The sunflower always brings joy with its bright yellow petals. Besides, it produces tasty and nutritious edible seeds. Keep on reading to get acquainted with this beautiful plant.
The sunflower, also known as Helianthus annuus, is an annual plant that is native to North America, although it is usually associated with the Mediterranean area.
The scientific name of sunflowers is derived from Greek words helios, which means “sun”, and anthos, meaning “flower”.
You might be wondering why the name of this plant is sunflower. It happens because the head always follows the sun.
Therefore, if you are eager to grow it to enjoy the blooms, never put it on an east or west axis. Otherwise, you will only look at the back of it throughout the day.
This flower is renowned for its sunny short yellow petals that surround a darker central disk. However, it comes in a wide array of colors now, such as deep burgundy, chocolate browns, orange, maroon, and multicolor.
The sunflower is a fast-growing plant that blooms from mid-summer to early fall. It has one sturdy stem that can grow up to more than 10 feet, and hold single or multi-branched flowers.
People usually grow sunflowers for not only their beauty but also their edible seeds, which are favored by birds. You can also eat them raw for a quick snack, turn them into cooking oil or use them as livestock feed.
A single sunflower head can produce up to 2,000 edible seeds, which are actually the fruits of the b plant. People harvest them from the large ones that can be more than 12 inches in diameter.
Sunflower crops consist of two main types. The first one is the seeds that you usually eat for snacks. Black-and-white striped shells, called hulls, encase a small edible seed inside.
It has a mild, nutty flavor with a firm texture when you touch it, and it becomes tender when you bite it. However, you cannot consume the shells.
The second type is the seeds that you can turn into oil. Unlike the other one, they feature solid black shells.
Making your own sunflower oil is not that hard. First, grind the oilseeds with a blender until they result in fine-meal consistency.
After that, roast it in the oven for 20 minutes. Set the temperature at 300-degrees Fahrenheit. Do not forget to stir it every five minutes.
Types of Sunflowers
Many people recognize a sunflower as an exquisite yellow flower. Apparently, it is not the only color that this plant show. Check out some types of it.
You may have come across the sunflowers that feature small rounded yellow petals with a large brown center. However, this one is different.
This type of sunflower is called Teddy Bear. It belongs to a dwarf variety that only reaches 1 or 2 feet in height. Therefore, it would be perfect for your small garden or containers.
The most conspicuous thing of this variety is the fluffy deep-gold flower head that looks spectacular. You can cut it off and put it in a vase because it can last for several days.
This is one of the most popular types. The “Mammoth” is renowned for its gigantic size that can reach more than 12 feet in height. It’s single stalk can produce a 10 to 12-inch flower with a lot of edible seeds.
This type of sunflower is a fast grower and not fussy due to being drought tolerant. A row of “Mammoth” would make a great privacy screen. You just need to sow the plants every month to get simultaneous bloom up to fall.
Sunrich Gold grows up to 5-feet tall. It produces a single 4” to 6″ golden-yellow flower with a big green-yellow pollenless center.
Since it has vivid yellow color, it would jazz up a flower bouquet and arrangement.
This type of sunflower is reminiscent of the beauty of sunset with its warm copper or mahogany petals in 8- to 10-inch blossoms. It has a dark chocolate center that makes it look exotic.
Evening Sun is a fast-growing annual that will spruce up your garden without making you break a sweat. The heads attract birds, bees, and butterflies, which can be a soothing scene that you do not want to miss.
This variety features pale yellow or creamy white blooms that top a 5- to 7-feet stem. It grows quickly, blooms abundantly, and dies in the first killing frost.
You do not need to worry as you can collect the seeds to sow them next year, or you can give them to birds.
Prado has exotic burgundy or burnt-orange petals that make it an excellent flower for cutting. This variety is resistant to drought once it is established.
This annual features beautiful bicolored blossoms with reddish-brown and golden-yellow petals, and chocolate brown center. The exquisite colors make it a great cut flower.
How to Plant Sunflower’s Seed
The sunflower is a fast-growing annual that grows from seeds. You have to sow it directly in the garden after the soil has thoroughly warmed to approximately 55-degrees Fahrenheit.
However, you need to prepare the seeds prior to planting by rinsing them in a colander, and scattering them on paper towels or newspaper to let them dry overnight.
If you do not replant the seeds right away, store them in an airtight container, and put it in a cool, dry place until you are ready to sow them.
Dig a hole for about 1-½” x 6”. For low-growing varieties, give the sunflowers sufficient space for about 30-inches to allow them to branch out.
Apply some fertilizer to encourage strong root growth that will protect the sunflower from being blown over by the wind.
Try staggered planting by sowing a few seeds every week over the course of a month to enjoy continuous blooms.
Once your sunflowers are producing fruit, you may find some birds are trying to get the seeds. If it happens, you can spread netting over the area.
How to Harvest Sunflower’s Seeds
In addition to the exquisite blooms, people grow sunflowers due to the delectable seeds. Here are the steps of harvesting them.
This is the most effortless and convenient part of the whole process. If your sunflower, has died, the backs of the blooms have turned into brown, and the seeds are plump and loose, it means you can harvest it.
Cut the stalk with pruners. After that store it in a container that can hold loose seeds.
Hang and Dry the Sunflower
Birds are your biggest enemy as they may take the seeds before you harvest them. To overcome this problem, cover the blooms by tying a paper bag over them.
Another way to save the seeds is by cutting the stalks, even though they are not ready yet. Then, hang them in a warm, dry areas inside your home or porch for five days to dry.
Removing the Seeds
Finally, it is time to de-seed your sunflower. You can do it by firmly rubbing the head over a bucket or any large container to catch the seeds. Do not worry about the petals that fall into it because you can remove them later.
Although sunflowers belong to low-maintenance plants, they still need proper care. The most indispensable thing is watering.
Despite being drought and heat tolerant, sunflowers still need frequent watering. Sunflower seedlings like moist soil. Therefore, you should water them every day. Just make sure it is not soggy.
Once the stems are established, you should do a deep watering once a week with some gallons of water.
Apply fertilizer only if your soil lacks nutrients. Use a slow-release one or compost right on top of the soil, but not too close to the sunflower’s base.
Never add fertilizer to healthy soil since it can lead to an abundance of nitrogen, which makes the stems break or delays the bloom.
Slugs and snails may be interested in your sunflowers. Simply ward them off with repellents. Use polyspun garden fleece to cover your plants so that birds and squirrels will not be able to wreak havoc.
If you happen to find your leaves turn yellow and shrink, remove them and reduce watering. You may also need sturdy support when your sunflowers begin to droop.
Sunflower Seeds Nutrition
Sunflower seeds are renowned for being high in vitamin E and selenium that can protect you from free radicals damage.
Magnesium, protein, and linoleic fatty acids are well-known for their ability to lower cholesterol and blood sugar.
The seeds also contain flavonoids, teaming up with other plant compounds, that may help to reduce inflammation.
Magnesium and some other compounds found in sunflower seeds help you reduce blood pressure levels.
Sunflower seeds also feature unsaturated fatty acids, including linoleic acid that helps you relax blood vessels.
In sum, if you are looking for plants that can improve your backyard landscaping, sunflowers will be worth trying. They not only provide a dramatic view but also produce tasty seeds that are good for your health.