Sunflowers: Ultimate Flower Guide
Facts, Types, Meaning and Care Tips
Sunflowers are the very embodiment of summer. With their bright, yellow petals and tall green stems, it’s easy to see why so many people love them. Often used as a symbol of happiness and congratulations, there are many things you can learn about this wonderful flower. From interesting facts to tips on how to grow your own, we’re going to share with you everything you need to know about sunflowers.
The sunflower has many meanings across the world. Different cultures believe it means anything from positivity and strength to admiration and loyalty.
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.
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 another nymph. In a jealous rage, Clytie told the other nymph's father and as punishment he buried her alive. Outraged, Apollo turned Clytie into a sunflower, but her love for him was so strong she watched him move across the sky each day - just as sunflowers follow the sun.
The scientific name for the sunflower is Helianthus. It comes from the Greek words "helios", meaning sun, and "anthus", meaning flower.
A FEW FACTS ABOUT SUNFLOWERS
Sunflowers may be one of the most popular summer blooms but there are still a few things that people don’t know about this gorgeous flower. Here’s our list of interesting sunflower facts that you may not have known:
Sunflowers are part of the Asteraceae family which is the same family as Daisies.
The sunflower is the national flower of Russia and Ukraine.
Sunflowers were worshipped by the Incas due to their resemblance to the life-giving sun.
Their seeds are full of calcium, making them an excellent healthy food source.
The tallest sunflower ever recorded was 9.17m (30ft 1inch). It was grown in Karst, Germany back in 2014 and still holds the title today.
The sunflower’s seeds follow the Fibonacci sequence. Created by the mathematician, Fibonacci, each number in the sequence is the sum of the two previous numbers. All things in nature tend to follow this pattern, you see it especially in spiral shapes!
Sunflower seeds come as black or striped. The black ones are used to make oil, like the sunflower oil you buy in the supermarket and the striped ones are often sold as healthy snacks.
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 4.8m (16ft) tall (almost as tall as the upstairs window of a house) and the head up to a metre (3ft) wide! No wonder it's called a giant.
As the name suggests this sunflower grows up to 3.6m (12ft) and has huge 35.5cm (14 inch) petals.
Grows 2.7 - 3.6m (9-12ft) tall and produces large, striped seeds. It does well in Mediterranean climates.
Grows up to about 60cm (2ft) and has long, vibrant yellow petals which look great in garden planters.
Perhaps the most common of sunflowers, they grow between 1.5 - 2.1m (5-7ft tall). Sporting gorgeous bright, yellow petals, they make beautiful cut bouquets.
As the tiniest type of sunflower they only reach about 50cm (20 inches). These bright yellow blooms are ideal for bouquets.
Has a chocolate centre and lovely pale yellow (almost white) petals that grow roughly 10 cm (4 inches) long. They grow to about 2m (5-7ft tall).
Probably the most unusual sunflower on our list, the teddy bear is a big puffy bloom that grows up to about 1.8m (6ft).
A gorgeous little bicolour sunflower, it only grows to about 90cm tall (3ft) with 15cm (6 inch) flower heads. They have a beautiful yellow halo surrounding rusty-red petals.
SUNFLOWER CARE TIPS
Taking care of cut sunflowers is easy, as long as you remember the basics. Don’t worry though, we’ve got this quick sunflower care guide to help you:
Sunflowers have a vase life of roughly 7-10 days.
Remove any foliage that will be under the waterline in the vase - this prevents the build up of bacteria in the water.
Add any flower food to the water as per the packet instructions.
Cut about 2-3 cm from the stems, make sure you do this at an angle as this improves the water uptake of the flowers.
Sunflowers do best in moderate temperatures so place them in a room that isn’t too hot or cold.
Sunflowers are thirsty blooms. Make sure to keep the water topped up and change every few days if needed. This will help to keep your flowers looking beautiful for longer.
Note Get more life from your sunflowers by removing faded petals and foliage as these often fade before the flower head.
Style Tip Sunflowers look their best when the heads are slightly above the rim of the vase. Choose a tall vase or container that holds 2/3rds of the stems so you can make a beautiful display with your gorgeous blooms.
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 9.17m (30ft).
When is sunflower season in Ireland?
Sunflowers tend to bloom from the middle of summer through to early autumn - roughly July to September.
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, or possibly longer if given the right care.
After planting, sunflower seeds can take between 50 and 60 days to bloom. Be aware that certain things can affect this such as weather, the type of soil and pollution.
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 dry sunflowers?
First pick a partially open sunflower - ideally one that isn't too large.
Cut the stem to about 15cm (6 inches) long and pull off any dead leaves.
Either hang the flowers in a dark, dry place or put the vase in a dark, dry place - cupboards are great for this. Make sure none of the heads are touching.
Leave them for two weeks then check in they're dry. If not, leave them for another week.
Once dry, coat the flowers in hairspray to preserve the colour and shape.