Mexican Sunflowers, Teddy Bear Sunflowers and Other Types

Discover the many faces of this beloved bloomer by exploring different types of sunflowers—annual and perennial.

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Tithonia rotundifolia ~Fiesta Del Sol~ (01) Habit

Tithonia rotundifolia ~Fiesta Del Sol~ (01) Habit

Tithonia rotundifolia 'Fiesta Del Sol'

Tithonia rotundifolia 'Fiesta Del Sol'

Grow some living sunshine by filling your yard with different types of sunflowers. You can choose traditional annual sunflowers (Helianthus annuus) or dwarf sunflowers, like Teddy Bear sunflower, or ones that are perennial, like Maximilian sunflower or false sunflower. Or you might prefer the annual butterfly magnet known as Mexican sunflower or the larger-than-life mammoth sunflower. 

The easiest way to get started with trying different types of sunflowers is to grow the annual ones from seed. You can easily find seed for pink sunflowers, red sunflowers and even the gigantic mammoth sunflowers. Sunflowers sport many shades, including gold, mahogany, burgundy, orange, red and bronze. Some petals wear a single hue, while others have multiple shades that give flowers an eye-catching sparkle. 

If you want to stick with dwarf sunflowers, try Solar Flash, which tops out at three feet with bronze and gold bicolor blooms, or Ms. Mars, which has striking purple tinted stems and merlot and pink petals. Ms. Mars grows 20 to 30 inches high, as does Teddy Bear sunflower. Teddy Bear has fluffy multi-petalled flowers that beg to be touched. One of the shortest dwarf sunflowers is Elf, which blooms at a height of 14 to 16 inches. 

Many CSA farmers raise sunflowers to sell in bouquets at local farmers’ markets. For these growers, selecting several types of sunflowers is essential to creating beautiful flower bundles. They might include the deep red sunflower Moulin Rouge, barely yellow Buttercream or bronze and gold Ring of Fire. Pollenless types of sunflowers, like Sunrich Lemon or Orange, gold Zebulon or Peach Passion make wonderful additions to a vase because they don’t drop pollen onto indoor surfaces. 

Branching types of sunflowers form multiple blooms per plant and can make a bouquet with just a few stems. This group includes brown-tinted Chocolate, Giant Sungold (a full-size version of Teddy Bear sunflower) and Sonja, a beautiful gold bloomer. 

Mammoth sunflowers are an heirloom sunflower raised in home gardens since the 1800s. Plants soar 9 to 12 feet tall, and flowers stretch to 14 inches across. As blooms mature and seeds ripen, flower disks bend, resembling a living showerhead. This is the sunflower to grow for entering in county fairs. 

Mexican sunflowers (Tithonia rotundifolia) are also an annual type of sunflower. These are butterfly favorites with their blazing orange blooms. Plants grow 4 to 6 feet tall and branch freely, spreading 3 to 4 feet wide. They look terrific planted in front of mammoth type sunflowers. 

To enjoy the look of sunflowers year after year, check out perennial types of sunflowers. All are North American natives. Maximilian sunflower (Helianthus maximiliani) soars three to 10 feet tall with traditional sunflower-type blooms up to 5 inches across. Plants are hardy in Zones 4 to 9; flowers yield edible seeds. Swamp sunflower (Helianthus angustifolius), hardy in Zone 6 to 9, grows 3 to 6 feet tall with 3-inch-wide blossoms. False sunflower (Heliopsis helianthoides) opens sunny gold blooms on plants that grow 3 to 6 feet tall and 2 to 4 feet wide. It’s also known as ox eye sunflower and is hardy in Zones 3 to 9.

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