Sunflowers are the most mood-boosting flowers to have in the garden! Why? They’re brightly coloured, big, and attractive to all sorts of pollinators, bringing friendly critters to your garden and helping the environment. By planting sunflowers, you’re helping yourself and helping the world – and what’s a better mood booster than that?
There’s a fantastic long-flowering sunflower variety that I’m talking about later in this post (for those who get a bit disappointed when their sunflowers eventually fade and die off), but before that I’m going to talk about seven facts about these wonderfully cheerful plants!
1. Ukraine and Russia have the most amazing sunflower fields
There are around 70 species of Helianthus (the Latin name for ‘sunflower’). Three are native to South America, and the rest are native to North America and Central America. However, the largest producers of sunflower seeds are Ukraine and Russia, who produce 15 and 13 million tonnes of seeds each year respectively!
This means that both countries have stunning sunflower fields that stretch for acres. If you’re ever in this area of the world, make sure you bring your camera.
2. Sunflowers aren’t just yellow!
Although most people associate sunflowers with the colour yellow, these flowers actually come in a variety of colours, including red (Helianthus annuus, ‘Red Sun’), pink (Helianthus annuus ‘Strawberry Blonde’) and white (Helianthus annuus ‘Italian White’).
3. You can make a bird feeder with a sunflower head and some string
Simply cut the head of the sunflower from the stem, then create a hanger using the string and hang the flower head on a bird feeding station of a tree branch. The birds will then pick the seeds straight from the flower. You can find a full tutorial for this here.
4. Sunflower seeds are good for you, too!
Sunflower seeds have been harvested for millennia, with domestic seeds found in Mexico dating to 2100 BCE. And it’s no wonder why! The seeds contain high concentrations of vitamins A, B3 and C, which are great for supporting health.
5. Sunflowers aren’t just named for their appearance…
In addition to their sun-like appearance, sunflowers exhibit a trait called heliotropism, which means that they turn to face the sun. They will actually track the sun throughout the day and move accordingly – albeit slowly!
6. The tallest sunflower recorded was 30ft in height
Have you ever been part of a sunflower-growing competition? Perhaps you managed to grow yours above the 6ft height of an average sunflower, but one man actually grew his to a towering height of 30ft, making it the tallest sunflower on record. It was so tall that it needed its own scaffolding!
7. Sunflowers can absorb toxins from radioactive disastersAs if this plant wasn’t brilliant enough, it also protects us from harmful radiation by absorbing it. In Fukushima, where an earthquake caused a radiation leak at a nuclear plant in 2011, millions of sunflowers have been planted to soak up radiation from the soil (this type of plant is called a ‘hyperaccumulator’. The resulting waste is stored in the leaves and stems of the plant.
Sunbelievable Golden Girl: The easy-to-grow sunflower you need this summer
Thinking about which sunflowers to grow this summer? As I mentioned earlier, there are around 70 species and many more varieties and cultivars – that’s a lot to choose from! However, Sunbelievable Golden Girl is a sure-fire way to get that mood-boosting vibe in your garden. Here’s why.
This beautiful cultivar from Thompson & Morgan features a bushy, multi-branching habit, yellow blooms with a distinctive dark eye and fresh green foliage. It’s a sterile variety that’s reliable and easy-to-grow, making it the perfect plant to bring some sunshine to your patio pots.
It has the RHS seal of approval – the Award of Garden Merit, to be exact! This specially selected list is regularly reviewed and includes thousands of varieties, to ensure you only choose top quality plants for your garden. And Sunbelievable Golden Girl is on the list! If that’s not an endorsement, I don’t know what is.
Suited to sunny areas, semi-shade or dappled shade, you’ll be able to enjoy these golden beauties anywhere in your garden. They grow to a mature height of 60cm, which is smaller than some varieties but ideal for when you don’t want to overshadow other plants. Plus, they’ll get lots of visits from bees, who love their sweet nectar!
You’ll find the Sunbelievable Golden Girl on QVC soon. Each order receives three plants in 9cm nursery pots, which can be gradually acclimatised and planted out in containers with good quality compost once all risk of frost has passed.
Michael has been involved with gardening and plants since he was just five years old. He is a self-professed Plant Geek, and was listed in the Sunday Times top 20 most influential people in the gardening world, thanks to his plant hunter role at Thompson & Morgan.
Michael was responsible for new plant introductions such as the Egg and Chips plant and the FuchsiaBerry and keeps busy travelling the world in search of new plants as well as lecturing worldwide, including stints in Japan. He is very active on social media – so why not give him a follow at @mr_plantgeek or Facebook. You can also listen to The Plant Based Podcast with Michael and co-host Ellen-Mary on iTunes, Spotify and Google.