15 Standout Sunflower Varieties

Sunflower Varieities

Blanchi Costela/Getty Images

As one of the most iconic flowers in the world, sunflowers are to the garden what a glass of ice cold lemonade is to a picnic. Sunflowers are instantly recognizable, but look closer: a range of colors, heights, and flower forms make this plant as versatile as it is easy to grow. 

Sunflowers (Helianthus annus) are true annual plants that sprout, mature, flower, and die in a single growing season. Like many annual plants, it self-seeds very easily, and in some regions, especially the Midwest, it can become invasive. Named cultivars, however, are often hybrid plants that are either sterile or produce seeds that don't "come true" when planted.

Here are 15 named sunflower cultivars that make great garden plants.

Gardening Tip

The seeds of sunflowers are beloved by birds and other animals. If you leave the flower heads on the plants to dry out, they will lure finches, nuthatches, and other birds to your garden in the fall and winter to feast on the seeds.

  • 01 of 15

    'Early Black Heart' (Helianthus annuus 'Early Black Heart')

    Early Black Heart Sunflower

    National Garden Bureau

    Waiting is the hardest part, when it comes to sunflower growing. 'Early Black Heart,' a 2017 release, shortens the wait with its quick maturity time of 55 days. The bright gold petals with black faces stand out in the vase, and its pollen-free blooms mean no mess on the table. These plant are a more manageable height than many varieties.

    Native Area: U.S., Central America

    USDA Growing Zones: 2–11

    Height: 5–6 feet

    Sun Exposure: Full sun

  • 02 of 15

    Golden Bear (Helianthus annuus 'Golden Bear')

    Golden Bear Sunflower

    National Garden Bureau

    Looking more like a zinnia on steroids than your typical sunflower, towering 'Golden Bear' plants produce one large bloom with thousands of petals, and several smaller flowers on branching stems. Schedule your vacation before the end of summer so you don't miss this late-maturing beauty. 

    Native Area: U.S., Central America

    USDA Growing Zones: 2–11

    Height: 8–10 feet

    Sun Exposure: Full sun

  • 03 of 15

    'Helios Flame' (Helianthus annuus 'Helios Flame')

    Helios Flame Sunflower

    National Garden Bureau

    'Helios Flame' is a designer's delight, both in the early fall garden and the vase. The russet and gold bi-colored blooms deliver the brightest autumn hues on a single pollen-free plant. The height is modestly impressive, but not so tall that you can't add them to the back of your front yard flower bed

    Native Area: U.S., Central America

    USDA Growing Zones: 2–11

    Height: 42–48 inches

    Sun Exposure: Full sun

  • 04 of 15

    'ProCut Peach' (Helianthus annuus 'ProCut Peach')

    Pro Cut Peach Sunflower

    Michael Davis/Getty Images

    With sturdy single stems and pollen-free blooms, sunflowers in the ProCut series are destined for the vase. The peachy petals and dark discs of 'ProCut Peach' look dazzling when paired with flowers at the opposite side of the color wheel, like bachelor buttons or ageratum

    Native Area: U.S., Central America

    USDA Growing Zones: 2–11

    Height: 4–6 feet

    Sun Exposure: Full sun

    Continue to 5 of 15 below.
  • 05 of 15

    'Elf' (Helianthus annuus 'Elf')

    Elf Sunflower

    David Q. Cavagnaro/Getty Images

    Every garden should have a space dedicated to children, and the dwarf form of 'Elf' sunflowers gives kids what they want. Plant a few of the 14-inch 'Elf' sunflowers in containers on your sunny patio or deck. Flower picking was never so fun.

    Native Area: U.S., Central America

    USDA Growing Zones: 2–11

    Height: 14 inches

    Sun Exposure: Full sun 

  • 06 of 15

    'Italian White' (Helianthus annuus 'Italian White')

    Italian White Sunflower

    Juliette Wade/Getty Images

    'Italian White' sunflowers give you 4-inch flowers on branching 5- to 7-foot plants, yielding some of the most pollinator-pleasing blooms you'll ever grow. The creamy petals look divine in arrangements coupled with red sunflower varieties. These are excellent flowers for the vase.

    Native Area: U.S., Central America

    USDA Growing Zones: 2–11

    Height: 5–7 feet

    Sun Exposure: Full sun

  • 07 of 15

    'Moulin Rouge' (Helianthus annuus 'Moulin Rouge')

    Moulin Rouge Sunflower

    Richard Gould/Getty Images

    As new red sunflower varieties come to market, 'Moulin Rouge' remains a gardener's favorite. The deep red petals don't fade in strong sunlight, and the branching habit and pollen-free flowers are harvest-friendly. 

    Native Area: U.S., Central America

    USDA Growing Zones: 2–11

    Height: 4–8 feet

    Sun Exposure: Full sun

  • 08 of 15

    'Ring of Fire' (Helianthus annuus 'Ring of Fire')

    Ring of Fire Sunflower

    Clive Nichols/Getty Images

     Looking more like an oversized gazania than a sunflower, the attractive bicolor pattern of 'Ring of Fire' stands out in the garden. As an All-America Selection winner, 'Ring of Fire' demonstrates the kind of disease resistance, vigor, and novel appearance that gardeners want in their landscapes.

    Native Area: U.S., Central America

    USDA Growing Zones: 2–11

    Height: 4–5 feet

    Sun Exposure: Full sun

    Continue to 9 of 15 below.
  • 09 of 15

    'Strawberry Blonde' (Helianthus annuus 'Strawberry Blonde')

    Strawberry Blonde Sunflower

    John Burke/Getty Images

    'Strawberry Blonde' gives gardeners an unusual hue for sunflowers, not quite pink and not quite red. A halo of cream replaces the typical yellow color on these five-foot tall flowers. Space the plants at least 12 inches apart in the garden to allow for branching and increased blooming. 

    Native Area: U.S., Central America

    USDA Growing Zones: 2–11

    Height: 5–6 feet

    Sun Exposure: Full sun

  • 10 of 15

    'Choco Sun' (Helianthus annuus 'Choco Sun')

    Choco Sun Sunflower

    Chris Burrows/Getty Images

    The container garden can benefit from the joie de vivre of sunflowers, and the foot-tall 'Choco Sun' delivers. The fast maturing plants are ready to bloom after only eleven weeks. 

    Native Area: U.S., Central America

    USDA Growing Zones: 2–11

    Height: 10–12 inches

    Sun Exposure: Full sun

  • 11 of 15

    'Starburst Aura' (Helianthus annuus 'Starburst Aura')

    Starburst Aura Sunflower

    David Q. Cavagnaro/Getty Images

    A fantastic form for someone who has experimented with all the different sunflower colors and still craves something unique, 'Starburst Aura' features shaggy petals and fully double blooms. 

    Native Area: U.S., Central America

    USDA Growing Zones: 2–11

    Height: 18–24 inches

    Sun Exposure: Full sun

  • 12 of 15

    'Velvet Queen' (Helianthus annuus 'Velvet Queen')

    Velvet Queen Sunflower

    Juliette Wade/Getty Images

    The rich, burnt orange blossoms of 'Velvet Queen' are highly desirable in fall flower arrangements. With a moderate mature height of 4 feet, the 5-inch flowers can fit in to your borders without appearing gangly. 

    Native Area: U.S., Central America

    USDA Growing Zones: 2–11

    Height: 4 feet

    Sun Exposure: Full sun

    Continue to 13 of 15 below.
  • 13 of 15

    'Evening Sun' (Helianthus annuus 'Evening Sun')

    Evening Sun Sunflower

    Photo: jd_09/Flickr/CC By 2.0

    If you aren't sure which sunflower cultivar to choose, try the varied blooms of 'Evening Sun,' which may yield flowers of crimson, gold, and blends. These tall plants are very attractive to goldfinches in late summer. 

    Native Area: U.S., Central America

    USDA Growing Zones: 2–11

    Height: 6–8 feet

    Sun Exposure: Full sun

  • 14 of 15

    'Sunbright' (Helianthus annuus 'Sunbright')

    Sunbright Sunflowers

    Harvey Schwartz/Getty Images

    'Sunbright' sunflowers do particularly well in Northern gardens, where shorter summer days and cool temperatures can cause many sunflower varieties to fail. As a single-stemmed variety, 'Sunbright' looks best when planted as a backdrop behind a shorter row of sun-loving flowers like daisies, or coreopsis

    Native Area: U.S., Central America

    USDA Growing Zones: 2–11

    Height: 5–6 feet

    Sun Exposure: Full sun

  • 15 of 15

    'Sunrich Lime'(Helianthus annuus 'Sunrich Lime')

    Sunrich Lime Sunflower

    Kristin Lee/Getty Images

    The gold and green discs of 'Sunrich Lime' set it apart from the many brown-centered sunflowers on the market. As an F1 hybrid, 'Sunrich' has consistent features that gardeners can count on with every season, including 6-inch blooms and a quick maturity of 60 days. 

    Native Area: U.S., Central America

    USDA Growing Zones: 2–11

    Height: 4–5feet

    Sun Exposure: Full sun