Fun Facts About Sunflowers

closeup of a sunflower
The Spruce / Ana Cadena

Sunflowers are known for evoking a feeling of positivity because of their large, yellow blooms. They stand tall—taller than many other garden blooms—and always seem to perk up our moods. You may already be a fan of these familiar sunny flowers, but did you know that sunflowers can grow up to 12 feet tall in as little as six months, or how tall the current world-record holder is?

Tip

Besides sunflowers, some other blooms commonly found in gardens include coneflowers, lilies, daisies, tulips, daffodils, marigolds, violets, and petunias. Growing conditions for these flowers vary.

Interesting facts about the amazing sunflowers that you may not have known include:

Raising Sunflowers

  • Sunflowers need full sun and rich, well-drained soil to reach their maximum height.
  • To protect sunflower seeds from birds, place a mesh bag or nylon stocking over the bloom until the seeds ripen.

History and Geography

  • Sunflowers are native to the Americas. The sunflower was a common crop among American Indian tribes throughout North America. There is historical evidence that suggests the plant was cultivated by Native Americans around 3000 BC, and some archaeologists suggest that sunflower may have been domesticated before corn.
  • The sunflower is the state flower of Kansas and the national flower of Ukraine.

Sunflower Anatomy

  • The giant flower on sunflowers is made up of many tiny blooms. The center of the sunflower, where the seeds develop, is made up of tiny blossoms that bees love.
  • Speaking of the inside of a sunflower, it is made from smaller flowers; the outer petals are known as ray florets. The seeds in the middle have male and female sex organs and can produce seeds. They self-pollinate or attract pollen from wind and insects.
  • Sunflowers typically grow between 5 and 12 feet tall (not counting cute little dwarf sunflowers.) They can reach full height in as little as six months.
  • Several people have set world records for large or tall sunflowers. The current world record for tallest sunflower was set in 2014, at a towering 30 feet, 1 inch, grown by Hans-Peter Schiffer in Germany.

Characteristics

  • Sunflowers attract bees, making them useful in areas where people are beekeeping and looking to attract more bees.
  • At the bud stage, sunflowers exhibit a unique trait called heliotropism, with which the bud of the sunflower faces the sun at all times throughout the day, starting the day facing east and ending it facing west.
  • Not all sunflower petals are yellow. There are more than 60 varieties of sunflowers that live around the world—some of these varieties have striped petals. Some sunflowers also have different interior shades.
  • The French word for sunflower is tournesol, which translates literally to "turned sun," referring to the plant's ability to turn itself to face the sun.
  • The sunflower is the only flower with the word "flower" in its name.
sunflower opening up
The Spruce / Ana Cadena
rows of sunflowers
The Spruce / Ana Cadena