Sunflowers are a bright and uplifting bloom enjoyed by many across the world. These bundles of sunshine are sure to boost anyone's mood with a burst of optimism, positivity, and happiness. Learn more in our guide to sunflowers below.
Classification of Common Sunflowers
Types of Sunflowers
When you think of sunflowers, you might think of the classic yellow bloom with a deep brown center. This type of sunflower is just one out of over 70 types of sunflowers. These blooms fit into one of three categories, giant sunflowers, dwarf sunflowers, and colorful sunflowers.
How Did Sunflowers Get Their Name?
The name "sunflower" is a direct reflection of the way these blooms reposition themselves to face the sun throughout the day. This phenomenon of "chasing the sun" and following its pattern from sunrise to sunset is referred to as heliotropism. While the Greek words "Helios" and "Anthos" translate to sun and flower, it makes sense that the genus of the sunflower is Helianthus.
To explain why sunflowers, especially young blooms, have a circadian rhythm to support the heliotropism behavior, the ancient Greeks turned to the legend of Apollo, the god of sun and light, and Clytie, a water nymph. Clytie was deeply in love with Apollo, and while he loved her back at first, Apollo soon fell in love with Leucothoe. In jealousy, Clytie went to Leucothoe's father who disapproved of his daughter's relationship with Apollo and buried her alive as punishment. Outraged and grieving, Apollo turned Clytie into a sunflower. As such, she spent all of her days still in love, watching the sun as Apollo moved it across the sky every day in his chariot, identical to the way young sunflowers follow the sun across the sky today.
History of Sunflowers
Native to America, the sunflower's origin begins in the western region of the United States around 1000 BC, when wild sunflower plants became domesticated and harvested for their seeds. Over 8,000 years ago, Native Americans cultivated sunflowers as a source of food and medicine to treat wounds, kidney, and chest pains. While they are no longer used for medicinal purposes, sunflowers are now harvested all across the planet and their seeds are still enjoyed by many. The oils of sunflowers are also utilized for beauty products and cooking. Today, North Dakota remains the leader in growing sunflowers due to its optimal soil conditions, water, and climate.
Fun Sunflower Facts
What Do Sunflowers Mean?
Sunflowers are rich in meaning and have come to be a symbol of happiness, joy, optimism, positivity, love, growth, inspiration, peace, strength, longevity, vitality, and intelligence.
The Meaning of Sunflowers by Culture
A sunflower's meaning is also reflective of the beliefs held by certain cultures and the significant ways sunflowers have played a role in their cultural norms. A few examples of sunflowers' cultural symbolism are:
Tips for Purchasing Sunflowers
Finding the best sunflowers near you starts with your local florist. If you have the opportunity to pick exactly which stems you want to take home or include in your arrangement, keep these tips in mind.
- If your sunflowers come with plant food, carefully follow the instructions
- Choose firm, healthy-looking petals
- Keep an eye out for vibrant green leaves
- Stay away from wilting or yellow leaves
- Store your sunflowers in a cool space until you reach home
- Buy sunflowers locally near your home!
When Are Sunflowers in Season?
The season for sunflowers is the height of the summer and into autumn, as these sunny blooms start to appear in July and continue to flourish through October. While the most common sunflowers are annuals, there are also sunflowers that are perennials and return from the same bloom each year, thriving for approximately eight to twelve weeks.Shop Sunflowers
Caring for Outdoor Sunflowers
As their name suggests, sunflowers grow best in full direct sunlight, preferably soaking up rays for no less than six to eight hours per day. If you are able to control the air temperature around them, sunflowers thrive in low to high 70 degrees, although adult sunflowers are drought-tolerant and can withstand higher temperatures under the hot summer heat. The best soil for sunflowers has a pH level between 6 and 7.5 and is light and fluffy so their roots can easily spread out. Adding liquid fertilizer and organic materials into your soil is a wonderful way to ensure your sunflowers have an adequate food supply. You will know your sunflower is ready for harvest when the back of its head turns a nice shade of brown.
Pro tip: It is best to clip sunflowers from your garden in the afternoon before bringing them inside to display in a vase.
Caring for Sunflowers in a Vase
Cut sunflowers can last in a vase for about seven to ten days. The best practices for caring for your sunflowers include:
- Removing any foliage that falls below the waterline in your vase
- Cutting the stems 2-3 centimeters at an angle
- Giving your sunflowers fresh water each day
- Changing the water in your vase every few days
Pro tip: The best vase for sunflowers is tall and allows the heads of your sunflowers to stand proudly above the rim.
What Flowers Go with Sunflowers?
When choosing the perfect flowers to pair with these bright, beautiful, sunny blooms, your search for what flowers go with sunflowers is a fun task. Select additional uplifting, colorful, and complementing hues and bold summer botanicals to create wonderful arrangements. Some brilliant suggestions include:
- Calla Lilies
Flowers Similar to Sunflowers
When sunflowers are unavailable, or if you want to create a cohesive arrangement with flowers similar to sunflowers, there are a lot of options to choose from. Other flowers that look like sunflowers include:
- Black-Eyed Susana
- Bush Daisies
- Dianthus Caryophyllids
- False Sunflowers
- Gerbera Daisies
- Transvaal Daisies
- Yellow Daisies
Perfect Occasions for Giving Sunflowers
As a symbol of positivity and happiness, sunflowers are a fantastic choice to send to a friend or family member to brighten their day, support and encourage them during a difficult time, or inspire feelings of motivation and empowerment. These beautiful and optimistic blooms are also an ideal "get well" gift for loved ones. The perfect occasion for giving sunflowers is when you hope to promote happiness and longevity. Aside from bringing joy into someone's home, sunflowers are also great for welcoming a new baby or celebrating a graduation or work promotion.
Sunflowers are a good choice for acknowledging and celebrating anniversaries and are often given as a gift for a third wedding anniversary. As a symbol of loyalty, adoration, and strength, they are a wonderful nod to a healthy and happy marriage.