04 Mar SUNSHINE IN THE GARDEN: 13 SUNFLOWER VARIETIES TO BRIGHTEN UP THE GARDEN
Raise your hand if you grew sunflowers in the garden as a kid. These quintessential, easy-to-grow summer flowers are one of the most popular flowers to grow from seed, but if your vision of a sunflower is the waist-high version with a brown center and bright yellow petals? Have we got a surprise for you!
The number of sunflower varieties is simply amazing, so if you’re looking for something a little different, you’ll probably find it on this list.
SHORT SUNFLOWER VARIETIES:
When we say “short,” we mean 3 feet and under. Granted, 3 feet seems to be kind of tall to be considered “short,” but when we’re talking about sunflowers — trust us, these are short (see next section for proof). Dwarf sunflowers are ideal for container gardens, children’s gardens, or as sunny borders.
- Sunny Smile: Same large brown seedhead center, same bright yellow petals, but only grows about 12-15” tall. I love this one because it has nicely sturdy stems, making them great for cutting but also for holding up around rowdy kids and pets.
- Big Smile: Big Smile is similar in appearance to Sunny Smile, but it can grow up to 2’ tall with blooms that are 3-6” across.
- Pacino: This one typically grows to about 12-16” tall, but it’s not unheard of for it to reach two feet. The center seedhead is a bit smaller and more golden yellow, but every bit as fetching.
GIANT SUNFLOWER VARIETIES:
Are you ready to be shocked and awed? Some sunflowers can grow so tall that you could, in theory, get lost in them. For obvious reasons, they are perfect for screening, hedges, and back-of-the-border plantings. Here are some truly gargantuan options.
- American Giant: Hello, 15-foot tall sunflower god! And with blooms that are one foot across, this one earns its name. Traditional golden petals with large brown seedhead.
- Skyscraper: Aptly named, this one is slightly shorter than American Giant, topping out at 12’ tall, but get this — the flowers can be 14” wide. Holy Sunflower, Batman. Yellow petals with a golden/green seedhead.
- Sunforest Mix: Want to grow a sunflower forest? Sunforest Mix grows up to 15 feet tall with large, 1-foot blooms in sunny yellow.
COLORFUL SUNFLOWER VARIETIES:
Ready for a bit more color? We thought so. These have the same warmth as traditionally colored sunflowers, but in additional scrumptious hues.
- Peach Passion*: For an unexpected twist, try a peachy-yellow-colored sunflower. Didn’t see that one coming, did you? Peach Passion has a gorgeous branching form growing up to 4’ tall with peach-tinged petals. The blooms are smaller, too, spanning only 2-4” across.
- Autumn Beauty: Can’t choose? You don’t have to with Autumn Beauty’s harvest shades of orange, yellow, bronze, and red on a multibranched plant. Six foot tall with 4-6” blooms.
- Cherry Rose*: Cherry red petals with golden tips look good enough to eat. This plant gets 5’ tall with 3-4” wide flowers.
FUNKY SUNFLOWER VARIETIES:
How about something even farther out there? I’m always up for the strange and unusual, aren’t you?
- Teddy Bear: How about yellow, shaggy petals on 3-5” heads? Teddy Bear is also quite versatile, staying to a manageable 8-12” when grown in a container, but soaring to 35-42” tall in the ground.
- Zebulon: Yellow petals surround a bright green center with an intricate geometric pattern. The plant itself grows 3’ tall on single stems.
- Starburst Panache*: Five-foot tall plants with 4-5” blooms feature a thistle-like buds that open into a starburst color pattern with orange and yellow. I find Starburst Panache kind of mesmerizing, to be honest.
- Sunfill Purple F1*: Truly unusual sunflower with petals that are green towards the center, then fade to purple. The blooms are 3-4” across on 6’ tall stems, but get this — the front of the flower has a similar look to the back of the flower. Cheers to innovative breeding!
Bonus: Any sunflower variety listed above with an * is pollen-free. That means it’s an even better choice for cut flowers and bouquets — no sneezing for you!