Different types of Sunflowers
Sunflowers (Helianthus spp.) Contain both annuals and perennials, which are native to North and South America. Many sunflowers develop strong stems with showy, daisy-shaped blossoms in various colors such as orange, yellow, red, cream, purple and bronze. Sunflowers reach anywhere from just a few inches to several feet tall. Optimal production is through hot summers.
Tall Perennial Sunflowers
Several sunflowers grow as perennials. All these sunflowers die back to the ground in the winter and ripped from the root in spring. One example is the Maximilian sunflower (Helianthus maximiliani) reaching 3 to 10 feet tall with unbranched stems and long narrow leaves, which are 10 inches long near the base of the stem, shrinking to 2 inches long near the top. The flower heads are approximately 5 inches across with yellow cones surrounding the green or dark brown centers. This variety of sunflower produces edible seeds in the autumn in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 4 through 9. Swamp sunflowers (Helianthus angustifolius) develop best in USDA zones 6 through 9 with golden beam petals around a dark brown center cone in autumn. This 3- to 6-foot-tall sunflower grows 3-inch-wide flowers in the complete sun, attracting butterflies and bees to the garden.
Short Perennial Sunflowers
Short perennial sunflowers develop smaller than normal sunflowers, even reaching dwarf sizes of just a few inches. These types mixture into the flowerbed rather than overshadow the garden. “First Light” willow-leaved sunflowers (Helianthus salicifolius “First Light”) develop well in USDA zones 6 through 9, reaching just 3 to 4 feet tall. The autumn flowers are made up of butter-yellow petals surrounding a raised brown facility. The flowers reach 3 inches wide, and the stems are covered with narrow, hairy leaves 4 inches long. This more compact kind of sunflower attracts birds and butterflies to the yard. This variety tolerates poor soil that drains well.
Tall Annual Sunflowers
The classic tall sunflowers usually develop as annuals in the garden. These big, top-heavy plants may need to be staked to be able to stay upright after the blossoms blossom. Branching sunflowers (Helianthus debilis) develop thick stems that have divisions covered with glossy green leaves. The 5- to 6-foot-tall stems support nodding 2 1/2-inch-wide summer flowers, which attract birds. The blossoms are made up of bright yellow ray petals growing around a greenish-brown middle. “Sungold” sunflowers (Helianthus annuus “Sungold”) reach 6 to 7 feet tall, spreading two to three feet wide with yellow dual blooms composed of butter-yellow outer petals surrounding a darker yellow center. This summer-blooming sunflower produces flower heads 3 to 6 inches tall which are followed by seeds, which behave as a food source for birds. This variety of sunflower germinates and grows very quickly.
Short Annual Sunflowers
Annual sunflowers also consist of dwarf types of sunflowers, which can be only a few inches tall. Annuals have a tendency to die out after producing seeds and need to be replanted another spring. Annuals ensure it is easy to change the expression of the flowerbed every year. “Sunspot” dwarf sunflowers (Helianthus annuus “Sunspot”) stay short, reaching only 24 inches tall with big 10-inch-wide golden-yellow blossoms. This variety of sunflower produces sunflower seeds within 60 days following planting.