. It is better to water once a week and water deeply, than to water frequently for a few minutes.

Conditions : Outdoor Watering

Plants are almost completely made up of water so it is important to supply them with adequate water to maintain good plant health. Not enough water and roots will wither and the plant will wilt and die. Too much water applied too frequently deprives roots of oxygen leading to plant diseases such as root and stem rots. The type of plant, plant age, light level, soil type and container size all will impact when a plant needs to be watered. Follow these tips to ensure successful watering:

* The key to watering is water deeply and less frequently. When watering, water well, i.e. provide enough water to thoroughly saturate the root ball. With in-ground plants, this means thoroughly soaking the soil until water has penetrated to a depth of 6 to 7 inches (1' being better). With container grown plants, apply enough water to allow water to flow through the drainage holes.

* Try to water plants early in the day or later in the afternoon to conserve water and cut down on plant stress. Do water early enough so that water has had a chance to dry from plant leaves prior to night fall. This is paramount if you have had fungus problems.

* Don't wait to water until plants wilt. Although some plants will recover from this, all plants will die if they wilt too much (when they reach the permanent wilting point).

* Consider water conservation methods such as drip irrigation, mulching, and xeriscaping. Drip systems which slowly drip moisture directly on the root system can be purchased at your local home and garden center. Mulches can significantly cool the root zone and conserve moisture.

* Consider adding water-saving gels to the root zone which will hold a reserve of water for the plant. These can make a world of difference especially under stressful conditions. Be certain to follow label directions for their use.



Conditions : Normal Watering for Outdoor Plants

Normal watering means that soil should be kept evenly moist and watered regularly, as conditions require. Most plants like 1 inch of water a week during the growing season, but take care not to over water. The first two years after a plant is installed, regular watering is important for establishment. The first year is critical. It is better to water once a week and water deeply, than to water frequently for a few minutes.

How-to : Reduce Watering

This plant requires less watering during winter months, so reduce watering from late November through early March.

Planting
How-to : Preparing Garden Beds

Use a soil testing kit to determine the acidity or alkalinity of the soil before beginning any garden bed preparation. This will help you determine which plants are best suited for your site. Check soil drainage and correct drainage where standing water remains. Clear weeds and debris from planting areas and continue to remove weeds as soon as they come up.

A week to 10 days before planting, add 2 to 4 inches of aged manure or compost and work into the planting site to improve fertility and increase water retention and drainage. If soil composition is weak, a layer of topsoil should be considered as well. No matter if your soil is sand or clay, it can be improved by adding the same thing: organic matter. The more, the better; work deep into the soil. Prepare beds to an 18 inch deep for perennials. This will seem like a tremendous amount of work now, but will greatly pay off later. Besides, this is not something that is easily done later, once plants have been established.

How-to : Planting and Removing Annuals

When planting annuals, begin by preparing the soil. Rototill rotted compost, soil conditioner, pulverized bark, or even builders sand into the existing soil and rake it smooth. Annuals grow quickly, so space them as recommended on plant tags. Remove plants from their containers or packs gently, being sure to keep as much soil as you can around the root ball. If the rootball is tight, loosen it a bit by gently separating white, matted roots with your fingers or a pocket knife. Plant at the same depth they were in the containers. Gently fill in around the plants, providing support but not cutting off air to the roots. Water the plants well.

Through the season, be sure to fertilize for optimal performance. Take special care to cut back or completely remove any diseased plants, as soon as you see there is a problem. At the end of the season, be sure to remove all plants and their root balls. Rake the bed well to prepare it for the next season's planting.

How-to : Sow Seed

Now is the preferred time to sow seed.

Problems
Pest : Slugs and Snails

Slugs and snails favor moist climates and are mollusks, not insects. They can be voracious feeders, eating just about anything that is not woody or highly scented. They may eat holes in leaves, strip entire stems, or completely devour seedlings and tender transplants, leaving behind tell-tale silvery, slimy trails.

Prevention and control: Keep your garden as clean as possible, eliminating hiding places such as leaf debris, over-turned pots, and tarps. Groundcover in shady places and heavy mulches provide protection from the elements and can be favorite hiding places. In the spring, patrol for and destroy eggs (clusters of small translucent spheres) and adults during dusk and dawn. Set out beer traps from late spring through fall.

Many chemical controls are available on the market, but can be poisonous and deadly for children and pets; take care when using them - always read the label first!

Miscellaneous
How-to : Cut Flowers

Flowers suitable for cutting maintain their form for several days when properly conditioned and placed in water or soaked oasis. A cut flower should have a fairly strong, long stem, making it easy to work with in arrangements. There are many short stem flowers that make good cut flowers too, but they look best when floated in a bowl or clustered and placed in a juice glass size vase.

For best results, always cut flowers early in the morning, preferably before dew has had a chance to dry. Always make cuts with a sharp knife or pruners and plunge flowers or foliage into a bucket of water. Store in a cool place until you are ready to work with them, this will keep flowers from opening. Always re-cut stems and change water frequently. Washing vases or containers to rid of existing bacteria helps increase their life, as well.

Glossary : Bird Attracting

The term bird attracting applies to any plant that has flowers, fruit, nuts, or structure that attracts birds. Most plants on ""bird attracting"" lists have favorable fruits or flowers that serve as food, but the trunks, limbs and foliage cover that trees and shrubs provide should not be overlooked as they add shelter for raising young and protection from foul weather.

Glossary : Butterfly Attracting

Many plants, perennials being the largest group, attract butterflies. When you add butterfly attracting plants to your garden, not only do you get to enjoy these winged wonders, but you provide habitats for their survival, as well. Yellows and reds seem to be favorite flower colors, while some plants offer food and shelter for laying eggs on. To complete your habitat, don't forget to add a shallow dish of water.

Glossary : Low Maintenance

Low maintenance does not mean no maintenance. It does mean that once a plant is established, very little needs to be done in the way of water, fertilizing, pruning, or treatment in order for the plant to remain healthy and attractive. A well-designed garden, which takes your lifestyle into consideration, can greatly reduce maintenance.

Glossary : Mostly Sand

Mostly Sand is soil that: drains rapidly, has some organic matter, and a particle size between .50 - 1.0 mm. Light gray to gray in color. Rarely forms a ball when squeezed in the hand unless damp or wet.

Glossary : Clayey Loam

Clayey loam refers to a soil that retains moisture well, without having a drainage problem. Fertility is high and texture good. Easily forms a ball when squeezed in the hand, and then crumbles easily with a quick tap of the finger. Considered an ideal soil. Usually a rich brown color.

Glossary : Perennial

Perennial: traditionally a non-woody plant that lives for two or more growing seasons.

Glossary : Seed Start

Seed Start: easily propagated from seed.

Glossary : pH

pH, means the potential of Hydrogen, is the measure of alkalinity or acidity. In horticulture, pH refers to the pH of soil. The scale measures from 0, most acid, to 14, most alkaline. Seven is neutral. Most plants prefer a range between 5.5 and about 6.7, an acid range, but there are plenty of other plants that like soil more alkaline, or above 7. A pH of 7 is where the plant can most easily absorb the most nutrients in the soil. Some plants prefer more or less of certain nutrients, and therefore do better at a certain pH.

Glossary : Soil Types

A soil type is defined by granule size, drainage, and amount of organic material in the soil. The three main soil types are sand, loam and clay. Sand has the largest particle size, no organic matter, little to no fertility, and drains rapidly. Clay, at the opposite end of the spectrum, has the smallest particle size, can be rich in organic matter, fertility and moisture, but is often unworkable because particles are held together too tightly, resulting in poor drainage when wet, or is brick-like when dry. The optimum soil type is loam, which is the happy median between sand and clay: It is high in organic matter, nutrient-rich, and has the perfect water holding capacity.

You will often hear loam referred to as a sandy loam (having more sand, yet still plenty of organic matter) or a clay loam (heavier on the clay, yet workable with good drainage.) The addition of organic matter to either sand or clay will result in a loamy soil. Still not sure if your soil is a sand, clay, or loam? Try this simple test. Squeeze a handfull of slightly moist, not wet, soil in your hand. If it forms a tight ball and does not fall apart when gently tapped with a finger, your soil is more than likely clay. If soil does not form a ball or crumbles before it is tapped, it is sand to very sandy loam. If soil forms a ball, then crumbles readily when lightly tapped, it's a loam. Several quick, light taps could mean a clay loam.

Glossary : Tolerant

Tolerant refers to a plant's ability to tolerate exposure to an external condition(s). It does not mean that the plant thrives or prefers this situation, but is able to adapt and continue its life cycle.

Glossary : Drought Tolerant

Very few plants, except for those naturally found in desert situations, can tolerate arid soils, but there are plants that seem to be more drought tolerant than others. Plants that are drought tolerant still require moisture, so don't think that they can go for extended period without any water. Drought tolerant plants are often deep rooted, have waxy or thick leaves that conserve water, or leaf structures that close to minimize transpiration. All plants in droughty situations benefit from an occasional deep watering and a 2-3 inch thick layer of mulch. Drought tolerant plants are the backbone of xeriphytic landscaping.

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