The large and colorful flower heads of the common sunflower (Helianthus annuus L.) have been known to make us smile. They stand tall—taller than most other garden bloomers—and always seem to perk up our mood. You might already be a fan of these familiar sunny flowers, but did you know that sunflowers can grow upwards of 12 feet tall or how tall the current world-record holder is?
Sunflowers are fast-growers and are very easy to start from seed. Here are a few general tips for growing them:
- Sow sunflower seeds directly in the garden after the last frost date in your region; read the seed packet for spacing and depth recommendations
- Sow the seeds (or plant transplants) in an area that receives full sun; sunflowers require at least six to eight hours of sun per day
- Make sure the soil is well-drained; they don't tolerate soggy soil
- They are heavy feeders; fertile soil high in organic matter will produce strong and healthy plants
- Water plants deeply but infrequently when the plants are young; they can tolerate dryness once they are established
- If you're growing a tall variety, consider staking them so they don't topple over in a strong wind, the large flower heads can become quite heavy; if possible plant them in a location that offers some protection from the wind
- Sunflowers are native to the Americas. The sunflower was a common crop among native American tribes throughout North America.
- Historical evidence suggests the plant was cultivated by native Americans around 3000 BC, and some archaeologists suggest that sunflowers might have been domesticated before corn.
- The sunflower is the state flower of Kansas and the national flower of Ukraine.
- The giant flowerhead is comprised of many tiny blooms. The center of the sunflower, where the seeds develop, contains tiny blossoms that bees love.
- The outer petals are known as ray florets.
- 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).
- The current world record for the tallest sunflower was set in 2014, at a towering 30 feet, 1 inch, grown by Hans-Peter Schiffer in Germany.
- Sunflowers are bee magnets; each flower head produces a large volume of pollen and nectar that lures in bees and other pollinators
- At the bud stage, sunflowers exhibit a unique trait called heliotropism, where the sunflower face turns toward the sun at all times throughout the day, starting the day facing east and ending it facing west.
- Not all sunflowers have sunshine-yellow petals; hybrids come in a range of other colors such as golden yellow, pale yellow, cream, white, burgundy, rust, and even a pinkish tone.
- Many varieties of sunflowers are available to gardeners—some of them produce striped or bi-colored petals
- 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.
“History.” Sunflowernsa.Com, https://www.sunflowernsa.com/all-about/history/
“Tallest Sunflower.” Guinness World Records, https://www.guinnessworldrecords.com/world-records/tallest-sunflower
“Sunflower Season for You and Bees.” Beeculture.Com, 13 July 2021, https://www.beeculture.com/sunflower-season-for-you-and-bees/