The 13 Best Sunflowers for Your Garden (Which Are All Easy to Grow)
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If you can’t jet off to the sunflower fields of Provence this summer, grow your own. No, really—they’re just about the perfect flowers because they grow easily from seed, they’re inexpensive, and they add color and beauty to your garden from mid to late summer and well into fall. Not to mention that pollinators, such as bees and butterflies, go crazy for sunflowers. (Fun fact: They are heliotropic flowers, which means they turn to follow the movement of the sun throughout the day.)
These happy-faced flowers come in every color, from sunny yellow to bright orange to chocolate to creamy white. Some are single stems, while others are branching types with multiple stems and blooms. Both types make long-lasting cut flowers. They’re also available in sizes ranging from two feet to the gigantic types, which can reach more than 10 feet tall! This makes them a fun plant for experimenting in the garden.
When Do You Plant Sunflowers?
Because sunflowers typically don’t transplant well, stick with seeds, which are much cheaper anyhow. Sunflowers can be planted any time after last expected frost in your area when the soil temperatures have warmed into the mid 60s to 70s (find soil temperatures in your area here). Otherwise, if the soil is too cold, the seeds won’t germinate well.
Read the seed package; different types have different days to maturity, which is how long it will take for your sunflower to bloom after planting the seeds. That can range from anywhere from 50 to more than 120 days, so count backwards to ensure your plants have enough time to bloom before the first frost.
How Do You Plant Sunflowers?
Because they’re sun worshippers, make sure to plant them in beds or pots in full sun, which is at least six hours of direct sunlight per day. Plant the seeds about 1 inch deep, and read the seed package to see how far they should be spaced apart, typically 6 to 36 inches, depending on the variety.
Water well, and keep soil slightly moist until they germinate in about a week to 10 days. You can plant in succession, every few weeks apart, to keep the blooms coming, too. Also, be aware that sunflower seeds are a favorite of digging rodents. If you’re having issues with the seeds or young plants being dug up, use cloches or make a tiny cage around them with chicken wire for protection. Repellants sometimes help but must be reapplied after it rains.
How Do You Maintain Sunflowers?
Honestly, this is another great thing about them: There’s really nothing to do except make sure to keep them watered, especially as you’re trying to get them to sprout. They’re somewhat drought tolerant once established.
Other than that, wait for them to bloom. Just remember that once you cut single-stem varieties for bouquets, that’s it for the flowers (just pull up the remaining stem and toss). Finally, if your sunflower starts to lean because of the weight of its head, use a stake or trellis to keep it upright.
The Best Sunflowers for Your Garden
- Why We Love It: Tall with gigantic flowers
Like the name says, these sunflowers can reach 10 feet tall with heads more than a foot across. It also produces delicious seeds, if you can beat the birds to it!
- Why We Love It: Dramatic mahogany blooms
This handsome heirloom sunflower reaches 6 or 7 feet tall with gorgeous, rich blooms that have dark centers. It’s an especially striking plant in contrast with the various shades of green in your garden.
- Why We Love It: visually stunning; Gold-tipped petals around a beautiful ring of red
This beautiful sunflower is one of the later-to-bloom varieties, requiring 120 days to show its bicolor flowers, so get it in the ground ASAP when the soil is warm. It reaches 4 to 5 feet tall and makes an excellent long-lived cut flower.
- Why We Love It: Branching stems with orange petals
These plants have 4 to 6-inch blooms on long stems, making them a great cut flower. They reach 5 to 6 feet tall in the garden. It will produce seeds for the birds if left on the plants to mature.
- Why We Love It: Multiple clusters of flowers on a single sturdy stem
The golden blooms of this brand new sunflower cluster together on the stem, which reaches 5 to 6 feet tall. This is a very tough sunflower that withstands wind and strong storms.
- Why We Love It: Petite blooms you can grow in a pot
This cheerful little guy is just the thing to grow in containers or window boxes. Each plant produces up to 20 flowers that are 5 to 6 inches across in successive bloom periods. It’s the tiniest sunflower on the market and comes in a few different colors.
- Why We Love It: Fuzzy-headed flowers like a teddy bear
You’ll smile when you see the adorable flowers on this petite sunflower. It maxes out around three feet tall on bush-like plants with bright yellow fuzzy-looking blooms.
- Why We Love It: Perennial native North American sunflower
Most sunflowers are annuals, but this variety is a perennial, so it will return for many years. It can reach three to 10 feet tall with multiple blooms in late fall that pollinators absolutely adore.
- Why We Love It: Tons of bright orange flowers
This dwarf Mexican sunflower loves summer’s heat and humidity, and you’ll love its cheery single flowers that are bright orange and a favorite of butterflies. This plant reaches 2 to 3 feet tall and does equally well in garden containers or beds.
- Why We Love It: Masses of copper-red flowers with golden tips
The unusual flowers on this branching type are numerous. The plants reach about two to three feet tall and make excellent bouquets.
- Why We Love It: Red summer blooms that make striking cut flowers
This branching variety is an heirloom that reaches six feet tall. Its deep red flowers with rust tones are five to six inches across and are a vibrant contrast to the typical bright yellow sunflower.
- Why We Love It: unexpected color (rosy pink)
This charming sunflower has pink petals with pale yellow tips, making it an eye-catching selection for your garden. This branching variety reaches six feet tall.
- Why We Love It: Earth tones on sturdy stems
These handsome flowers reach six feet tall with their beautiful red, gold and copper flowers. The late season shades will remind you of the glory of the coming fall.
Arricca Elin SanSone is a gardener with more than 15 years of experience. In addition to PureWow, she writes for Prevention, Country Living, Veranda, The Spruce and many other national publications.
She also trials new plant cultivars and field tests garden products to evaluate practicality and durability.