Growing sunflowers that are sensational
Few things say more “summer” than sunflowers – large yellow flowers that look like the summer sun is in the garden itself. While we often think of a sunflower field as towering stems with plate-sized flowers, sunflowers come in a myriad of sizes – and colors – as well as annual and perennial varieties.
The smallest sunflower? Eleven – this variety of sunflower is only 16 inches tall and has a 4 inch bloom. It’s perfect for a nursery, butterfly garden, borders and containers. The tallest sunflower would have to contain the ‘Giraffe’ variety, which has a large, dark brown center and deep gold petals on a flower head that extends 17 inches on a 17 foot high stem.
Perennial sunflowers are typically smaller varieties that bloom over a period of 8-12 weeks. Some perennial sunflower varieties to consider:
- Happy Days (Helianthus Ocidentalis) – Yellow petals surround a deep golden center. This cheerful bloom reaches 24 inches tall and 12 to 18 inches wide.
- Low Below (Helianthus Salicifolius) – Abundant flowers that look like a hybrid between a daisy and a black-eyed susan. This is a late summer / early fall bloomer that will add a pop of color to the late gardening season.
Tall perennials that we think you will like:
- Jerusalem artichoke (Helianthus tuberosus) – Grows 6 to 10 feet tall, 3 to 5 feet wide with an abundance of bright yellow flowers with darker yellow centers. Birds love the seed heads and humans love the tubers, which are very nutritious, taste like artichokes, and are starch free. The tubers can be eaten raw, cooked or roasted.
- Lemon Queen (Helianthus maximillani) – As the name suggests, lemon yellow flowers cover the dark green leaves until almost all of the foliage is hidden. Measuring 6 to 7 feet tall by 3 feet wide, this garden show stopper won the Royal Horticultural Society’s Award of Garden Merit.
Annual sunflowers can have small or large seed heads (perennial sunflowers only have small seed heads), and while some can self-sow, you will usually need to plant them from year to year.
Dwarf Annual Strains To Check Out:
- Teddy Bear – Fluffy golden yellow flowers that need to be touched and look more like a flaky pompom than a flower with 4 to 5 inch double petals 2 feet tall.
- Kracher – Large, two-tone flowers with a chocolate brown center and petals that shimmer from orange to gold. The flowers are 4 to 5 inches wide on stems that reach 2 to 3 feet in height.
Tall yearbooks that make up our list of favorites:
- Arikara Mammoth Gray Stripe – Mammoth sunflowers are heirloom flowers that have been growing since the 19th century. They produce delicious seeds, and lots of them, as the flower heads can be 12 inches in diameter. Stems can reach a height of 10 feet.
- Soraya- Bright orange-gold flowers with dark brown centers. They grow up to 6 feet tall on sturdy stems that don’t need to be staked out. Attractive to birds and butterflies.
Colorful sunflower varieties range from pale to off-white and almost every color in between:
- Italian White – A long flowering, hardy variety with creamy white petals and a chocolate brown center.
- Floristan – A bi-colored variety with a large, dark central disc and deep reddish petals with cream-colored tips.
- Strawberry Blonde – A dramatic two-tone color, with burgundy pink petals and pale yellow tips.
- Pale Purple Berkheya – In a major departure from the warm color palette typical of sunflowers, Berkheya petals range from pale purple to lavender with a deep purple center.
- Mexican Sunflower (Tithonia rotundifolia) – Bright orange blossoms with orange centers. These are a favorite of butterflies, including the monarch.
- Evening Sun – Offers an autumn palette of bronzed red petals with a deeper maroon ring that emanates from an almost black and red center.
- Black Magic – One of the darkest species of sunflower, with stunning, almost black vine flowers and an almost black center.
Main picture credit: Three Silos Farm – Andrew Van Hook
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