15 Standout Sunflower Varieties

Two sunflowers with yellow petals

Blanchi Costela / Getty Images

As one of the most iconic flowers in the world, sunflowers are instantly recognizable thanks to their cheerful golden petals circling large dark faces, which ultimately produce edible seeds. But look further: Sunflowers come in a range of colors, heights, and forms — beyond the yellow giants we all know and love. In short, this plant is as versatile as it is easy to grow.

The sunflower (Helianthus annuus) is a true annual plant that sprouts, matures, flowers, and dies in a single growing season. Like many annuals, 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 stunning 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.

  • 01 of 15

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

    'Early Black Heart' sunflower with golden petals and a black face

    National Garden Bureau

    When it comes to growing sunflowers, waiting is the hardest part. 'Early Black Heart,' a 2017 release, shortens that wait with its quick maturity time of 55 days. The bright gold petals with black faces stand out in a vase, and its pollen-free blooms mean no mess on your table. Plus, this sunflower grows to a more manageable height than many other varieties.

    • Native Area: United States, 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 with yellow petals

    National Garden Bureau

    Looking more like a zinnia on steroids than your typical sunflower, the towering 'Golden Bear' cultivar produces one large bloom with thousands of petals as well as 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 with bicolor petals

    National Garden Bureau

    'Helios Flame' is a designer's delight, both in the early fall garden and the vase. The russet-and-gold bicolor blooms deliver bright 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')

    'ProCut Peach' sunflower with yellow petals

    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 on 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 with yellow petals

    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 this 14-inch cultivar 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 with white petals

    Juliette Wade / Getty Images

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

    • 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 with crimson petals

    Richard Gould / Getty Images

    As new red sunflower varieties come to the 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 with bicolor petals

    Clive Nichols / Getty Images

    The attractive bicolor pattern of 'Ring of Fire,' which makes it look more like an oversized gazania than a sunflower, stands out in the garden. As an All-America Selection winner, this cultivar 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 with bicolor petals

    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 this cultivar. Space these 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 with yellow petals

    Chris Burrows / Getty Images

    Any container garden can benefit from the joie de vivre of sunflowers, and the 'Choco Sun' cultivar delivers with its bright yellow petals and chocolate brown face. The fast-maturing plants are ready to bloom after only 11 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 with yellow petals

    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' sunflowers with orange petals

    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 into 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 with bicolor petals

    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 with yellow petals

    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 with yellow petals

    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: 4–5 feet
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun