Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Meet the amazing giant sunflower that fixes bad soil


Did you ever dream of growing something beautiful that also repaired lousy dirt?

Probably not, but if you knew there WAS something beautiful that also repaired bad dirt, I bet you'd want to grow it. When I found out about these guys, I was hooked.

Meet Tithonia diversifolia:

Also known as "Mexican sunflowers" or "tree marigolds," these knock-out flowers are 15 - 20' tall. They're massive.

I grow these as "nutrient accumulators," cutting them 3-4 times a year and throwing the stems and leaves around plants and trees that need feeding. (For some good research on the fertilizing power of Tithonia diversifolia, click here). In another month, they'll all be gone thanks to the frost... but they'll come back from the roots in spring.

Though the varieties I've encountered in the US don't produce viable seeds, they are easily propagated through cuttings. Once you get some, it's really easy to make more. I stick them all over my food forest.

The only time Mexican sunflowers bloom here is in November, so I'm enjoying it while they last. The butterflies are happy and the blooms make great cut flowers, with a rich honeyed aroma.

See? I'm not just a brutal utilitarian. I can appreciate pretty things, as long as they're also useful.

Whoops. Guess I AM a brutal utilitarian.

And... speaking of brutal utilitarianism, click below to buy your very own.


If you want them this year, pull the trigger now... it won't be long before the freezes take out my stock and I won't have them again until May or June. I might be able to put some aside in the greenhouse, but they really do best from fresh cuttings. Pot them up now, keep 'em warm, and then plant them out in the spring and they'll grow so fast you won't believe your eyes.

I'll send cuttings anywhere in the US via Priority mail, plus I always throw in an extra surprise plant when you buy from me. Cuttings root very easily, just like the cassava I sell. Just pop them into a pot (or in the ground, if you're going to have a frost-free winter) and they'll be growing in no time. Plant them out after the last frost and you'll have your own forest of giant flowers by next fall.

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At November 20, 2013 at 8:21 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have one (several now) that looks identical to this - only it has seeds that come up constantly in a nearby annual bed - so it must be a different variety. Wonder if they would fix bad soil too?

At November 20, 2013 at 2:57 PM , Blogger JWO said...

Does anybody hear know how they compare with Comfrey in North Florida (I live in Gainesville FL)?

At November 20, 2013 at 4:31 PM , Blogger David The Good said...

Comfrey has done poorly for me here, which is why I've been experimenting with other nutrient accumulators. The comfrey doesn't die... if it's in the shade... but it also doesn't thrive. I've had a few plants limping along for the past three years. It's funny: they did GREAT for me further north. In Florida, no dice.

At November 20, 2013 at 4:50 PM , Blogger Caitlin said...

so after you've used the mexican sunflowers to rehabilitate soil, how easy are they to take out, in order to plant other things? do they grow back aggressively, or from just an inch of root, like comfrey?

At November 20, 2013 at 5:57 PM , Blogger David The Good said...

It takes some leverage, but you can dig them out without too much trouble. In winter it would be pretty easy to do.

At November 20, 2013 at 5:58 PM , Blogger David The Good said...

You might have this guy:

They're also supposed to be good for soil repair.

At November 26, 2013 at 11:35 AM , Blogger Matthew and Valerie of Gooseneck said...

I'm in south Georgia comfry has been hard for me to work with as well. I am managing three comfry plants in pots now. I hope they stay alive till next spring.
I am anxious to try these mex sunflower s.

At November 27, 2013 at 10:14 PM , Blogger Unknown said...

Well same here I am also very anxious and excited too to try out this experiment in my garden. I am new to gardening and happy to learn many new and useful things from you all. Will definitely do it.

Steve John

At November 27, 2013 at 10:40 PM , Blogger David The Good said...

Interesting... I wonder what the line is for happy comfrey. GA has a huge range of climate and soils.

At December 12, 2013 at 7:50 AM , Blogger Mamma Bear said...

Do you still have cuttings?

At December 12, 2013 at 9:20 AM , Blogger David The Good said...

I lopped off the tops of most every one, but I do actually have a couple plants left that were untouched by frost... so... yes! A very few!

At June 11, 2014 at 7:09 AM , Blogger Unknown said...

Any chance you're offering cuttings this year?

At June 11, 2014 at 9:18 AM , Blogger David The Good said...

Yes! I have them right now. I need to announce it.

At June 25, 2015 at 10:38 AM , Blogger Unknown said...

How well do these do in the Tampa Bay area of Florida?


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