Useful Facts About Sunflowers

Here are some facts about sunflowers (Helianthus annuus) that should help you when planning out your edible garden design.

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  • Plant type: Tender annual (some varieties are perennial)
  • Plant size: 2-20 feet tall, 1-4 feet in diameter, depending on variety
  • Edible parts: young leaves, petals, seeds
  • Fruit color: n/a
  • Flower color(s): white to dark brownish red, depending on variety
  • Flower type: composite -- the "head" is composed of hundreds of tiny flowers, while the "petals" are actually leaves which protect these tiny flowers while they are still young.
  • Blooms: summer to fall
  • Leaf color(s): grass green
  • Leaf type: heart-shaped, giant sunflower leaves can get larger than your head
  • Stem color: light yellowish green
  • USDA zones: Can be grown in all zones 1-13 -- some perennial sunflowers are hardy down to zone 4
  • Likes: average to rich soil (rich soil is more important for the giant sunflower)
  • Tolerates: partial shade, mild drought
  • Dislikes: sandy soil (especially the giant sunflowers, which tend to fall over), overwatering, high winds
  • Uses: divider hedges, backdrops, centerpieces in flower garden design, cut flowers, hedge mazes, flowering bush, border plant, children's gardens

The name "sunflower" comes from the fact that growing sunflowers turn their flower buds and leaves to face the sun!

This action is called heliotropism -- sunflowers seem to know where the sun is at any given time and overnight return to facing east in time for the dawn.

Sunflowers insist on pointing east after they bloom, so take that into consideration when you choose where to plant them. It would be a shame to put them in only to have them face the wall.

Perennial sunflowers may take up to 3 years to bloom, but then bloom consistently every year.

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Harvesting sunflowers - Annual plants - Flower garden ideas

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