With bright blooms that go from mid-summer to early fall, sunflowers say “summer” like no other plant. Plus, 2021 has been designated the “Year of the Sunflower”! What better way to celebrate than growing some yourself? Our Sunflower Growing Guide covers everything from planting to cutting flowers to harvesting seeds.
The sunflower (Helianthus annuus) is an annual plant with a large daisy-like flower face. Its scientific name comes from the Greek words helios (“sun”) and anthos (“flower”). The flowers come in many colors (yellow, red, orange, maroon, brown), but they are commonly bright yellow with brown centers that ripen into heavy heads filled with seeds.
Sunflowers are heliotropic, which means that they turn their flowers to follow the movement of the Sun across the sky east to west, and then returns at night to face the east, ready again for the morning sun. Heliotropism happens during the earlier stages before the flower grows heavy with seeds.
There are tons of varieties of sunflowers available today, so there’s bound to be one that fits your garden. Choose between those with branching stems or single stems, those that produce ample pollen for pollinators or are pollen-free (best for bouquets), those that stay small or tower above the rest of the garden, or those that produce edible seeds!
2021: Year of the Sunflower
The National Garden Bureau has designated 2021 the Year of the Sunflower! It’s hard to not love these lovely flowers. Very few plants are as heat-tolerant, resistant to pests, and simply beautiful. Sunflowers make excellent cut flowers and many are attractive to bees and birds, too.
At the end of the season, it’s easy to harvest sunflower seeds for a tasty snack or for replanting (see instructions below). Learn more about why you should start growing these happy flowers in your garden.
Here and yonder, high and low,
Goldenrod and sunflowers glow.
–Robert Kelley Weeks (1840–76)
How Long Do Sunflowers Take to Bloom?
A fairly fast-growing flower for their size, most sunflower varieties mature in only 80 to 95 days. The largest sunflower varieties grow to over 16 feet in height, while smaller varieties have been developed for small spaces and containers and rarely grow larger than a foot tall! The flower heads can reach over 12 inches in diameter within the large seeded varieties.