Flower Glossaryflowers

Flower Glossary: Sunflower

by Grace Bonney

designsponge flower glossary sunflower
I’ve honestly never been a huge fan of sunflowers. Their size and thick stems have always been a challenge for me to work with and I wrote them off as something I’d only treat myself to if I happened to stumble upon a handful of them at a farm stand or green market. But then I started noticing a wider variety of options at Sprout Home here in Brooklyn and found myself with a new-found appreciation for their darker hues and deep reds and purples. Named for their resemblance to the sun, these cheerful flowers can have a much moodier, darker feel if you try varieties like Chocolate and Moulin Rouge sunflowers. Their significance in art is well-documented, but I was surprised to learn about their use in safety vests, too! Read on below for more information on this cheerful flower. xo, grace

Additional Information about the Sunflower:

  • Full Name: Helianthus annuus
  • Growing details: Sunflowers require a lot of sun and water and their peak growing months are in summer, June, July and August. For more detailed growing tips, check out Burpee’s breakdown of techniques.
  • Varieties: There are dozens of varieties of sunflowers, but I personally love the fluffy heads of Teddy Bear sunflowers. But sunflowers come in a wide range of colors, ranging from yellow and orange to deep reds and chocolate browns. The variety pictured above is a Moulin Rouge sunflower.
  • Size: An average sunflower can grow 7 feet tall with a 12-inch diameter head. Although some varieties have been known to have heads that measure almost 2 feet in diameter! There are, however, a few dwarf varieties of sunflowers that produce plants that are only 2-4 feet in height with heads measuring 4 inches in diameter.
  • Cost: Cost varies depending on the type of sunflower and the season, but single stems can range from $2 to $7 a head.
  • Fun facts: Sunflower stems are incredibly buoyant and, before more modern materials were created, they were used as life vest filling! In decorative objects, sunflowers were commonly used to represent power and importance. For example, in mirrors, sculpture and ceramics, sunflowers would face a person (for example, Louis XIV, the ‘Sun King’) to indicate they were the center of the universe.

Photograph by Maxwell Tielman

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  • Sunflowers massed in the landscape are nothing short of spectacular. A neighbor plants giant massive varieties that attract birds to the seedheads. Some years I plant an assortment of less towering multihued sunflowers. They never fail to make me smile. A single one in a simple vase or bottle is sculptural, with enough drama to carry a small wall. Wrought in metal, they’re particularly handsome garden ornaments. Glad you’ve come to appreciate the beauties of this simple, hardy species. (It’s the state flower of Kansas.)

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