Sunflowers

Explore the cheery world of sunflowers. These beloved bloomers boast easy-growing beauty and outstanding nutrition.
Helianthus annuus  (01) Habit

Helianthus annuus (01) Habit

Helianthus annuus (01)

Growing sunflowers is a project every gardener should try once. These happy-faced bloomers create pure magic in the garden, especially when you grow giant sunflower plants. Sunflowers are a must-have in a children’s garden. Their fast-growing ways and wildlife-attracting traits delight kids of all ages. Harvesting sunflower seeds and roasting seeds for munching are activities the whole family can enjoy. 

Annual sunflowers (Helianthus annuus) may be commonplace, but the sunflower family offers a wide variety of blossom colors and forms. It’s worth exploring the array of sunflower plants available to determine which ones you want to grow. 

If you’re interested in harvesting sunflower seeds, try growing varieties like Russian Mammoth, Paul Bunyan, Jumbo or Sunzilla. As the names suggest, these are giant sunflowers that soar to 10 feet or more. Flower heads measure a whopping 10 inches or better. These sunflowers yield plenty of seeds for your family to munch or whip up a batch of sunflower butter. You can even grow black oil sunflowers to yield seed for filling birdfeeders. 

If you’re growing giants, once plants have a few feet under their flowers, plant some flowering vines beside them, like morning glories or moonflowers. The strong sunflower stalks can support the vines, and you’ll create a flowery screen. Or arrange the sunflowers in a square shape to grow a sunflower hideout for your kids. 

Many sunflower types exist to fill a strong demand for these sunny faces in fresh cut flower bouquets. You can grow your own supply of vase-bound bloomers by selecting varieties with an array of petal colors. Gold is the traditional hue, but you can also raise sunflowers in shades of bronze, red, peach, butter-yellow and pink, along with an assortment of bi- and tricolor blends. 

For cut flowers, look for types that specify traits of branching and pollenless flowers. Branching sunflower varieties produce more than one bloom per plant, which extends the flower show for a few weeks. To ensure a steady supply of blooms all summer, sow seeds 10 to 14 days apart for a few weeks. Pollenless blooms are most often sterile and won’t produce seed, but they also won’t drop pollen on indoor surfaces. 

Sunflower legend states that these sun-worshiping blooms follow the sun, day after day. Like any good legend, there’s a kernel of truth. While stems are budded, the buds do turn from east to west each day, following the sun. Once flowers open, they face east all day, presumably to protect the petals from sunscald (that’s the floral version of a sunburn). 

In the garden, sunflower plants aren’t demanding. They don’t need extra-fertile soil or tons of water. With average growing conditions, these plants will deliver a flower show that will keep you smiling all summer long.