One of the best additions to the garden, everyone recognizes the tall, yellow open blooms of the sunflower. However, there are actually many different types of sunflowers. They can be tall or short and come in a range of eye-catching colors. Some varieties even produce multiple blooms on a single stem. This versatility means that the sunflower is suitable for growing in many different styles of gardens.
This guide to the different types of sunflowers is designed to highlight some of the more visually attractive specimens currently available. As well as showcasing a selection of different colored plants we will also highlight specimens ideal for smaller spaces and container gardens as well as some of the tallest types currently available.
The sunflower is an instantly recognizable garden plant.
One of the best flowers to grow in your garden there are over 70 different types of sunflowers. Annual plants, sunflowers come in a range of sizes and colors. They are also easy to grow.
Once established the sunflower is pleasingly drought tolerant and pest resistant. Thriving in the summer heat these full sun flowers are best planted in gardens filled with lots of light. Interestingly, many types of sunflowers display heliotropism. This fascinating trait means that the flower moves throughout the day, following the sun as it crosses the sky.
When selecting your plants remember they are often grouped into tall, dwarf and colored. While tall varieties can reach up to 15 ft, dwarf cultivars rarely exceed 3 ft. Smaller specimens are ideal for small spaces and planters. The following are 20 of the most interesting or versatile sunflower varieties currently available.
1 American Giant
One of the most popular types of sunflowers, American Giant is commonly chosen by competitors in sunflower growing contests. Capable of growing up to 15 ft tall, the face can measure 12 inches wide. This large flower can become heavy, luckily it is supported by a sturdy stem.
Tall varieties are amongst the most popular sunflower cultivars.
Skyscraper is another of the tall, traditional types of sunflowers. In favorable conditions, Skyscraper plants typically grow to between 12 and 14 ft in height. The flowers, sitting on top of the thick stalks, produce long, elegant petals. On larger plants the flowers can measure up to 14 inches in length.
3 Russian Mammoth
Not as tall as Skyscraper or American Giant, Russian Mammoth types of sunflowers typically grow to a height of between 9 and 12 ft. The open flowers are popular with bees, butterflies and other pollinators. Instead of deadheading spent blooms, allow the flowers to fade on the stem. As the seeds dry birds and squirrels will come to harvest them.
4 Schweinitz’s Flower
Schweinitz’s Flower types of sunflowers are one of the rarest varieties on our list. Named after the 19th century botanist who discovered them, Lewis David von Schweinitz, these pleasant specimens can grow to a height of 12 ft height. However, they typically achieve a height of between 6 and 7 ft. The big yellow petals of Schweinitz’s Flower can, sometimes, dwarf the plant’s small, dark center.
Not every variety looks like the typical sunflower.
5 Sundance Kid
The Sundance Kid variety of sunflower is a dwarf variety. Ideal for smaller spaces, Sundance Kid plants can grow to between 1 and 2 ft in height. When they first open the petals are red before fading to yellow as the plant matures.
6 Little Becka
Little Becka is another of the increasingly common dwarf types of sunflower. It is particularly popular for the orange halo effect that its orange tipped red petals create when fully open. Rarely exceeding 2 ft in height, Little Becka plants are ideal for growing in larger pots and planters.
Despite being small in stature, Little Becka doesn’t lack visual impact. The petals, typically measuring around 6 inches long, can turn from gold to crimson and back to gold, providing lots of visual impact.
The yellow tip of the petal gives these red flowers a halo effect.
A bright yellow flowering plant, the Pacino sunflower rarely exceeds 1.5 ft in height. Producing multiple flowers on a single stem these are ideal for including in a cut flower garden. The flowers can be cut and used in bouquets or floral arrangements.
8 Teddy Bear
One of the more visually unusual types of sunflowers, Teddy Bears are named after their fluffy petals. Not only are these distinctive blooms, adding both color and texture to the garden, the petals are also edible. They can be used in salads or to decorate cakes. Teddy Bear plants typically grow to 2 ft in height.
Teddy Bear is one of the most distinctive sunflower cultivars.
9 Strawberry Blonde
A multicolored sunflower, Strawberry Blonde is popular for its attractive petals. These darken from a creamy white at the outer tip to a richer red-pink color at the center. Strawberry Blonde plants grow to about 5 ft.
Chianti is one of the darkest flowering types of sunflowers. The deep red wine flowers provide a pleasing visual contrast when planted alongside other types of sunflowers. Reaching 4 to 6 ft in height, Chianti can produce multiple flowers on a single stem. Pleasingly for hayfever and allergy sufferers the Chianti flowers are pollen free.
11 Moulin Rouge
Popular for its burgundy red petals, Moulin Rouge is one of the most sought after types of sunflowers. Averaging about 4 ft in height, unlike other colorful types of sunflowers, Moulin Rouge petals do not fade when planted in direct sun.
There is also a dark brown flowering variety of Moulin Rouge named Chocolate.
Moulin Rouge is a popular red cultivar.
12 Italian White
Like many types of sunflowers, the cream colored flowers of Italian White are popular with bees and butterflies. Typically achieving a height of around 5 ft, the petals of Italian White are more slender and less crowded than other types of sunflowers.
13 Autumn Beauty
While this isn’t the tallest of specimens, Autumn Beauty rarely exceeds 5 ft, there are other attractions here. The flowers come in a range of pleasing colors including red and bronze as well as the more traditional yellow. Further adding to the attraction, the stems can also be colorful or patterned.
One of the smaller types of sunflower, typically growing to between 2 and 3 ft, what Firecracker lacks in height it makes up for in interest. These productive flowers produce masses of gold and russet blooms during the summer and early fall months. The dark colors are ideal for fall gardens and cut flower arrangements.
Smaller varieties are great for cut flower arrangements.
Another of the pollen free types of sunflower, Bashful grows to a height of 3 ft. The petals, typically 4 inches long, are salmon and pastel yellow in color, providing masses of visual interest.
Taiyo is another great choice for cut flower displays. A Japanese heirloom variety, Taoyo is popular amongst sunflower lovers for its large flower heads. When fully developed the large dark centers provide visual impact to the garden, contrasting nicely with the surrounding gold leaves.
Taiyo typically grows to a height of 5 to 6 ft.
A large center, surrounded by smaller petals, provides visual interest.
Earthwalker is one of the most striking types of sunflowers. The pointed petals come in a range of colors including rich burgundies and golden hues. These surround a large, dark center. Earthwalker can grow to a height of between 6 and 9 ft.
18 Ms. Mars
Ideal for people looking for something that isn’t a traditional looking sunflower, Ms. Mars petals are dark-red in color with white or cream tips. This visual contrast helps to highlight the flower’s dark center. A good cut flower, Ms. Mars is also suitable for growing at the back of mixed flower beds and borders. The plants typically grow to 2 ft in height.
19 Royal Hybrid
One of the heavy yielding types of sunflowers, Royal Hybrid produces masses of seeds across their 8 inch wide flowerheads. Ideal for feeding the birds, or harvesting for yourself, Royal Hybrid typically reaches 7 ft in height.
An award winning sunflower, Soraya grows to 6 ft. in height. This makes it ideal for borders or using as a cut flower. The short bright petals contrast nicely with the dark center of the Soraya flower.
If you like the visual appearance of Soraya but want a smaller plant, Suntastic is a reliable choice. A single Suntastic plant can produce up to 20 flowers.
A group of tall plants provide dramatic visual impact.
Why Grow Sunflowers in Your Garden?
If the visual appeal of these plants isn’t enough to convince you to sow a few seeds, there are numerous other reasons why you may want to grow one or more of the many types of sunflowers in your garden.
Firstly, they attract beneficial insects and pollinators to your garden. Bees in particular adore all types of sunflowers. This is because each flower contains dozens of small florets. Each floret contains pollen and nectar. This makes the flowers a good source of food for hungry pollinators.
The more pollinators that are drawn to your garden, the higher your vegetable and fruit yield. If you are growing any of the types of sunflowers listed above, try to select organic seeds. These are healthier for both the bees and your garden.
Secondly, sunflower plants draw toxins out of the soil as well as heavy metals, absorbing toxic materials such as lead, zinc and arsenic. This means that growing all types of sunflowers is an attractive and easy way to improve your soil.
Most types of sunflowers also make good cut flowers. The bright colorful blooms, which sit on long, sturdy stems, add height and interest to a cut flower display or bouquet. If you are cutting the flowers for a display, try to do it early in the morning before the temperature rises. Place the cut stems in cool water for around 10 minutes after cutting to prevent them from resealing before moving to a vase.
Growing sunflowers is also a good way to get free seeds. These are great for the birds or can be harvested for a healthy snack. Our guide to harvesting sunflower seeds explains exactly how to do this.
Birds love sunflower seeds.
Sunflower Growing Tips
One of the most popular garden flowers, the sunflower is also pleasingly easy to grow.
An annual plant, the sunflower typically flowers during the summer and early fall months.
Easy to grow from seed, depending on the variety flowers can appear within 11 to 18 weeks.
Best started in late spring, seeds can either be sown in position or undercover. I prefer to start my seeds undercover. This enables me to protect the delicate seedlings from any unexpected, late spring frosts. Sow seeds in small, individual pots filled with moist, fresh potting soil.
Place the pots on a windowsill in a sunny spot and continue to regularly moisten the soil. Deep pots, such as Landmark Nursery Extra Deep Pots, allows the developing roots to spread out and become strong and healthy ready for transplanting into the garden.
Following germination, continue to keep the soil evenly watered. When the seedlings reach a healthy size the seedlings can be transplanted out into the garden.
After hardening off the seedlings, transplant them into a sunny spot. The soil is best prepared beforehand.
All types of sunflowers do best in good soil. Work in lots of compost or well rotted manure before planting.
As the name suggests, the sunflower plant likes lots of sun. However, these flowers don’t appreciate being planted in an open or exposed position. Exposure to too much wind can bend or damage the stems of the plant. If you do decide to plant in an exposed position the stems may require staking. GAGINANG Bamboo Sticks provide unobtrusive, support and protection from high winds.
Young plants also require some protection from slugs and snails.
Water your growing plants regularly. This encourages them to grow tall. Regular watering also helps to prolong the lifespan of the flowers.
Annual plants, if planted in good soil, the sunflower doesn’t require any fertilization. However, the plants do benefit from a dose of tomato fertilizer, such as Dynamite Natural and Organic Matter Plant Food, just as flowers start to form.
Leave the spent flowers on the plant. As they fade seeds form. These can either be harvested for a healthy snack, or left in place to provide food to birds and small animals. You can also store some of the ripe seeds in a paper envelope for sowing next year. Remember to label the envelope.
If you want to learn more about growing any types of sunflowers, check out our guide here.
The sunflower is one of the most popular plants in the summer garden.
Bright, colorful and easy to grow the sunflower is a popular part of the summer garden. While the tall, yellow varieties remain understandably popular, as you can see from this article there are many different types of sunflowers. Coming in a range of shapes, sizes and colors these cheerful plants can be successfully cultivated in even the smallest of outside spaces.
Jen is a master gardener, interior designer and home improvement expert. She has completed many home improvement, decor and remodeling projects with her family over the past 10 years on their 4,500 sf Victorian house. She is also a passionate farmer who keeps goats, chickens, turkeys cows and pigs on her farm, and an instructor for her community’s Organic and Sustainable Farming project.