Sunflowers are versatile plants that provide a long summer bloom for the perennial border or cutting garden. They are also effective in a native plant or wild garden or as part of a naturalized planting or prairie area. They attract birds, bees, and butterflies. Their height varies, and they tolerate a wide range of soils. Sunflowers grow best in full sunlight, at least 6-8 hours per day in moist, well-draining soils. Sunflower seeds are easy to plant.
Sunflowers are considered heliotropic, which means the flower moves with the sun, from east to west, and then at night back to facing east, again awaiting the morning sun. The tallest ever recorded sunflower was 30 feet and 1 inch tall.
Quick Growing Guide
Botanical Name: Helianthus Annuus
Botanical Family: Asteraceae
En français: Tournesol
Sun / Shade:
Water: Tolerates drought, but blooms best when watered consistently.
Their natural habitats are prairies and other grasslands, old fields, roadsides, railroad rights-of-way, savannas, and forest edges.
Planting Sunflower Seeds
Sunflower seeds are easy to plant.
It is best to sow seeds directly into the soil, after the risk of frost has passed and the soil is at least 10C (50 degrees F). Ensure the roots have enough space to stretch out. When preparing a bed, leave space of about 2 feet down and 3 feet across. Fertilizer or compost is recommended as sunflowers prefer nutrient-rich soils. With larger varieties, it is best to plant them where they are sheltered from strong winds, such as near a fence or a building, as their tops become heavy and wind impact could be devastating.
Coming from the greek words “helios” (sun) and “ethos” (flower), the sunflower is an exceptional plant with many different attributes. It blooms from mid-summer to early fall. There are quite a variety of different sunflowers, some with branching stems or single stems, some that produce pollen for pollinators and some that don’t, small or large varieties, some that produce edible seeds, and so on.
Nutritional benefits of Sunflower Seeds
Sunflower seeds are strong in healthy fats, plant compounds, vitamins, and minerals, including protein and vitamin E, and low in saturated fats. These nutrients may help lower your risk of significant health issues such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes by lowering blood sugar levels, regulating blood pressure, lowers cholesterol, and reduces your risk of having a stroke. Other health benefits are reduction in reduces inflammation, promotes bone health, benefits your neurological system. As a source of antioxidants, they help with muscle contractions, can improve skin health, and reduces the risk of cancer, improves intestinal health and relieves anxiety and sadness.
Sunflower seeds are popular as a snack, as well as in trail mix, multi-grain bread, and nutrition bars. You can also incorporate them into meals by sprinling them on top of a salad, add into oatmeal, mix into baked goods, cook with sunflower oils, as exmaples.
Or you can just eat them! Position the shell vertically or horizontally between your molars using your tongue. Separate the seed from the shell by cracking the shell with your teeth. Spit off the shell and consume the seed.
Caring for Sunflower
Easily grown in average, dry to medium, well-drained soil in full sun. Tolerates drought, but does best if regularly watered.
Remove spent flowers to extend bloom season.
Companion plant suggestions include prairies and other grasslands, old fields, roadsides, railroad rights-of-way, savannas, and forest edge.
Plant stems may be cut back by 1/3 to 1/2 in late May to reduce overall plant height. Sunflowers dislike having their roots disturbed and transplanting is not recommended. For bouquets, simply cut the stem above any new side blooms in the early morning. They should last about a week in a vase if you change the water daily.
Birds and squirrels will browse the seeds. To avoid this, deter them with barrier devices. If a small moth lays its eggs in the blossoms, simply pick the worms from the plants. Rust and powdery mildew may also affect sunflowers.
Slightly acidic to somewhat alkaline soils (pH 6.0-7.5)
Alongside eating the seeds, Native Americans also used the oils to cure skin ailments. Dyes were also made from the yellow flower and the black seeds. According to many sources, Helianthus annuus is reported to be one of the first crops grown in North America.