Few things say “summer” more than sunflowers – big yellow blooms that look like the summer sun itself is in the garden. While we often think of a field of sunflowers as towering stalks with plate-sized blooms, sunflowers come in wide variety of sizes – and colors – as well as annual and perennial varieties.
The smallest sunflower? Elf – this variety of sunflower is only 16 inches tall with a 4” bloom and is perfect for a children’s garden, butterfly garden, borders and containers. The tallest sunflower would have to include the variety ‘Giraffe,’ that sports a large, dark brown center and deep golden petals on a flower head that spans 17 inches across atop a 17-foot high stalk.
Perennial Sunflowers are typically smaller varieties that bloom for a time period of 8-12 weeks. Some dwarf perennial sunflower varieties to consider:
- Happy Days (Helianthus Ocidentalis) – Yellow petals surround a deep golden center, this cheerful bloom reaches a height of 24” and width of 12-18.”
- Low Down (Helianthus Salicifolius) – Abundant flowers that look like a hybrid between a Daisy and Black-Eyed Susan, this is a late summer/early fall bloomer that adds a boost of color to the late garden season.
Tall perennials we think you’ll like:
- Jerusalem Artichoke (Helianthus tuberosus) – Grows 6-10 feet in height, 3-5 feet wide with a profusion of brilliant yellow flowers with darker yellow centers. Birds love the seed heads and people love the tubers, which are highly nutritious, taste like artichokes and are starch-free. The tubers can be eaten raw, boiled or roasted.
- Lemon Queen (Helianthus maximillani) – As the name implies, lemony-yellow blooms blanket the dark green leaves to the point of hiding almost all of the foliage. With a height of 6-7 feet tall and 3 feet wide, this garden showstopper won the Award of Garden Merit from the Royal Horticultural Society.
Annual Sunflowers can have small or large seed heads (perennial sunflowers only have small seed heads) and while some may self-seed, you’ll typically have to plant these from year to year.
Dwarf Annual varieties you should check out:
- Teddy Bear – Fluffy golden yellow blooms that beg to be touched, resembling more of a fuzzy pom-pom than flower with 4-5” double blooms at a 2-foot height.
- Firecracker – Large, bi-color blossoms with a chocolate brown center and petals that radiate from orange to gold. Blooms are 4-5” wide on stalks that reach 2-3 feet tall.
Tall annuals that make our list of favorites:
- Arikara Mammoth Grey Stripe – Mammoth sunflowers are heirloom flowers that have been grown since the 1800’s. They produce delicious seeds and plenty of them since the flower heads can span 12” across. Stalks can reach a height of 10 feet.
- Soraya- Bright orange-gold flowers with dark brown centers. They grow to 6 feet tall on sturdy stems that don’t need staking. Attractive to birds and butterflies.
Colorful varieties of sunflowers range in shades from pale cream to dark ruby and almost every color in between:
- Italian White – A long-blooming, hardy variety that bears creamy white petals with a chocolate brown center.
- Floristan – A bi-color variety with a large, dark center disk and deep reddish petals with cream tips.
- Strawberry blonde – A dramatic bi-color with burgundy-pink petals and pale yellow tips.
- Pale Purple Berkheya – In a major shift from the warm color palette typical of sunflowers, Berkheya’s petals range from pale lilac to lavender with a deep purple center.
- Mexican Sunflower (Tithonia rotundifolia) – Blazing orange blooms with orange centers, these are a favorite of butterflies, including the Monarch.
- Evening Sun – Offers an autumn palette of a bronzed-red petals with a deeper maroon ring radiating from an almost black-red center.
- Black Magic – One of the darkest sunflower varieties with stunning, almost black-wine blooms and a near-black center.
Main Image Photo Credit: Three Silos Farm – Andrew Van Hook