Landscape Spotlight: Sunflower ‘Helianthus annuus’

Posted July 25, 2019 in Plant and Tree

Happy. Happy. Happy. That’s what a sunflower make you feel like when you look at this annual flower against a bright blue sky on a warm sunny day! It really is no wonder why Van Gogh felt so moved and inspired to paint them! Sunflowers symbolize luck and loyalty, intelligence, and vitality. Besides all the meanings around sunflowers, they’re just plain beautiful and mimic the colors and shape of the sun, truly bringing heaven to earth while warming up any occasion and putting a smile on your face.

Types of Sunflowers for Your Garden

Taller Varieties

Everybody enjoys nutrition from the garden, so why not snack on some of your own produce by planting edible sunflower seeds. Traditionally the taller varieties (9-16 feet tall) are chosen for producing snacking seeds, but now we have options.

As the flowers mature, the seed heads produce large seeds with a sweet, nutty flavor. Birds like them too so if you want to save them all for you and the family, you’ll be covering them with netting or cheesecloth. Renee’s Garden has several varieties of snack seeds to get you started down that row of happiness in your garden beds.

Try these taller varieties:

Sunflower ‘Sunforest Mix’: Grows 10-15 feet high with 12-inch blooms. Plant 3-4 feet apart to walk through.

Sunflower ‘Soraya’: Grows to 6 feet tall with orange-gold flowers. Great cutting flowers.

Dwarf Varieties

For shorter varieties, try the Super Snack Mix Hybrid by Burpee. They only reach a height of 5 ft. tall but produce a dinner-plate size flower head of 10 inches in diameter. The petal is a yellow-gold with a dark center. Butterflies will be prevalent in the garden with this sun goddess around. Follow the directions on the plant packet for best results and spread a little love for the birds and butterflies.

Try these dwarf varieties:

Sunflower ‘Little Becka’: Grows 36 inches tall, 6-inch across with deep red petals and a golden halo on the center and tips.

Sunflower ‘Elf’: Grows to 16-inches with 4-inch blooms. Butterfly magnet.

Harvesting Sunflower Seeds for Eating

For best results, let seeds dry three to four weeks in the garden. Once the central disc florets have seeds forming, cover the head with a paper bag or netting. Then cut off the head with 3-4 inches of the stalk to hang the sunflower upside down in a warm, dry location so the seeds can finish ripening. Rub the seeds from the head and keep your seeds out of a moist area so they will store longer.  Store in an airtight or vacuum-packed jar for up to 2-3 months. Seeds can also be stored in a freezer-safe container or fridge up to a year.

Cutting Flowers for Borders and Containers

You can see these beauties a little closer and look down on them with the dwarf varieties reaching 3-4 feet tall. Try the ‘Teddy Bear’ Sunflower with its 6-inch blooms. They can be used as a border plant or in a container near the front door to greet guests. Expect five weeks of bloom time. We recommend pairing them with Agastache ‘Blue Fortune’ or Salvias. The yellow and blue contrast is such a pretty combination. Penstemons in blue or red will give a considerable variation in shape and color. Penstemons grow on a long spike stem with a two-lipped, tubular flower that has a vertical line in the garden next to the sunflowers disc shape. They are great cutting flowers too and would be a great understory planting next to the taller varieties. Another pretty blue-lilac combo would be the Russian Sage. Adding the shorter dwarf varieties in front of the sage would be a bright and delightful show in the garden bed.

Growing and Care for Sunflowers

Pick a sunny spot for at least 6-8 hours per day of sun. Sunflowers are named this for a reason; they love the sunlight. Dig up your soil to loosen it and add organic matter if it’s too compact. Their taproots extend deep, so establish a two-foot depth to give them a good bed for rooting. Prepare the soil so it drains well and that is slightly acidic. Work slow-release fertilizer into the ground when prepping.

After all threat of frost has passed, sow the sunflower seeds directly into the soil and ideally, after the soil temps are at 55-60 degrees F.  For best results, read the seed label for specific instructions on the variety of seed you are planting. If you’d like to enjoy a continuous display of blooms, stagger your plantings over a 4-5 week period. You’ll be sure to have bloomers throughout the whole month of August in our area!

Water these seeds to encourage deep rooting and pay attention to the amount of rain the beds are getting in between waterings. Once the seeds germinate, continue to water and watch for pests such as snails. If you sense a pest problem, do a quick Google search to find your preferred method to ward off these kill-joys so your garden will flourish. If you choose a taller variety, add bamboo stakes to the plant to give it extra stability.

Cutting Sunflowers for Bouquets

It is always best to cut flowers in the early morning of the day. Handle them gently as you use a pruner. Have a bucket of ice-cold water handy to put them into as soon as you make that first cut. Take them inside and pick a pretty container to arrange their beautiful faces in to enjoy. Change the water every day to keep them fresh and blooming longer.

Sunflower Festival

If you’re up for some adventure and a road trip, try visiting the Sunflower Festival  August 9-18th in New Park, PA. You’ll visit an 8-acre farm with over 175,000 sunflowers in bloom. They will have patches to pick sunflowers, and you’ll get an up-close look at the dwarf “Teddy Bear” sunflowers mentioned previously. Find out more on their Facebook page and buy tickets here.

From simple makeovers to luxurious retreats, MasterPLAN Outdoor Living has the knowledge, expertise, and enthusiasm for guiding our clients in their outdoor journey.  We create outdoor living areas to be cohesive with your home, incorporating both structure and landscape. We know that a timeless outdoor living plan and meticulous implementation will ensure you will live your best life outdoors!  When you are ready, contact MasterPLAN Outdoor Living to discuss your outdoor aspirations!. We would love to hear from you and spread a little happiness in your landscape!


Flower Meaning

Harvesting Sunflower Seeds

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