Bright, Bold and Beautiful. It’s all about Sunflowers
Bright, bold and beautiful, it’s all about Sunflowers. They are the essence of Summer and emanate such joy wherever they bloom.
So easy to grow
So easy to grow and such a pleasure to have in your garden, planting sunflowers is like planting a ray of sunshine. It will keep you smiling all summer long! The optimistic sunflower is a real symbol of happiness and will brighten up even the dullest days.
More than just a beautiful flower
Sunflowers are so more than just a flower, they have rich history dating back to 3000 BC. Harvested for flowers, food and have even been grown to absorb toxins.
A wonder to grow and when you learn a bit more about their story you will be amazed by their versatility.
Native to North America
The sunflower or Helianthus Annuus is a native plant of North America. The name Helianthus Annuus comes from the Greek language. Helios meaning sun and anthus meaning flower. What name could be more suited to such a vibrant flower!
Sunflowers are believed to have been grown by American Indians in Arizona and New Mexico about 3000 BC. Used in many ways – the seed was ground into flour or eaten for a snack. The meal was mixed with other vegetables such as beans and corn and the oil was squeezed from the seed and used in bread making.
Non-food uses include dye for textiles and body painting. Parts of the plant were even used for medicinal purposes including treating snakebite. The oil of the seed was used on the skin and hair and the dried stalk was used as a building material!
Came to Europe in the 18th Century
Sunflowers were taken to Europe by Spanish explorers and became widespread throughout Western Europe. In the 18th century sunflowers became popular in Russia too and by the early 19th century Russian farmers were growing over two million acres of sunflowers. By the late 19th century, Russian sunflower seed found its way to the USA.
Today there are over 80 varieties of sunflower, ranging in shape, size and colour.
Sunflower as a food source
Although originally grown as a food source as long ago as 3000BC, sunflowers seeds and oils are still regularly used today. Sunflowers are a source of all sorts of healthy fats, fibre and vitamin E and are processed into cooking oil, meal and confectionary products.
Sunflower oil serves many purposes, aside from being a vitamin, the sunflower oil can also be a substitute for regular cooking oil. It is also a great leather conditioner, as well as a hair conditioner!
The seeds offer many health benefits and are a good source of Vitamin E, Copper and Vitamin B1. Holland and Barrett have a good article with detailed info about the specific health benefits of sunflower seeds – you will be surprised at how beneficial these little seeds really are!
Sunflower seeds can be eaten whole, raw or cooked. Delicious added to the top of bread and cakes, or sprinkled into salads or over breakfast cereals.
Once your sunflower has faded the sunflower head will have lots of seeds in the centre. Each sunflower can contain as many as 1,000 to 2,000 seeds, which can be harvested and used as food or sown the following spring.
Rich in oil and protein, sunflower seeds are also an excellent food source for birds. You can leave your sunflower heads for them to help themselves or harvest the seeds and make into bird feeders – perfect for the winter months.
If harvesting your seeds, leave the flower head on the stem for at least 2 weeks. Once the petals have faded, cut the flower heads off and store them in a sunny, warm, dry place for another week.
Using a tray or a sheet of paper to catch the seeds, gently rub them out of the flower head. Store them in a paper bag in a dry, cool, dark place.
The meaning of sunflowers
Sunflowers are such a positive plants. They exude enthusiasm and confidence but what do sunflowers symbolise?
Sunflower meanings vary across different cultures but all connotations are positive
- Admiration and devotion
- Joy and happiness
- Harvest and provision
- Longevity and good luck
Sunflowers are also the emblem of the third year of marriage. Strong stems are said to symbolise the strong foundation of a relationship, while their sunny disposition represents the warmth shared between lovers. Sunflowers turn their heads to follow the direction of the sun and this symbolises loyalty.
In Greek mythology, the sunflower is associated with the myth of Clytie and Helios. Clytie was a water nymph, and deeply in love with the sun god Helios. Sadly, he left her for another goddess, devestated Clytie watched Helios crossing the sky in his golden chariot for days. Sacrificing food and water until eventually, she was transormed into a sunflower.
Sunflowers also held significance for the ancient Inca people. They considered them a symbol for the sun, and used them as part of their worship in temples.
Sunflowers absorb Toxins
Sunflowers have a remarkable ability to absorb toxins, including toxic metals and radiation. In scientific terms, they’re ‘hyperaccumulators’ which means they can absorb much more of these contaminants than other plants. They have even been planted to help clear up nuclear radiation.
Sunflowers follow the sun!
Not only do sunflowers resemble miniature suns, their blooms also follow the sun across the sky.
They have their own biological clocks which help them to follow the sun as it moves from east to west during the day, and then move back to their original position at night. However, they only do this as young plants, as it helps them to grow properly. Once fully grown, they stay facing east as this attracts bees and other pollinators.
There are over 80 varieties of sunflowers
There are over 80 varieties of sunflowers, in various shapes, sizes and colours. They are all beautiful, unique and look amazing in any garden.
Perfect for kids to plant, sunflowers are loved by everyone and make a fantastic addition to any garden. Easy to grow and bringing joy and colour all summer long.
How do you grow sunflowers?
Sunflowers seeds are very easy to grow. See planting sunflower seeds for a printable tutorial. They can be planted indoors in pots from April and outdoors straight into the ground from around May.
Choose a variety to suit your space, some varieties are very tall but you can also choose dwarf ones or smaller varieties if you are growing in pots.
Water regularly but don’t let it get waterlogged, they like free draining soil and of course lots and lots of sun!
When they begin to get a bit tall, use canes to support them.
Which variety should I choose?
When choosing a variety it may be a bit difficult as there are so many to choose from!
Varying in size, colour, shape and even texture, there is lots of choice when it comes to sunflowers.
Deciding whether you want tall or shorter sunflowers will probably depend on the space where you choose to plant them.
They also look wonderful planted amongst other plants in borders or pots.
Tall sunflowers are still easy to grow they will just need a bit of support as they start to reach dizzying heights!
Some of the tall sunflower varieties can grow to colossal heights. The tallest recorded sunflower was 9.17m (30ft 1inch). It was grown by Hans-Peter Schiffer in Karst, Nordrhein Westfalen, Germany.
So it would be good to check if the height is suitable to where you are planting!
Planting against the house or fence will offer some support to the sunflowers, just remember to check the spot gets sun!
Kids just love these huge sunflowers and they will radiate happiness all summer.
Popular tall varieties:
Russian Giant is a huge sunflower and can grow up to 3m tall! Kids will love measuring their sunflower or having growing competitions.
Large bright yellow flowers bloom from around July.
Another tall sunflower but this one can reach mammoth heights – upto 4.5m!
It will need planting somewhere practical, against a wall or high fence but kids will love seeing it grow as big as a house!
Tall at 3.5m (12ft), and with large flowerheads (the size of dustbin lids!) with bright yellow petals.
Titan is easy to grow and a real hit with children.
Dwarf Sunflower varieties
The smaller sunflowers, dwarf sunflowers can be grown in the ground or in pots and come in an array of beautiful colours. Not growing as tall will mean they are suitable for all sunny spots and look great in mixed flower displays.
Popular dwarf varieties
The Teddy Bear is a unique sunflower, compact and bushy with fluffy blooms. Kids will love the teddy bear sunflower and are really easy to grow. Flowers from June and great at attracting wildlife.
‘Music Box’ produces multiple flower heads in yellow and orange. Large flower heads on shorter plants, will grow to about 70 – 80cm.
Having bright yellow heads on multi branching shorter stems makes the ‘Little Leo’ ideal for gardens and containers. Will grow to around 45cm.
When you imagine a sunflower, a bright yellow bloom comes to mind but surprisingly there are an abundance of different colour varieties available to grow.
From traditional yellows to red and even black!
Although some colour varieties are rare, many can be bought and grown with ease.
Different colour sunflowers also have their own unique meaning.
- Yellow – Vibrant and full of joy, the yellow sunflower has a meaning of goodness and truth.
- Orange – Great for attracting wildlife. Orange sunflowers mean energy, happiness and good fortune.
- Red – Red sunflowers have a meaning of strength and positivity.
- White – White sunflowers are quite rare and have a meaning of peace and purity.
- Pink – Pretty flowers with darker pink petals with a lighter pink tip. Symbolising innocence and good health.
- Purple – Purple sunflowers are impressive and have a meaning of wealth and glory.
- Black – Black sunflowers symbolise perfection and wisdom.
Ruby sunset is a medium sized sunflower with vivid red petals. It blooms all summer and can be sown directly outside from April – June.
Beautiful two tone petals in rich yellow, orange and red. Evening Sun is a striking sunflower which can grow to around 180cm.
A dwarf plant with daisy-like flowers with bright pink-red petals. Ms Mars can work well in pots or in borders.
All about Sunflowers
The sunflower has an incredible history and is such a versatile plant, harvested for many uses.
They are great for attracting wildlife into your garden and there are an abundance of varieties to choose from.
Whichever sunflower you choose to plant, you can look forward to a summer of beautiful blooms in a garden full of happiness.