We have recently published ‘Food Forest Plants for Hotter Conditions’: i.e. tropical and sub-tropical regions. We rely on regular donations to keep our free database going and help fund development of this and another book we are planning on food forest plants for Mediterranean climates. Please give what you can to keep PFAF properly funded. More >>>

Follow Us:


Tithonia diversifolia - (Hemsl.) A.Gray

Common Name Mexican Sunflower
Family Asteraceae
USDA hardiness 10-12
Known Hazards None known
Habitats Damp thickets or dry, brushy slopes, at elevations from 200 - 2,300 metres in Guatemala[331 ].
Range C. America - Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Honduras, Belize, Guatemala, Mexico.
Edibility Rating    (0 of 5)
Other Uses    (3 of 5)
Weed Potential Yes
Medicinal Rating    (3 of 5)
Care (info)
Tender Well drained soil Moist Soil Full sun
Tithonia diversifolia Mexican Sunflower

Tithonia diversifolia Mexican Sunflower
Wikimedia.org - B.Navez


Translate this page:


Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of flower
Tithonia diversifolia is a PERENNIAL growing to 3 m (9ft) by 1 m (3ft 3in) at a fast rate.
See above for USDA hardiness. It is hardy to UK zone 10. The flowers are pollinated by Insects.
It can fix Nitrogen.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils, prefers well-drained soil and can grow in nutritionally poor soil. Suitable pH: mildly acid, neutral and basic (mildly alkaline) soils. It cannot grow in the shade. It prefers dry or moist soil and can tolerate drought.

UK Hardiness Map US Hardiness Map


Helianthus quinquelobus Sessé & Moc. Mirasolia diversifolia Hemsl. Tithonia triloba Sch.Bip. ex Klatt Urbanisol tagetiflora diversifolius (Hemsl.) Kuntze Urbanisol tagetiflora flavus Kuntze Urbanisol tagetiflora grandiflorus Kuntze Urbanisol tagetifolius grandiflorus Kuntze

Plant Habitats

Edible Uses

None known

References   More on Edible Uses

Medicinal Uses

Plants For A Future can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.
Antibacterial  Antiinflammatory  Hypoglycaemic  Kidney  Laxative  Malaria  Urinary

Various studies have been carried out into the medicinal properties of this plant:- A methanol extract of the dried leaves reduced pain levels and inhibited oedema and granuloma, confirming the plants traditional use in the treatment of painful inflammatory conditions[360 ]. The leaves contain sesquiterpene lactones, including tagitinin ,which possess insecticidal properties. A study showed it possessed antimicrobial activity, active against both gram-positive and gram-negative bacteria, suggesting that the leaves can be used in treating gastrointestinal infections, skin diseases and urinary tract infections[360 ]. An 80% ethanol extract of the leaves showed reduction of blood glucose levels 3 weeks after a single oral dose, also significantly lowering plasma insulin, decreasing blood glucose in an insulin tolerance test. The results suggest it may be useful in the treatment of type2 diabetes[360 ]. Aqueous and methanolic extracts of the plant had 50% and 74% clearing of malarial parasites respectively, compared to 100% for chloroquine. It was more effective when administered at the onset of the infection, suggesting a time-dependency of the anti-malarial effects[369 ]. A 70% methanol extract showed a dose- and time-dependent toxic effect on the kidney and liver toxicity. Although reversible, it raises concern over the safety of the use of the plant extract against malaria[360 ]. The leaves contain a bitter essential oil[331 ]. A decoction of the leaves is sometimes used in the treatment of malaria[331 ]. An infusion of leaves is used in the treatment of constipation, stomach pains, indigestion, sore throat and liver pains[418 ]. The leaves should be ground into small pieces, mixed with water, and then drunk[418 ] Leaf extracts are used externally for the treatment of wounds and haematomas[360 ].

References   More on Medicinal Uses

The Bookshop: Edible Plant Books

Our Latest books on Perennial Plants For Food Forests and Permaculture Gardens in paperback or digital formats.

Food Forest Plants for Hotter Conditions: 250+ Plants For Tropical Food Forests & Permaculture Gardens.
Edible Tropical Plants

Food Forest Plants for Hotter Conditions: 250+ Plants For Tropical Food Forests & Permaculture Gardens.

Plants for Your Food Forest: 500 Plants for Temperate Food Forests & Permaculture Gardens.
Edible Temperate Plants

Plants for Your Food Forest: 500 Plants for Temperate Food Forests & Permaculture Gardens.

PFAF have eight books available in paperback and digital media.
More Books

PFAF have eight books available in paperback and digital formats. Browse the shop for more information.

Shop Now

Other Uses

Essential  Fencing  Fertilizer  Fodder  Fuel  Hedge  Insecticide  Mulch  Repellent  Soil conditioner

Agroforestry Uses: The plant is used for soil improvement and has a positive effect on crop yields. Yields of maize, kale, French beans, tomatoes and Napier grass all increased when they were planted with this species[418 ]. For fertilization, it is used as a mulch which can be spread on top of the soil or buried beneath it. T. diversifolia has the ability to restore phosphorus in high amounts to the soil it contains 1.76% N, 0.82% P, and 3.92% K. All three properties are lower in cattle manure, and P is higher in poultry and swine manure. Planted as a living fence[418 ]. Other Uses: A bitter, essential oil is extracted from the leaves[331 ]. It has a repellent activity on the mosquito Anapholes gambiae, and a smaller, but still significant, action on other species of mosquito[360 ]. The stems are used as fuel[303 , 418 ].

Special Uses

Carbon Farming  Coppice  Food Forest  Hedge

References   More on Other Uses

Cultivation details

Agroforestry Services: Contour hedgerow  Agroforestry Services: Living fence  Fodder: Bank  Management: Coppice  Minor Global Crop

A plant of the tropics and subtropics, it can also be grown as a summer annual in temperate areas. It the tropics it can be found at elevations from 200 - 2,300 metres. It grows best in areas where annual daytime temperatures are within the range 15 - 31°c, but can tolerate 12 - 38°c[418 ]. It prefers a mean annual rainfall in the range 1,000 - 2,000mm, but tolerates 700 - 2,500mm[418 ]. Succeeds in any well-drained, moderately fertile soil in a sunny position[200 ]. Plants are moderately drought-resistant[418 ]. Commonly grown as an ornamental, the plant has escaped from cultivation and become a weed in many areas of the tropics and subtropics[360 ]. The plant can flower and produce seed all year round[303 ].

Carbon Farming

  • Agroforestry Services: Contour hedgerow  Alley cropping systems on the contour of slopes.
  • Agroforestry Services: Living fence  Simply managed rows of shrubs and trees.
  • Fodder: Bank  Fodder banks are plantings of high-quality fodder species. Their goal is to maintain healthy productive animals. They can be utilized all year, but are designed to bridge the forage scarcity of annual dry seasons. Fodder bank plants are usually trees or shrubs, and often legumes. The relatively deep roots of these woody perennials allow them to reach soil nutrients and moisture not available to grasses and herbaceous plants.
  • Management: Coppice  Cut to the ground repeatedly - resprouting vigorously. Non-destructive management systems maintaining the soil organic carbon.
  • Minor Global Crop  These crops are already grown or traded around the world, but on a smaller scale than the global perennial staple and industrial crops, The annual value of a minor global crop is under $1 billion US. Examples include shea, carob, Brazil nuts and fibers such as ramie and sisal.

References   Carbon Farming Information and Carbon Sequestration Information

Temperature Converter

Type a value in the Celsius field to convert the value to Fahrenheit:



The PFAF Bookshop

Plants For A Future have a number of books available in paperback and digital form. Book titles include Edible Plants, Edible Perennials, Edible Trees,Edible Shrubs, Woodland Gardening, and Temperate Food Forest Plants. Our new book is Food Forest Plants For Hotter Conditions (Tropical and Sub-Tropical).

Shop Now

Plant Propagation

Seed - sow in situ.

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

Common Names: English: Bolivian sunflower; Mexican sunflower; Nitobe chrysanthemum; shrub sunflower; tree marigold. Spanish: guasmara; jalacate Local Common Names: Cuba: árnica de la tierra; girasolillo; margarita gigante; margarita isleña; margaritona. Germany: Verschiedenblaettrige Fackelblume. Indonesia: harsaga; kembang mbulan. Indonesia/Java: kembang mbulan. Japan: Japanese sunflower. Kenya: wild sunflower. South Africa: Mexikaanse sonneblom. Thailand: daoruang-yipun; denchamat-nam; thantawan-nu. Uganda: wild sunflower.

Africa, Asia, Central America*, China, Dominican Republic, India, Indonesia, Maldives, Marquesas, Mexico*, Myanmar, North America, Pacific, Philippines, Sao Tome and Principe, SE Asia, Taiwan, USA, West Indies

Weed Potential

Right plant wrong place. We are currently updating this section. Please note that a plant may be invasive in one area but may not in your area so it’s worth checking.

Rapid vegetative reproduction and significant production of lightweight seeds, which can be dormant in the soil for up to four months, allow T. diversifolia to quickly invade disturbed habitats. By forming dense stands it prevents the growth of young native plants. Depending on the area, T. diversifolia may be either annual or perennial. Being able to produce flowers and seeds throughout the year, coupled with the ability of seeds to be dispersed by wind, water and animals, makes it particularly easy for T. diversifolia to quickly colonize new areas. . Regarded as an environmental weed in Queensland, Australia and New South Wales. It was also recently listed as a priority environmental weed in at least one Natural Resource Management region.

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status : This taxon has not yet been assessed

Related Plants
Latin NameCommon NameHabitHeightHardinessGrowthSoilShadeMoistureEdibleMedicinalOther

Growth: S = slow M = medium F = fast. Soil: L = light (sandy) M = medium H = heavy (clay). pH: A = acid N = neutral B = basic (alkaline). Shade: F = full shade S = semi-shade N = no shade. Moisture: D = dry M = Moist We = wet Wa = water.


Expert comment


(Hemsl.) A.Gray

Botanical References

Links / References

For a list of references used on this page please go here
A special thanks to Ken Fern for some of the information used on this page.

Readers comment

Add a comment

If you have important information about this plant that may help other users please add a comment or link below. Only comments or links that are felt to be directly relevant to a plant will be included. If you think a comment/link or information contained on this page is inaccurate or misleading we would welcome your feedback at [email protected]. If you have questions about a plant please use the Forum on this website as we do not have the resources to answer questions ourselves.

* Please note: the comments by website users are not necessarily those held by PFAF and may give misleading or inaccurate information.

To leave a comment please Register or login here All comments need to be approved so will not appear immediately.

Subject : Tithonia diversifolia  
© 2010, Plants For A Future. Plants For A Future is a charitable company limited by guarantee, registered in England and Wales. Charity No. 1057719, Company No. 3204567.