Summertime gardens are famous for sunflowers. These glowing, golden, earthly suns delight bees and people alike. They fill the awkward spaces in narrow gardens and peek over fences to greet neighbors. But did you know that sunflowers also detoxify the soil? After the devastation that happened at Chernobyl, cleanup crews planted fields of different types of sunflowers to help heal the earth.
These beautiful flowers can actually pull radiation from the soil. They’re also capable of removing toxic metals such as lead, arsenic, zinc, and copper from soil as deep as their roots can reach into the earth. If your goal is to detox the soil, allow the whole sunflower to die in place after it flowers. Then, gather the dead sunflowers and burn them. The toxins remain in the ashes, but can be contained.
Ultimately, there’s a sunflower to suit every garden. Whether you have an acre to fill with sunny blooms or scarcely a foot of free space, these beauties will inspire and encourage you.
Towering, sky-high sunflowers are ideal for huge fields or narrow yards. They overshadow fences and brighten up walls, and bring all kinds of birds and butterflies to your space. Just keep in mind that some sunflowers can grow to over 17 feet tall, depending on the variety. That’s taller than most fences, and even taller than some houses!
1. Schweinitz’s Sunflower
Rare and delicate, this wildflower sunflower is a stunner! Schweinitz’s Sunflowers can grow anywhere between 6 and 16 feet in height. The blossoms are smaller than traditional sunflowers, with delicate, daisy-like centers. Your neighbors will be in awe and the bees will be grateful!
2. Russian Mammoth
Russia is known for its huge golden sunflowers, and for good reason. The Russian Mammoth is one of the oldest and tallest known types of sunflowers around. These giants can grow over 12 feet tall, with huge, heavy flower heads on trunk-like stems. Leave these late summer beauties in the field to feed squirrels and birds over the long winter.
3. American Giant
A cheerful, lanky hybrid, the American giant grows anywhere from 8 to 15 feet tall. Its sturdy stalk makes this variety a great choice for windy climates or narrow fields. The American Giant won’t bend and slump later in the season like some other varieties, so it’s great in tight-knit neighborhoods or as a windbreak.
4. Giant Edible Sunzilla
This hybrid variety is designed to be uniform and consistent. Which doesn’t sound very exciting, but since it consistently reaches heights over 16 feet and produces huge seed heads, you might want to reconsider. The Giant, Edible Sunzilla has a strong, wind-resistant stalk and bright golden petals. It looks like the sunflowers of your childhood, and it’s big enough to make you feel like a child all over again!
5. Heirloom Titan
Heirloom varieties are a joy to grow, and you can save the seeds for autumn snacking or spring planting. The Heirloom Titan consistently grows up to 12-14 feet tall on strong stalks. Its flowers are traditional yellow with dark, seed-heavy centers. Harvest seeds when the petals drop off for a delicious, fiber-rich addition to salads or parfaits.
6. California Greystripe
Often reaching up to 16 feet tall, the California Greystripe variety is beloved by bees and butterflies. Its heavy seed heads full of plump kernels dry the songbirds into your garden as well. Best of all, the huge, bright yellow heads smile down towards you from this gorgeous giant.
7. Mongolian Giant
This huge, edible variety is ideal for the sunflower grower in search of a year-long supply of seeds. Mongolian Giants are, well… ENORMOUS. Topping out around 14 feet tall, this huge flower has a seed head that’s over a foot in diameter. Mongolian Giants produce many, dark sunflower seeds, for often up to twice as long as other varieties. As a result, it’s the perfect “homestead sunflower”!
Not all sunflowers are tall, mammoth yellow beauties. In fact, many of them are short and variegated. Dwarf types of sunflowers grow to heights of only 3 feet or less. This makes these mini sunflowers ideal for planters, small side gardens, or sun-loving edging beds.
The Pacino is like a scaled-down version of its mammoth cousins. Think of Pacinos as the hobbits of the Sunflower world, as these lovely flowers rarely reach 2 feet in height. They’re bright, sunshiny gold with wide centers and soft, gentle petals.
9. Elf Sunflower
Everyone’s favorite tiny sunflower, the graceful Elf blooms a bright, luminous golden hue. At only about 16” high, the Elf is easy to tuck into containers, children’s gardens, and butterfly beds. Additionally, this is the shortest sunflower available, and its bright, sunny face is everything a sunflower ought to be.
10. Dwarf Sunspot
These are truly enormous flowers—some over 12’’ across—on tiny stems. Dwarf Sunspots rarely grow taller than 24’’. As a result, their flowers are often over half as wide as the plant is tall. They’re delightful container flowers if you give them a heavy, sturdy pot and plenty of nutrients. The blossoms last longer than many dwarf varieties, attracting birds, bees and butterflies all summer long.
11. Teddy Bear
This tiny, tender variety delights children, bees, and adults alike. It pops up from the ground quite enthusiastically and blooms only two feet above the soil. Teddy Bears are fuzzy flowers, as you might expect from the name. They feature an abundance of small, shaggy petals circle a soft interior. This variety is huggable and soft, with flowers that grow only to 5” in diameter, making it perfect for window boxes and children’s gardens.
Colorful Varieties – Big & Small
Sometimes, the traditional, bright yellow varieties just aren’t what you’re looking for. Sometimes your garden craves an autumn glow or a gothy-vibe. If so, you can still fill a row with sunflowers, just look at varieties that are a little outside the box.
12. Autumn Beauty
These vibrant flowers grow up to 5 feet high and fill the garden with the colors of sunset. Oranges, reds, yellows, and rusts add a warm, gentle fall color the sunny corners of the garden. They bloom in late summer to welcome the cooler days of early fall, and feed the bees before the winter. Try mingling Autumn Beauty sunflowers with conventional varieties for a rich depth of color in your sunflower bed.
13. Moulin Rouge
One of the deepest branching types of sunflowers with rich, red blooms. Moulin Rouge is a rusty, burgund- toned pollen-less flower. While it produces severely blooms per stalk, this variety won’t feed your pollinators. As a result, use this decorative variety as a cut flower or to highlight the beauty of traditional, yellow sunflowers. Just be sure to offer more substantial fare to your local bees and butterflies.
14. Limoncello Summer
Not all of the unique sunflower varieties are darker. Limoncello Summer sunflowers are a soft, lemony yellow with dark brown centers. Their densely petaled blooms last long on the stem or as cut flowers, making them perfect for bouquets. Limoncellos grow up to 5 feet tall, but like Moulin Rouge, they produce no pollen.
Many of the specialized types of sunflowers are pollen-less hybrids, so be careful to avoid depending on them. Bees depend on gardeners to grow natural, sustaining flowers—let’s not let them down!
15. Red Sun
Warm bronze petals fade to gold, surrounding dark centers on this sunset flower. The Red Sun sunflower grows up to 6 feet tall, and produces many buds. In fact, it often gives 10 or more flowers per plant. Red Sun flowers bloom long and glow among other red flowers, or as a contrasting addition to gold or white blossoms.
16. Ruby Eclipse
Six feet tall with impressive, contrasting blossoms, the Ruby Eclipse is a stunner. Its dark center is surrounded by soft petals that are ruby red near the seed head and lemon yellow at the tips. The flowers can be up to 10 inches in diameter, and look like wide eyes sitting atop thick stems, gazing in wonder at the world around them.
17. ProCut White Nite
You might not expect a sunflower to have a name like this, But ProCut White Nite is a new variety of bright, white sunflower. These grow up to five feet tall with deep, black centers and luminous petals, White Nite is absolutely gorgeous. Unlike many pollen free varieties, White Nite welcomes bees. As a result, these flowers are ideal for the bride who longs for the look of sunflowers, but prefers a light, pastel palette. The pure white petals can easily accept flower dye as well.
18. Black Beauty
That’s right, you can grow dark, gothic sunflowers in your witchy garden. While no truly black flowers exist in nature, Black Beauty comes as close as possible. The petals are a deep, velvety dark red that look inky black in all but the brightest sunlight. Growing about 4 feet tall, these pollen-less flowers swathe your garden in elegant darkness. Perfect for Halloween bouquets or haunted houses.
Fun in the Sun!
As you can see, there really are countless types of sunflowers to suit everyone’s personal preferences. Whether you’re a sustenance-minded homesteader, a glowing bride, or parents of a flower-loving child, you’ll appreciate sunflowers for their joyful, friendly additions to any garden. Add one, two, or ten to your little patch of earth and get ready to be delighted.