Sunflowers:Everything youneed to know
Whether they're nestled in amongst a bundle of green foliage or standing tall in your back garden, it's hard not to appreciate the always impressive sunflower. Instantly recognisable, with a halo of golden petals and a fuzzy face, we get to enjoy these sunshine inspired blooms throughout late summer and early autumn. Oh, and snack on their seeds all year round of course. Delicious!
Want to know more about these incredible flowers and how to care for them once they're safely in your home in that fancy vase? From fun facts to details on some of the many different variations to tips on how to keep them looking their best, check out our guide to sunflowers to learn more.
WHEN DO SUNFLOWERS BLOOM IN THE UK?
Sunflowers usually bloom from mid-summer to early autumn in the UK – this is typically during the months of July to August. We know autumn in all its pumpkin spice and spooky season glory is on the way when we see those bright yellow flowers in shops and gardens.
These tall, vibrant blooms grow at a rapid rate, so are great for gardeners who want quick results with minimal effort. As there are so many variants, some sunflowers are annual (which means they have to be replanted every year) whereas others are perennial (meaning they’ll bloom year after year without needing to be replanted). Whatever you choose, you're guaranteed to be the talk of the street if you decide to plant some in your garden.
SUNFLOWERS: THE STORY BEHIND THEIR NAME
While we all know and love the sunflower, it’s worth noting that its botanical name is helianthus annuus. This comes from the Greek words ‘helios’ meaning sun and ‘anthos’, which translates to flower. Easy to remember, right? Maybe not, but some good trivia to have.
The nickname ‘sunflower’ also refers to the fact that young sunflowers turn themselves throughout the day to face the sun. Plus, it looks like the sun – or at least those simplistic drawings you did of it as a kid with a yellow crayon.
TYPES OF SUNFLOWERS
While you may be used to seeing tall, vibrant yellow sunflowers, there are well over 80 different species, growing in a number of different shapes, sizes and colours, as well as completely seedless varieties. It would take us all day to feature them all, so we've featured just some of the most popular types of sunflowers to enjoy in your garden and in those floral bouquets.
The skyscraper sunflower is one of the most popular varieties, reaching an average height of 12 feet when cared for correctly – that's the equivalent of two and a half Danny DeVitos. Thick green stalks hold up large buttercup-yellow heads, which can produce petals up to 14 inches long.
Sunforest mix sunflowers
This variety, on the other hand, grows anywhere from 10 to 15 feet tall. These giant flowers are also rather wide – 40 inches across, to be exact – so it’s important to plant them with at least three feet between them if you're featuring them along your fence. We'll go grab that measuring tape...
Featuring the classic dark centre and golden petals, the American giant sunflower is easy to spot. Standing proudly at 15 feet tall – roughly the same height as a female giraffe – the flower's face alone can grow up to one foot in length, making its name incredibly apt.
The Russian mammoth reaches dizzying heights of 9 to 12 feet high and boasts impressively huge petals. It’s one of the most popular types of tall sunflowers which should come as no surprise, considering how beautiful it is.
Sunny smile sunflower
The sunny smile sunflower may be small in size, but it’s nothing short of magnificent in appearance. Their sturdy, thick stalks and petite stature make them a great choice for those with smaller gardens, as well as beginner sunflower growers. They range in size anywhere from 12 to 15 inches tall, that's about as tall as a bowling pin, just so you know. You'll spot sunflowers similar to these sweet mini blooms in our flowers by post, if you fancy treating someone (or yourself!) to some.
Sundance kid sunflower
Far from your average-looking sunflower, the sundance kid features semi-double petals that blend from crimson red to a bold yellow hue. This variety of sunflower is thought to be one of the first dwarf sunflowers to ever be domesticated and grows anywhere between one to two feet tall.
With a golden centre surrounded by pale yellow petals, the petite pacino sunflower is the perfect late summer bloom to enjoy in bouquets and your garden. Growing multiple heads on one stalk and at an average length of 12 to 16 inches, the Pacino is small but mighty. Let's hope it doesn't ask us to say hello to its little friend though!
Little Becka sunflower
Rather than your standard yellow petals, Little Becka sunflowers grow in a range of stunning red and orange hues. They’re perfect for adding a pop of colour to your garden, growing to a height of around one to two feet tall. Cute!
HOW TO MAKE YOUR SUNFLOWERS LAST LONGER
Sunflowers have a vase life of around 10 days and the ability to add a little sunshine to any space during this time. Want to ensure your beautiful blooms make it to the end, looking fine and dandy? Here are our top tips on how to make cut flowers last just that little bit longer.
- Once you've taken a moment to appreciate that surprise bunch of flowers, remove any foliage that could sit below the waterline in your vase. This stops the water from getting dirty (dirty water leads to sad sunflowers).
- Next, pop in the flower food that came with your sunflowers so they get all the nutrients they need before snipping 2-3cm off their stems – this helps them suck up the water to ensure they stay perky.
- Sunflowers understand the importance of staying hydrated so you may need to top up the water every few days. We also recommend removing any wilted petals or leaves when you spot them, as this could lead to the rest of the flower fading.
WHERE SHOULD I FEATURE MY CUT SUNFLOWERS
Sunflowers like moderate temperatures – not too hot, not too cold – and it's best to keep them out of direct sunlight. We know, it seems crazy, right? They spend their young lives following the sun but aren't fans when they're cut later.
8 FUN FACTS ABOUT SUNFLOWERS
Not only are sunflowers easy on the eye and beginner-gardener friendly, they’re actually pretty fascinating. Want to impress your friends and family with your sunflower trivia? Check out our round up sunflower facts below...
- Some people actually have a severe fear of sunflowers – So much so that it has its own name – helianthophobia. We're not sure it's a common phobia but maybe just double check before you present someone with a big bunch in the summertime!
- Sunflowers are the national flower of Ukraine – You'll find fields and fields of these golden flowers growing there during the late summer months.
- The world’s tallest sunflower reached an incredible height of 30 feet and 1cm – It was so tall that the local fire brigade had to assist in measuring it.
- It’s thought that the Aztecs worshipped sunflowers – They did this under the belief that they were incarnations of sun Gods. We couldn't agree more.
- Young healthy sunflowers track the sun – This means they move to face the sunlight. This process is called heliotropism; however, sunflower stems become more stiff over time and so eventually they tend to just face east.
- Sunflower oil is incredibly beneficial – The oils from sunflowers possess anti-inflammatory properties that are believed to help reduce cholesterol, prevent chronic illness and repair and soften your skin barrier among other things. We'll take a bag, please!
- A sunflower isn’t just one flower – It’s actually made up of thousands of tiny flowers located on the centre of its head. The yellow petals surrounding it are actually called ray florets – a very apt name, if you ask us.
- Sunflowers can self-pollinate – This allows them to reproduce rather than needing the help of other bees and bugs #independent
Whether you want to brighten up your own home with these vibrant plants or are looking to make someone else's day, choose sunflowers and you'll have the perfect cheery blooms for any occasion.