Sunflowers are striking, cheery flowers that are difficult to look at without smiling. Some varieties are small while others reach heights of six feet or more, sometimes many more, by summer’s end.
This flower has a strong connection to the sun. It’s physical appearance, it’s shape and typically yellow petals, is the most obvious connection. The brilliant petals are also known as “rays”, and give sunflowers an unmistakable sun-like appearance. Not only do sunflowers look like the sun, but they also need a lot of it! Sunflowers soak up as much sunlight as possible. They naturally reposition themselves to continuously face the sun over the course of a day, following it in the sky from east to west. This is a process known as heliotropism.
The common sunflower, also known as Helianthus annuus, is an annual bloom with a rough, hairy stem. The large, showy flower heads with yellow petals measure up to five inches across. These tall, leafy plants can bear anywhere between a few and many flower heads.
The world’s tallest sunflower was a massive thirty feet one inch high! Hans-Peter of Germany toppled his own Guinness World Record in the summer of 2014. Veteran of tall sunflowers, Hans-Peter had held this record twice previously.
Sunflowers originated in the Americas and were cultivated in North America as far back as 3000 BCE. Originally harvested by Native Americans for many reasons, these blooms served and continue to serve more than merely aesthetic purposes.
There are more than 70 varieties of sunflower. Their genus name Helianthus is derived from a combination of the Greek words for "sun" and "flower." Sunflowers are commonly recognized flowers and a favorite of many, admired for their delightful charm.
No flower can lift people’s spirits quite like sunflowers. They are bright and cheery, and as warm and inviting as the summer sun. These blooms have taken on various meanings in different cultures.
For Native Americans, wild sunflowers have been used for food, medicine, and dye for over 8,000 years. Edible uses include grinding into a fine powder for baking and thickening soups, steeping hulls in water to make a coffee-like beverage, and “seed balls,” similar to peanut butter, as a convenient on-the-go food for traveling. The vibrant colored petals make for clothing dyes as well as face paint. A broad range of medical uses ranges from wart removal to snake bite treatment.
In Chinese culture, the sunflower represents a long life, good luck, and happiness. In ancient China, royalty would consume sunflower seeds as snacks with the desired result of achieving mortality. Sunflowers were believed to represent more than longevity, they were also thought to radiate powers of immortality.
For the Greek, sunflowers are a symbol of Clytie, a water nymph. In the legend, Clytie turns into a sunflower after grieving the loss of her love, Apollo. As a sunflower, Clytie always faces the sun awaiting her love’s chariot to return. The sunflower is also the symbol of another Greek nymph, Daphne.
When people think of sunflowers, their bright yellow color is one of the first characteristics to come to mind. These large yellow blooms symbolize vitality, intelligence and happiness. While most sunflowers are yellow, colors cream, orange, red, brown, and multi-colored varieties exist in the wild or through careful breeding.
Cream sunflowers are a relatively new variety, and go by the name 'coconut ice.’ With creamy vanilla-white petals and dark centers that make a bold contrast to the petals, these flowers are a gorgeous new classic.
Sunflowers are very easy to grow in direct sunlight. According to the Farmer’s Almanac, sunflowers thrive in loose, well-draining soil that is somewhere between slightly acidic to somewhat alkaline. It’s also important to keep in mind that these usually large plants need plenty of room to grow.
As a big attractor of bees, adding sunflowers can help promote a good pollination of everything in your garden. Sunflowers are actually composed of several hundred small tubular flowers, packing these blooms with nectar and pollen. This, in addition to their vibrant color, makes them a favorite of bees and other pollinators alike.
Advice from a sunflower: Be bright, sunny and positive. Spread seeds of happiness. Know your roots. Rise, shine, and hold your head up high. Always keep growing. Even on the darkest days, stand tall and find the sunlight.
Sunflowers are known for being happy flowers. This makes them an easy flower choice as a way to bring joy to your own or someone else’s day.