I'm always stumped when asked to name a favorite flower. It's usually whatever is blooming at the moment. Of course, it's kind of like being asked to name a favorite child. And just for the record, I love both of mine equally for their equally different charms.
However this year, my choice is simple. The Mexican Sunflower, Tithonia rotundifolia, wins hands down, for ease, color, form, foliage and wildlife value. This bright beauty is a member of the daisy family, but it's more bodacious, with flaming orange flowers and striking green foliage. Depending upon your height preference there are three varieties from which to choose; "Torch", the tallest at 4-5 feet, "Sundance" at 3-4 and finally "Fiesta del Sol" at 2-3 feet. There's even a yellow Torch available now.
Tithonia is an annual flower that's easy to start from seed, growing best in full sun. It makes a great cut flower or container specimen as well.
Beyond it's dramatic beauty and statuesque shape, the greatest thing about Tithonia is what it brings to the garden...butterflies, bees and hummingbirds! Not many flowers draw all three in such numbers. And don't forget the goldfinches that perch on its sturdy branches to munch on the attractive seedheads.
Plant Tithonia and I guarantee you will have a garden buzzing with lively visitors.
Welcoming wildlife into your garden is so rewarding, you might want to check out my latest Star Tribune article, Planting for Pollinators, for more tips toward making a wildlife haven.