SunflowersFacts, Types, Meaning and Care Tips
Sunflowers have an iconic status as bringers of light and cheeriness to our gardens, homes and weddings. As one of the most recognisable flowers, forever immortalised by Van Gogh in some of his most famous paintings, sunflowers are our very own slice of summer, and we're going to tell you everything you need to know about these beautiful blooms.
The scientific name for the sunflower is Helianthus, which gives us a clue to its roots. Helianthus comes from the Greek word 'Helios' meaning sun and 'anthos' meaning flower.
The sunflower has many meanings across the world, but the big, bright nature of the sunflower is predominantly said to mean; admiration, loyalty and longevity.
In Chinese culture sunflowers are said to mean good luck and lasting happiness which is why they are often given at graduations and at the start of a new business.
What do sunflowers represent / symbolise?
As sunflowers follow the sun, they are said to symbolise seeking out positivity and strength.
The ancient Greeks believed that sunflowers turned towards the sun because of the nymph Clytie's adoration of Apollo, the God of the Sun. At first he loved her too but then he turned his affections towards Leucothoe. In a jealous rage Clytie told Leucothoe's father and as punishment he buried her alive!
Outraged, Apollo turned Clytie into a sunflower, but her love for him was so strong so she watched him move across the sky each day - just as sunflowers follow the sun.
a few facts about Sunflowers
These beautiful flowers are quite interesting too. Here's a few things you probably didn't know about Iris:
Types of Sunflowers
There are over 80 species of sunflower, ranging in colour from bright and pale yellow to orange, pink and tawny red.
As there are so many different types of sunflower we've split some of the most popular into three groups; tall sunflowers, short sunflowers and coloured sunflowers.
Grows up to about 2ft (60cm) and has long, vibrant yellow petals which look great in garden planters.
Grows 9 - 12ft (2.7 - 3.6m) tall and produces large, striped seeds. It does well in Mediterranean climates.
As the tiniest of our selection of sunflowers they only reach about 50cm (20 inches). These bright yellow blooms are ideal for bouquets.
Italian WhiteHas a chocolate centre and lovely pale yellow (almost white) petals that grow roughly 4 inches (10cm) long. They grow to about 7 ft (2m).
Teddy BearProbably the most unusual sunflower on our list, the teddy bear is a big puffy bloom that grows up to about 6ft (1.8m).
Little beckaProbably the most unusual sunflower on our list, the teddy bear is a big puffy bloom that grows up to about 6ft (1.8m).
Sunflower care and preservation tips
Cut sunflower care tips:
How do I dry / preserve sunflowers?
Common questions about sunflowers
Do sunflowers follow the sun?Yes and no. When sunflowers are young they track the sun throughout the day and this is called heliotropism. It is believed they do this because they follow a circadian rhythm like we do as humans - they face east at dawn and slowly turn west as the sun moves across the sky before resetting themselves over night.
Mature sunflowers stop tracking the sun and only face east. This is thought to be because they react more strongly to light in the morning, so facing east allows them to remain warmer which then attracts more pollinators.
How tall do sunflowers grow?Depending on the type of sunflower, average sunflowers can be as small as 50cm (20 inches) or as tall as 4.8m (16ft). The world record is 8.23m (27ft).
How long do sunflowers bloom?Cut sunflowers are available from May to October and are hard to come by the rest of the year. They have a vase life of 7 - 10 days.
After planting, sunflower seeds can take 50 to 60 days to bloom. This can be affected by the weather, soil, pollution and other factors. They tend to bloom from the middle of summer through to early autumn.
Are sunflowers annuals or perennials?They're both! Some sunflower types are annual (helianthus annuus) which means they need to be replanted every year, and some are perennial (helianthus multiflorus) meaning they come back each year from the same plant. Annual sunflowers are the most common.
How do I plant sunflowers?When: The time to plant sunflowers is just as the weather is beginning to warm up - ideally around mid-April to late May.
Where: It's not surprising that sunflowers love the sun, so make sure you plant them in a spot that gets plenty of sunlight (about 6 - 8 hours a day). As sunflowers can grow quite tall pick a spot near to a fence or wall that you can anchor it to, and somewhere out of the wind.
How: Find a nice big area as sunflower roots like to spread out. Loosen up the soil ready for planting your seeds - dig about 60cm (23 inchs) down and 90cm (35 inches) across. Make sure its well-draining soil.
Sowing: Place two seeds in each spot about 45cm (18 inches) apart and 5cm (2 inches) deep. Leave about 75cm (30 inches) between rows to give them plenty of space.
Feed: Sunflowers are thirsty so water them often and be gentle. Once established, water them with a lot of water but only once a week, unless it's been very hot or extremely rainy.
Protect: To stop birds getting at the seeds cover them with some netting until they start to sprout. Protect the seedlings from slugs by placing half a plastic bottle over them.
How do I transplant sunflowers?If you want to move your sunflowers to a new location you'll have to: