Stuart Boone from Red Bluff, California, sent in these pictures of an assortment of sunflowers he grew in his garden this year. Sunflowers are terrific plants, native to the United States, cheap, and easy to grow from seed. In addition, they produce abundant nectar and pollen for bees and other beneficial insects, and their seeds heads are incredible natural bird feeders once the bloom is over.
If you are looking to maximize the benefit for pollinators, avoid varieties marked as “pollenless.” These varieties are great for cut flowers because they don’t spill pollen all over your table when sitting in a vase, but out in the garden, that pollen is valuable food for all sorts of bees.
All these sunflowers are varieties of the same annual species, Helianthus annuus, which is native to a wide swath of North America and was domesticated by Native Americans for its large, delicious seeds.
‘Mammoth’ is one of the biggest varieties of sunflower. These very tall plants with very large flowers have been bred to produce just one stem with one massive flower on the end of it. They’re the most dramatic and iconic of sunflowers, but once that one flower has bloomed, that’s usually it. If you want to have sunflowers all summer, either keep sowing plants every week or two, or choose one of the shorter, branched varieties that will bloom longer with smaller flowers.
This view of an enormous sunflower makes it look like it is trying to grow taller than the house! View our plant guide to sunflowers here.
‘Teddy Bear’ is an old-fashioned variety of sunflower, one of the few double-flowered selections, that produces flowers with masses and masses of long, showy petals. These double forms are similar to those in Vincent van Gogh’s famous painting of sunflowers.
‘Autumn Beauty’ is a seed strain that produces a beautiful mixture of blooms variously marked with different amounts of red in the petals.
This pale yellow sunflower ‘Canary’ is being enjoyed by a visiting bee.
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