Sunflowers originated in the Americas and domestic seeds dating back to 2100 BC have been found in Mexico. Native Americans grew sunflowers as a crop, and explorers eventually brought the flowers to Europe in the 1500s. Over the next few centuries, sunflowers became increasingly popular on the European and Asian continent, with Russian farmers growing over 2 million acres in the early 19th century (most of which was used to manufacture sunflower oil).
Dutch painter Vincent Van Gogh famously painted a world-renowned still-life series of sunflowers. His sunflower paintings are so famous, the Van Gogh museum has teamed up with the breeder of Sunrich sunflowers to create the “Sunrich-Van Gogh’s Favorite” label of sunflowers.
Sunflowers can be annual (Helianthus annuus) or perennial (Helianthus maximiliani), but most modern sunflowers are annuals.
Single Stem vs Branching Sunflowers:
Single stem sunflower varieties are best for high-density plantings and produce consistently beautiful flowers on tall stems. Succession planting will be needed for continuous Year of the Sunflower blooms throughout the season.
Branching varieties produce flowers on multiple shorter stems throughout the season, which makes them ideal for sunflowers all season long.
Single stem: ProCut® Series, Sunrich™ Series, and Vincent® Series
Branching: Autumn Beauty Mix, Soraya, SunBuzz, Suncredible®, Sunfinity™Pollen vs Pollen-free Sunflowers:
Sunflowers that produce pollen are a great option for gardeners focused on supporting pollinators or for those looking for a lower price point.
Many modern sunflower varieties are bred to be male sterile, or pollen-free, to help foster extended vase life and a nice, clean appearance. These also keep your table clean from pollen!
Luckily, there are many varieties of both pollen and pollen-free:
Pollen-free: Moulin Rouge, ProCut Series, Sunbuzz, Sunrich Series, and Vincent Series
Pollen: Soraya, Ring of Fire, and Valentine
Height/Size of Sunflowers:
Another way to distinguish sunflowers is by their height and size. Smaller, ornamental sunflower varieties, such as the Sunrich or ProCut series are only a few feet tall, while American Giant Sunflowers can grow to be 15+ feet. Depending on their height, the size of the flower will also change with larger flowers on the taller varieties.
Tall: American Giant, Kong, Mammoth, Sunforest
Dwarf: Smiley, Sunbuzz, Suntastic, Teddy Bear, Suntastic Yellow with Black Center
Sunflowers for Edible Seeds:
Some varieties have been bred to produce large, edible seeds that are great for snacking. The seeds are ready to harvest once the petals have withered and the seeds can be seen.
Edible seed types: Feed The Birds, Mongolian Giant, Skyscraper, Super Snack Mix, Titan
How to Grow and Care for Sunflowers:
Sunflower seeds can be direct sown after the risk of frost has passed or started indoors. Seeds should be sown ¼” to ½” deep and kept moist. Taller, larger sunflower varieties have a large taproot to keep them rooted and do not do well when they are transplanted so direct sowing of those varieties is recommended. Choose a site, or a container, in full sun, with average fertility and good drainage.
Recommendations for the best vase life:
If you’re growing sunflowers for cuts, here are some recommendations to extend the vase life of your flower.
- Cut when the petals or ray flowers just begin to open, before they have opened off the disc completely. It is recommended to cut in the early morning before the heat of the day.
- Remove the leaves below the water line and place in freshwater or properly measured fresh flower food solution
- Check water regularly; sunflowers are heavy drinkers and can empty a bucket or vase overnight
- Change water daily; sunflowers have what some call a dirty stem, as the water quickly turns cloudy with potential for bacterial issues
This Year of the Sunflower fact sheet is provided as an educational service of the National Garden Bureau.
- Kristin Ego
- Tags: sunflowers
In-Store Shopping Health and Safety Expectations
We will work diligently to create a safe shopping experience for you. Our staff will wear appropriate face coverings, clean surfaces regularly, maintain physical distancing and keep displays well spaced. Hand sanitizer is supplied at entry and checkout. The number of people shopping indoors will be limited so please make your visit to us thoughtful and shop with purpose.
In order to facilitate a safe experience for all our customers and staff, please note the following expectations of all visitors:
* If you have been in contact with anyone with a confirmed or probable case of COVID-19 or if you are sick or feeling un-well, PLEASE REMAIN AT HOME.
* Follow the physical distancing guidelines at all times... in lineups, in the nursery and greenhouse and with our staff members.
* Wear a mask or face covering
* Please apply hand sanitizer available at entry
* Shopping carts will be sanitized regularly.
* No outside food or beverages.
* No pets permitted
* Washrooms will not be available. Please plan accordingly.
* Please stay behind plexiglass screens while at the checkout.
- Kristin Ego
PW Idea Book
We grow many of the varieties featured in the annual PW Idea Book.
Click here to download a little inspiration for 2020
- Kristin Ego
Classic Blue Named Pantone Colour of the Year
ANNOUNCING THE PANTONE COLOR OF THE YEAR 2020
PANTONE 19-4052 Classic Blue
Instilling calm, confidence, and connection, this enduring blue hue highlights our desire for a dependable and stable foundation on which to build as we cross the threshold into a new era.
A timeless and enduring blue hue, PANTONE 19-4052 Classic Blue is elegant in its simplicity. Suggestive of the sky at dusk, the reassuring qualities of the thought-provoking PANTONE 19-4052 Classic Blue highlight our desire for a dependable and stable foundation on which to build as we cross the threshold into a new era.
Imprinted in our psyches as a restful color, PANTONE 19-4052 Classic Blue brings a sense of peace and tranquility to the human spirit, offering refuge. Aiding concentration and bringing laser like clarity, PANTONE 19-4052 Classic Blue re-centers our thoughts. A reflective blue tone, Classic Blue fosters resilience.
- Kristin Ego
Lantana - Easy Growing Butterfly Magnet
Lantana has a rich history of being utilized in the garden for long-lasting, colorful blooms, superior heat tolerance and the ability to attract bees, butterflies and hummingbirds. Featuring clusters of bright colors, solid as well as multi-color, Lantana can be used in containers, landscaping and hanging baskets.
In the 18th century, lantana was a popular greenhouse plant in Europe and breeding efforts were extensive, resulting in hundreds of available selections.
There are 150 species of lantana in the verbena family (Verbenaceae) and the most commonly used ornamental selection is Lantana camara. Hardy to zone 8, this plant can be a perennial (tender perennial in zone 7) or even a medium shrub in frost-free locations. It is most commonly used as an annual in colder areas.
Looking to attract butterflies in your garden? You can’t go wrong with lantanas!
Lantana is a must-have for creating a pollinator haven. These plants are REALLY attractive to butterflies, bees and hummingbirds on so many levels: sweet nectar for food, attractive scent, bright color, and the overall flower form (it’s a literal landing pad!).
These flat-topped “landing pad” flowers consist of clusters of tubular blooms that together make an umbel flower form. Lantana flowers come in single or multiple colors. Multiple colored lantana flowers change color as they mature. The newest flowers, opening in the center of the umbel, are one color that changes as they mature and move to the outer edges of the cluster. This maturation of the flowers within the umbel can lead to two or even three-toned flowers. The flowers come primarily in shades of red, orange, yellow, white, pink, purple or lavender and often have a slight, spicy flower fragrance.
Ready for the Heat and Drought!
Want a flower that keeps on flowering throughout the summer is scorching heat and dry conditions? Then Lantana is the perfect plant to grow in your garden and containers!
These plants love the heat and like to be kept on the drier side. They do best in full sun and well-drained soil and hate to be overwatered.
Breeders have recently introduced sterile, or near sterile, Lantana, which means the plant never sets seed, so they continue to bloom and bloom and bloom through the entire season! So, when that heat kicks up, these sterile varieties won’t set seed or cycle out of flower. (setting seed usually means the end of flowering).
Compact or Trailing
Lantanas fall roughly into two forms: compact or trailing. Compact, mounding plants are readily available and perfect for small spaces and containers. Trailing forms, which can spread up to three feet, are ideal to economically fill in larger areas with an impressive display of color. When purchasing your Lantana, always consider the final plant size as some can get quite large.
Home Gardening Tips
- Continuous blooms and easy care make Lantana perfect for those new to gardening.
- Lantanas grow best with at least 8 hours of full sun and in a variety of well-drained soil (they do tolerate salt). Avoid overwatering or placing them in poorly drained locations.
- In the spring, home gardeners will find Lantana plants at their local garden retailers and through some plant catalog companies.
- In colder climates, plant after the threat of frost has passed and ideally after the soil has warmed.
- Very few diseases are found. Powdery mildew may become an occasional issue, particularly during cool, wet summers and in situations where proper air circulation isn’t available. Root rot and sooty mold will occasionally become factors in overly damp situations as well.
- Overfertilization may result in more stem and foliage growth at the expense of flower production.
- Deadhead (removing spent blooms) regularly to keep the plant tidy and neat.
- If your plant becomes overgrown, prune it back severely to maintain a more compact form.
- Deer and rabbits avoid Lantana because of the “disagreeable odor” of the leaves.
- Kristin Ego
The “Lavender Lifestyle” is real! Everywhere you look, people are incorporating this multifaceted plant into their daily lives: It’s seen in gardens, as well as in kitchens and décor. It’s even a special part of health and wellness routines. The texture, scent, attractiveness, and overall usability of lavender make it one of the most versatile plants you can grow.
Lavender is a member of the mint family (Lamiaceae) and is found in many regions around the world, especially temperate climates. The most common types are English lavender (L. angustifolia) and Spanish or French lavender (L. stoechas or L. dentata).
Spanish or French Lavender
is the hardiest in terms of garden performance. There are several varieties, such as Hidcote, Munstead or SuperBlue, that have been trialed to overwinter reliably through USDA Zone 5. English lavender blooms sit on spikes rising tall above a gray-green base of leaves. Both the florets and foliage are heavily scented. The plants flower mostly in pink-purple colors, but some silver-white varieties exist as well. It can grow as high as 3 to 6 feet (1-2m) depending on your region, but most of the top-selling varieties today are dwarf styles, which grow in a more manageable height of 6-24 in. (15-60 cm). Additional varieties of English lavender include Annet, Aromatico, Big Time Blue, Blue Spear, Ellagance, Lady, Lavance, Sentivia, Sweet Romance and Vintro, among others.
Spanish and French…
are natives to the Mediterranean where they grow evergreen. Their leaves are longer and gray-green, and the taller flower stems are topped with thicker pink-purple pinecone-like flower clusters crowned with similarly colored bracts. (Stoechas is a Latin word derived from the Greek word for “in rows,” which is how these cones generally display their tiny purple clusters.) This type of lavender is more fragile than English varieties; it is less winter hardy (USDA Zones 6-9). However, it still tolerates a wide range of temperatures. Its fragrance also makes it very attractive to bees – an excellent pollinator-friendly option for your garden or patio.
Some reblooming Spanish lavenders, such as the Anouk or Bandera series, flower heavily in the spring with a second flush of flowers later in the growing season. Spanish and French lavender work well indoors, too, and can be a scented décor or gift item. Additional varieties include Castilliano, Javelin Forte, LaVela, Papillon and Primavera among others.
Then there are additional varieties, such as Phenomenal, Provence, Torch, Hidcote Giant, Edelweiss and Fred Boutin that are crosses between species to give an even wider array of lavender types, colors and habits.
As they say, there is something for everyone!
Ideal Growing Conditions
Lavender grows best in full sun in dry, well-drained soil; it does not like saturated roots. Adding inorganic mulches, such as gravel or sand, could help the soil conditions for a successful lavender bed. All lavender types need little or no additional fertilizer, and it is a good practice to provide air circulation. If you live in a region of high humidity, watch out for root rot due to fungus infection. This is sometimes aggravated by using organic mulches, which can trap moisture around the base of the plant.
Quick tip: Use gravel or crushed rocks at the base of the plant for a better growing environment.
In Your Garden
Planting lavender as a front border means you’ll see it up-close. Feel free to run your fingers through the soft foliage and enjoy the fragrance! Lavender can also be planted in a mixed patio container with other sun-loving plants, or by itself as a fresh way to scent the air in a small space.
The flowers and leaves of lavender plants are used in many herbal medicines and self-care regimes. Homemade projects and recipes include herbal teas, culinary spices, essential oils, aromatherapy, balms, and more. It is widely added to bath salts, soaps, soaks, perfumes, etc., for a fresh fragrance and calming effect. As a strong-scented herb, dried lavender florets can also be used to repel pests in the garden, or even in the home closet as a fragrant sachet pillow that can ward off moths. French chefs use lavender in a blend called herbs de Provence, which adds a fragrant spice to both savory and sweet dishes.
All of these uses add up to quite a versatile and enjoyable flower that’s become a must-have in gardens and homes around the world. And it’s easy to see how 2020 can be your Year of the Lavender!
This fact sheet is provided as an educational service of the National Garden Bureau.
- Kristin Ego