Landscaping & Nursery Information for Home Gardeners


Modern sunflowers are much more than one huge yellow flower on a tall stalk. Many new varieties have been developed. Flowers range from two-colored or banded, to chestnut red or pale yellow.

Multi-branched varieties form a quick, annual screen. Dwarf types are suitable for planters and low borders. Cut flower varieties won't drop pollen on table linens.

Moon-walker, an annual, blooms with several pale yellow flowers on top of eight-foot branching stalks. This variety is a good living privacy screen.

Dwarf varieties include Music Box, a branching, two-and-one-half foot tall plant. Music Box produces four-inch flowers in yellow to gold including two-colored blooms. Big Smile grows only one-and-one-half feet tall and produces one, five-inch golden yellow bloom with a brown center. It's a perfect sunflower for containers and flower beds. Other new three-foot dwarfs include teddy bear and Floristan.

Silverleaf, one of the tall sunflower varieties, has silver-green foliage and long lasting, yellow flowers with brown centers. Velvet Queen, another tall sunflower, blooms in burgundy, chestnut-red, mahogany and warm bronze.

Sunrich Lemon and Sunrich Orange grow to five feet and don't shed messy pollen when cut for arrangements.

There are perennial sunflowers, too. Flore Pleno and Lodden Gold produce double four-inch, yellow blossoms on five-foot plants. They're great as a vertical garden accent.

All sunflowers do best in full sun and grow in a wide range of soils. Avoid high nitrogen soil which encourages plant growth but fewer blooms. Sunflowers can be planted when day and night temperatures are above 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Sunflowers should be watered deeply but infrequently to encourage deep roots and strong stems.

Adapted from: Colorado State University Cooperative Extension 

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Sunflower seeds are ripe when they all fall off the head, or the birds start eating them. To prevent loss from birds, cover the heads with netting or a paper sack once the yellow petals start turning brown. Secure the sack with a rubber band or twist ties around the stalk to prevent seeds from dropping.

Heads can also be cut and placed in a paper sack once a few seeds start turning the traditional black with white stripes. The flavor will not be as good as those ripened on the plant, but less loss will occur.

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