I think if anyone ever did a survey of the top plants grown with children, sunflowers would be number one on the list. My kids love growing them; the seeds are easy for little hands to handle, the plants aren’t too fussy and the end result is a real show-stopper.
With this in mind, you’d be forgiven for thinking that sunflowers are just about huge blooms on tall stems and height competitions for kids. But there’s far more to them than this, and with 2015 designated the Year of the Sunflower it’s a great time to explore this plant variety.
A few sunflower facts
- Most sunflowers originate from the Americas.
- They get their name from their behaviour; young, developing flowers actually track the daily movement of the sun.
- We tend to think of them as garden plants but they are also a valuable crop plant, with the seeds used to produce sunflower oil or harvested for the food and wild bird industry (leave the flower heads on and you’ll have lots of birds visiting in the Autumn).
- Not all sunflowers are giants; many are compact and ideal for smaller gardens and containers.
- And they’re not just yellow either; shades of orange, pink, red and even white are also available.
A sunflower for every garden
There are dozens of different varieties of sunflowers you can grow so there’s bound to be one that suits your space, colour scheme and garden style. Here are some ideas to get you started.
Best for size
If it’s size and height you’re after, ‘Mongolian Giant’, ‘Giraffe’, ‘American Giant’ and ‘Russian Giant’ can all reach over 3m tall.
Best for colour impact
For exotic red shades go for ‘Velvet Queen’, ‘Ruby Sunset’ or ‘Prado Red’. For dramatic yellow shades try ‘ Prado Yellow’, ‘Choco Sun’ or ‘Hallo’. There are also some lovely white variteties with chocolate brown centres which are fabulous in flower arrangements’ try ‘Italian White’, ‘Moonlight’ or ‘Moonwalker’.
Best for containers
Go for multi-flowered and dwarf varieties. ‘Waooh!’ (fab name), ‘Music Box’, ‘Little Dorrit’ and ‘F1 Suntastic Yellow’ are all good options.
Best for kids
It’s hard to beat ‘Teddy Bear’ for growing with kids; it has wonderfully soft, fluffy flower heads on dwarf plants which are low enough for children to touch.
I bet you didn’t know there were perennial varieties of sunflower – I didn’t! These regrow every Spring and are great for Summer blooms at the back of a border. ‘Lemon Queen’ is a good choice that produces lots of flowers.
With 2015 the Year of the Sunflower there will be special plants and promotions in garden centres, there’s also a great selection online from Thompson & Morgan and Mr Fothergill’s. It’s a perfect time to add some fabulous impact to your Summer garden. Which varieties will you be growing?