The Mexican sunflower is similar to a regular sunflower but is shorter (generally growing around 2 - 5 feet high) and produces a dahlia-style flower in red, orange and the classic sunflower yellow. The Mexican sunflower is a lovely addition to the garden, with great potential to fill the back border of a flower bed and making a lovely cut flower for floral arrangements. This flower is also an excellent attractant for butterflies and even hummingbirds (if you are lucky!) The Mexican sunflower is an annual, meaning it lives and flowers for one year only, and you will need to replant each year or let the sunflower self-sow the bed if you want these flowering beauties in the garden.
The Mexican sunflower is actually a group of sunflowers that originates from Mexico and Central America. Although the Mexican sunflower is a genuine sunflower it is not a sunflower in the conventionally known sense. This sunflower grows to around half the height of the regular sunflower and has larger, bushier leaves sticking out of its stem. The centre of the flower is yellow as opposed to the regular sunflower's golden brownish color. Many people compare the flower to the looks of a dahlia, but the color ranges in different varieties are only found in the red-yellow-orange portion of the spectrum.
Planting Mexican sunflowers is as easy as planting regular sunflowers - the only concern is the location where you decide to plant your them. Like the ordinary sunflower the Mexican sunflower thrives in full sunlight so you will want to plant them in an area where they can get as much sun as possible. If you trim the dead heads back, they will bloom generously from June until first frost. You need to assess the soil in the area of planting, since it needs to be packed hard enough to keep the flowers standing, but still loose enough so that the water can drain away immediately. The Mexican sunflower is an annual, as mentioned above, but if sufficient flowers are left to come to seed in the garden, it has an excellent capacity to self-sow. You can simply rake the soil lightly in the bed to give the seeds sufficient protection and depth for germination the following season. Like other sunflowers, the Mexican sunflower can be grown in a poorer soil; in fact, too much fertilizer will encourage foliage growth but not flowering, so generally an average to good soil and a light feeding every two or three weeks will suffice.
The Mexican sunflower is perfect to cut and place in vases or in larger flower arrangements. The cut should be made far down on the Mexican sunflower and should be diagonal, made with a sharp knife to prevent collapse, and thus enable the flower to get as much water as possible once it is placed in the vase. The vase should be rather high for a dramatic look - a small number of Mexican sunflowers looks really fantastic in a thin vase. The cut flowers will last for several days, providing your home with a lovely splash of colour.