Sunflower | Meaning, Types, Growing, Uses

There is no flower that screams summer more than the sunflower.  This tall plant bears one or more wide heads with bright yellow florets on the outside and can have a yellow or marron florets at the center. You can enjoy these bright flowers as a plant as well as a cut flower.

The article talks about sunflower facts as well as the meaning associated with sunflowers. It also includes a discussion of the types of sunflowers available including tall, dwarfs and colored ones. It also includes information on how to grow sunflowers as well as the uses of different parts of the sunflowers such as the seeds, petals, leaves, and roots. 

There are about 70 species of sunflowers which are all native to North America except three which are native to South America. Sunflowers can either be perennial or annual. Perennial spices are not popular for gardeners because they tend to spread rapidly from their seeds and become invasive.

Sunflowers grow to an average height of 300 cm but the height is heavily dependent on the variety. Some are small enough and can be grown in pots. The different varieties also have different aspects such as the size of the heads. Furthermore, several ornamental species have red-colored ray florets.

One of the fascinating aspects of the sunflowers is that they have heliotropism. The young sunflower heads track the sun as it moves throughout the day. However, the tracking is only present in young sunflowers and it stops when they begin to bloom. Mature sunflowers generally face east.

Sunflower Meaning

Almost all flowers have some meaning associated with them which makes it important to know the meaning of the flowers you are gifting someone. I have written an article about 70 different flowers and what they symbolize or the meaning associated with them, you can read about it here.

Sunflowers symbolize loyalty, adoration, and longevity. The flowers have also been associated with feelings of delight, joy, and hope.  The meaning does not vary much across cultures. An example is how in China, sunflowers are associated with good fortune, vitality and long life which is similar to the American culture.

Sunflower Types

Sunflowers can be considered as one of the easiest flowers to grow. Most of the varieties are heat and drought tolerant and can be grown all year round. All species do well in soil that is not waterlogged, in fact, waterlogging causes them to rot.

Sunflower types can be classified as either tall or dwarfs. It is also important to note that there are a number of sunflowers that produce colored petals which have different colors and not the common yellow or orange hue.

Tall Sunflowers

The tall varieties can reach up to as high as 16 feet tall. Some of the common tall varieties include;

  • American Giant sunflower can grow up to 15 feet tall and has a face that can be as big as one foot wide. If you decide to grow this variety, make sure that you spare enough room for its growth.
  • Sunforest mix sunflower has a height that ranges from 10 to 15 feet and a head that is about 40 inches wide. If you plant these sunflowers and want them to reach the maximum height, be sure to leave about three feet between plants to ensure they are able to reach maximum growth.
  • Skyscraper sunflower grows to about 12 feet tall. They also produce about 14-inch petals.
  • Russian Mammoth sunflower is a common flower in flower shows and country fairs. The flower grows to between 9 and 12 feet in height. It grows best in a Mediterranean climate.

Dwarf Sunflowers

Increased hybridization has resulted in significantly short sunflowers compared to the traditional towering varieties. The short varieties can grow to just three feet or less. The dwarf varieties are best grown in bunches and occupy small spaces such as planters.

The dwarf varieties are a favorite to florists because their small stalks and heads make it easier to include them in flower arrangements.

Dwarf sunflowers include;

  • Pacino sunflower is also known as the Dwarf Pacino Gold. The sunflower usually grows to between 12 and 16 inches and has a maximum height of two feet. The sunflower usually produces multiple heads on each plant.
  • Suntastic Yellow sunflower only gets to an estimated 20 inches in height. The sunflower also produces bold golden petals. The flower is a suitable choice for a garden as well as for bouquet arrangements.
  • Sunny Smile sunflower only grows to between 12 and 15 inches tall. In comparison to other sunflowers, this variety seems miniature. The flowers bloom all through summer.
  • Sundance Kid Sunflower grows to between one to two feet tall. The knee-high flower also produces blooms that have red and yellow petals.
  • Little Becka sunflower also grows to about one and two feet tall. It produces bright red and orange petals which makes it qualify as a bi-color.

Colored sunflowers


Terracotta sunflower which produces brown colored petals.

  • Mars which produces red-to-purple hued petals that transform to a subtle yellow towards the tips.
  • Chianti is one of the outstanding sunflowers. It is arguably one of the darkest sunflowers and it produces deep red wine petals.
  • Moulin Rouge sunflower is an exotic flower with an extravagant look. It produces burgundy red petals.
  • Earthwalker sunflower is a colored sunflower which grows to between six and nine feet tall. The flower produces heads with hues that range between reds, browns, and

Sunflower Growing

Sunflowers do well in areas with lots of sunlight. However, they are hardy plants that will grow in almost all types of soils as long as it’s not waterlogged. They also perform best in soils that are slightly acidic from pH 6.0 – 7.5.

When growing them in a garden you should know that they emit certain substances that inhibit the growth of particular plants such as potatoes and beans.

The decision whether you should plant sunflower seeds or plants is dependent on where you are planting them. If you are planting them in a region where the planting season is short because of frost, you can consider planting the plants. However, seeds are more common when planting sunflowers.

Planting Sunflower Seeds

  • Make shallow trenches that are about one to two inches deep. When planting in sandy soils, it is preferred to have the trenches at two inches.
  • Plant the seeds at about six inches apart.
  • Cover the seeds and water them for about seven to ten days, the estimated time for them to sprout.
  • Thin the plants to be about two feet apart. Thinning should be done when the first true leaves appear (the second set of leaves). Also, note that if you don’t want the sunflowers to grow to their maximum size you can let them be and not thin them. (they will be shorter and have smaller heads).
  • Water the sunflowers regularly (if need be) especially during their most important period which is about 20 days before and after flowering.
  • You can expect the sunflowers to mature and develop seeds in 80 to 120 days depending on the variety that you planted.
  • It is also important to note that when you want to grow sunflowers for bouquets, not only should you avoid thinning but you should also plant them as close as six inches or even two inches apart in dry places. Furthermore you should skip on any form of fertilizing.
  • Also note that sunflowers attract wild animals such as deer, squirrels, and birds which come to feast on the seeds. Take precautionary measures such as covering the heads with polyspun garden fleece or put up a chicken wire barrier.
  • Sunflowers are hardy compared to a majority of other flowers. However, they can sometimes be affected by insects and diseases. Some fungal diseases include mildews and rusts such as the downy mildew. They can be controlled using a general garden fungicide as well as improving general farming practices like avoiding transferring the disease from the infected plant to the healthy ones.

Sunflower Uses

  • Sunflower facts
    Sunflowers not only provide food for humans but also for birds and other animals. Humans use sunflower seeds as a snack. They can be eaten raw, cooked, roasted and even dried. The nutritious snack contains vitamins including A, B, and E, iron, calcium, proteins, and The seeds can also be ground and added to baking flour.
  • Sunflowers are also used to produce oil which is popular for its mild flavor, light color and low levels of saturated fats. The oil is also able to withstand high temperatures. The sunflower oil is also used as an ingredient in the making of soaps, candles, and
  • Sunflower seeds are also included in commercial birdseed. The leaves are also used as feed for livestock.
  • One of the unusual uses of sunflowers is in removing radiation from water and soil where they are planted. An example is their use in cleaning up the Chernobyl disaster.
  • Sunflowers were also commonly used as a source of herbal medicine which is no longer common. Natives used the petals and sometimes the leaves to make tea. The tea is diuretic, and expectorant and used in the treatment of high fevers.
  • The leaves were also crushed and used in the treatment of spider and snake bites as well as sores and swellings.  The seeds have been used in the treatment of several pulmonary complaints. The roots have also been used in making a wash that is used in the management of rheumatic pains and aches.

I hope you found this article helpful and that you learned something about sunflowers. I will leave you with a flower quote I like which I also think applies very well to the sunflowers.

The flower that follows the sun does so even on cloudy days. –Robert Leighton



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