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Orange Is Hot Again In 2000
By Norman Winter
Central Mississippi Research & Extension Center
Orange will continue to be a hot, trendy color next year in the world of flowers, thanks to a couple of All-America Selections Winners. One is a compact Mexican sunflower, or tithonia, called Fiesta del Sol and the other is a dwarf cosmos sulphureus called Cosmic Orange.
As you drive through neighborhoods where gardeners really like flowers, the one that is strutting its stuff right now is the old fashioned orange cosmos. You most likely will find these in the older, more established neighborhoods.
The one thing that really catches your attention about this cosmos (besides the bright yellow or orange, semi-double flowers that are produced all season) is the enormity in size. It is not uncommon to see them six feet high and almost as wide.
If these monsters aren't for you, then you will delight in Cosmic Orange, which is next year's All-America Selections Winner. Cosmic Orange is a small, compact plant reaching around 30 inches in height.
Whether you choose the dwarf or the full size, a site in full sun is needed for best flower performance. Plant in early spring or summer from nursery-grown transplants, or direct seed into well-prepared, well-drained, loose beds not so rich in organic matter. Space plants at the recommended distance for their variety to allow for growth.
The cosmos sulphureus needs to be planted with salvias like Indigo Spires, Mexican bush sage or Victoria blue. They also look striking when grown with zinnias and petunias like the Purple Wave. A light application of a 12-6-6 slow release fertilizer with minor nutrients in mid-summer will give your plants a pick-me-up.
The other orange flower, Fiesta del Sol tithonia, has a lot of gardeners eagerly waiting next year. Like the cosmos, the tithonia or Mexican sunflower has been a giant plant up until now.
Fiesta del sol is the first dwarf Mexican sunflower. The single, orange, daisy-like flowers are 2 to 3 inches across, make excellent cut flowers and are loved by swallowtail and fritillary butterflies. Fiesta del sol reaches only 2 to 3 feet in height and is weather-tough.
Plant yours in well-prepared, well-drained, organic-rich beds in the spring or summer from healthy growing transplants. Choose a site that is in full sun for best flower performance. This short variety lends itself to the front of the border.
The complimentary color for this psychedelic orange is blue, and this year's Mississippi Medallion winner Biloxi Blue verbena would make a great companion plant as would salvia indigo spires and Victoria blue. The Fiesta del Sol tithonia is pretty easy to grow and maintenance free in well-drained soil. Keep watered and fed with light monthly applications of a slow release 1-2-1-ratio fertilizer with minor nutrients.
You can see Fiesta del Sol tithonia and the Cosmic Orange cosmos at the Fall Flower and Garden Fest at the Truck Crops Experiment Station in Crystal Springs on Oct. 15 and 16. This is one of the great times for gardeners to get together, hear seminars, eat great food, take pictures and participate in activities for the whole family. The Fall Flower and Garden Fest is from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m. each day and is free.