May 2002


Sunflower – Helianthus annuus

Origin: North America



This diverse genus has come a long way since I was kid trying to grow a few "Sunnies" from a handful of seed.  There is such a variety available; giants grown as summer hedges, smaller dwarfs planted in containers or beds, and in-between sizes for colossal, yet elegant bouquets. As an added bonus, many of them still produce tasty, edible seeds that are a big hit with the wildlife. These easy-to-grow annuals are fairly drought tolerant once established.  Here are some of my sunflower favorites:


Tarahumara White Shell

This rare sunflower grows 7 to 10 feet in height. It produces lovely solid gold flowers that contain delicious edible seeds in about 90 to 100 days. 






A little shorter and stockier than the plant above, this one measures in at 6 to 8 feet in height. The flower is also somewhat larger. This sunflower produces large black and white edible seeds in about 90 to 100 days.





Jerusalem Dwarf

This is a true dwarf that grows 10 to 15 inches with a single 4 to 5 inch flower. This one is perfect for containers and it blooms quicker at 50 to 60 days than its big brothers. Alas no edible seeds are produced.






This "sunflower" is from a different genus and species (Tithonia rotundifolia) but it holds its own as an eye-catcher. Growing 6 to 8 feet, it produces 2 to 4 inch vibrantly colored flowers on bushy foliage. This one attracts bees and butterflies and makes a lovely cut flower in about 80 to 90 days.




Why not try sunflowers this year? They are sure to put a smile on your face and give the neighboring wildlife a tasty treat.