Sunflowers are known for the sterile yellow, red, orange, or purple ray flowers and the seed and pollen-producing disc flowers.
Helianthus annuus, in bloom as fall approaches in this region, is found in vacant lots and along road rights-of-way. Most sunflowers are annuals that may re-seed.
Sunflowers are native to the North and South American hemispheres. Growers in Mexico and the southern United States domesticated them for seeds and ornamental flowers. Today, Ukraine produces the most commercially grown sunflowers.
Flowers often represent qualities that people admire. The sunflower’s hardy nature fits the prairie of this region. In antiquity, Native Americans associated sunflowers with provisions and harvest, and Greeks linked sunflowers with loyalty. In China, sunflowers are known for long life and good luck.
Seed companies advertise sunflowers with features of short height and growth in close quarters, especially for containers. At Plant Exchange, we direct-seeded containers of potting mix with four different kinds of sunflower seeds in June. Early growth is featured in an earlier post this season.
Full sun containers of germinated sunflowers received daily watering in the hottest summer days and a little time-release fertilizer. We turned pots so that the plants would grow evenly and straight. As needed, we removed lower discolored leaves. Pollinators visited all four containers of flowers.
Now in early September, we’ll take another look at the four kinds of sunflowers grown here on a deck this summer.
‘Fire Catcher’ sunflower, by Burpee (advertised for its short height, not as a container plant), had distinctively patterned and colored terminal bloom heads on four-foot stems. Once blooms declined and were removed, few secondary flowers grew, making the bloom time about three weeks.
‘Big Smile’ sunflower by Johnnies Seed is the most proportional miniature of these sunflowers. The plants grew to about three feet in height with six-inch blooms and six-inch-wide leaves. Of the four kinds here, this plant is well suited for a special occasion. Due to some secondary flowers, a little smaller, the bloom spanned four weeks.
‘Ms Mars’ sunflower by Burpee grew to about three feet in height. Dark green leaves with purple stems and buds continue now to produce showy four-inch patterned flower heads, totaling six weeks of bloom so far. The receding color and detail are most appreciated close up.
‘Sunray Yellow’ Hy sunflower by Burpee leveled at about 20 inches tall with four-inch terminal flower heads. The plant immediately produced a profusion of slightly smaller secondary blooms that continues to bloom after seven weeks.
Dwarf Sunray Yellow plants have a short stem distance between secondary blooms and leaves, making the container lush with foliage. While patterned flowerheads in other kinds of sunflowers are distinctive, the large yellow flowers stand out at a distance and are pleasing close up.
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