The common sunflower (Helianthus Annuus) is an annual and only one of about 75 Helianthus species native to North America. Most other species are perennials.
Helianthus is Greek for sunflower and is the botanical name for a genus in the Asteraceae family – plants with single-seed flowers. The family is also called the composite family, referring to the fact that the flowers are a composition of hundreds of miniature flowers.
Table of Contents
- Sunflowers – Varieties Groups
- The Commercially Significant Sunflower Varieties
- Two Top Seed-Producing Sunflowers with Bright Yellow Petals
- Twenty Wild Sunflower Species in the Helianthus Genus
- 3. Beach Sunflower (Helianthus debilis)
- 4. Swamp Sunflower (Helianthus angustifolius)
- 5. Appalachian Sunflower (Helianthus atrorubens)
- 6. Lakeside Sunflower (Helianthus carnosus)
- 7. Forest Sunflower (Helianthus decapetalus)
- 8. Woodland Sunflower (Helianthus divaricatus)
- 9. Giant Sunflowers (Helianthus giganteus)
- 10. Slender Sunflowers (Helianthus gracilentus)
- 11. Alkali Sunflowers (Helianthus laciniatus)
- 12. Maximilian Sunflowers (Helianthus maximiliani)
- 13. Small Woodland Sunflowers (Helianthus microcephalus)
- 14. Neglected Sunflowers (Helianthus neglectus)
- 15. Prairie Sunflowers (Helianthus petiolaris)
- 16. Resinous Sunflowers (Helianthus resinosus)
- 17. Schweinitz’s Sunflowers (Helianthus schweintizii)
- 18. Ashy Sunflowers (Helianthus mollis)
- 19. Western Sunflowers (Helianthus occidentalis)
- 20. Graceful Sunflowers (Helianthus salicifolius)
- 21. Jerusalem Artichoke (Helianthus tuberosus)
- 22. False Sunflowers (Heliopsis helianthoides)
- 10 Sunflowers with Colored Flower Heads
- 23. Gaillardia Dwarf Sunflowers
- 24. Sundance Kid Dwarf Sunflowers
- 25. Solsation® Flame Dwarf Sunflower
- 26. Florenza Dwarf Sunflower
- 27. Ms. Mars Dwarf Sunflower
- 28. Double Dandy Dwarf Sunflowers
- 29. Firecracker Dwarf Sunflowers
- 30. Tiger Eye Dwarf Sunflowers
- 31. Little Becka Dwarf Sunflowers
- 32. Strawberry Blonde Sunflower
- 5 Dwarf Sunflowers With Bright Yellow Flowers
- Three Sunflowers Mixes to Try
- The Non-Sunflower Sunflower – Tithonia rotundifolia
- In Summary
Sunflowers – Varieties Groups
Hundreds of hybrids of the 75 main species in the Helianthus genus exist. Some sunflower hybrids are a product of crosses between Helianthus and other genera.
Let’s create some primary groups to help readers better familiarize themselves with sunflower hybrids and types. Some sunflowers may fall into more than one group.
- 2 Top Seed Producing Sunflowers with Bright Yellow Petals
- 20 Wild Sunflower Species in the Helianthus Genus
- 10 Sunflowers with Colored Flower Heads
- 5 Favorite Dwarf Sunflower Varieties With Bright Yellow Flowers
- 3 Sunflower Mixes to Try
- The Non-Sunflower Sunflower – Tithonia rotundifolia
That totals 50 sunflower varieties for you to try. I include one variety as a bonus, called a sunflower, but it is not a Helianthus—read (or scroll) to the end to find out.
Once you have chosen the variety you want to grow, you must learn to grow sunflowers.
The Commercially Significant Sunflower Varieties
Sunflower (Helianthus annuus) is a lovely and adaptable flowering annual appropriately named. The enormous flower’s shape and yellow color are reminiscent of the sun, and flower heads face the sun during their early development; mature heads commonly face East.
Helianthus annuus, used in commercial operations, are hybrids of the same species of wild sunflowers, which initially had multiple flowering heads and tiny seeds.
Developing a monocephalous plant with a single stem, an enormous flowering head and large seeds was a significant step in domesticating the classic sunflower with dark brown centers.
While gardeners mostly use sunflowers as pest trap crops, pollinator and butterfly magnets, and ornamentals, commercial varieties focus on seed production. Sunflower seeds are categorized as an oil or a confection (non-oil) variety, each having its market.
- Oil seed is processed into vegetable oil or used as a meal in livestock feed.
- Most confection-type seed is sold as a snack, with or without the hull. Edible seeds have a distinct white stripe.
Two Top Seed-Producing Sunflowers with Bright Yellow Petals
While the sunflower (Helianthus annuus), with its bright yellow petals, is known for its beauty worldwide, it is also a vital source of sustenance. Sunflower oil is a valuable and nutritious vegetable oil, and sunflower seeds are popular as a healthy, pleasant snack and nutritional ingredient in various dishes.
Explore the National Sunflower Association’s (NSA) website to learn more about the nutritious products growing sunflowers produce.
1. Oil-Seed: Nugrow N4H470 CLP
This Helianthus annuus hybrid delivers an all-around win on the farm. With excellent agronomics, including solid stalks and roots, the added benefits of downy mildew resistance and improved weed control.
2. Confection Sunflowers: PANTHER DMR
Confection sunflowers are grown to produce seeds to fulfill the unique needs of processors for the in-shell snack market. Confection sunflower seed has a thicker hull than oilseed sunflower seed and has distinctive white stripes.
Twenty Wild Sunflower Species in the Helianthus Genus
The 70 or more wild sunflower species are ecologically and genetically varied. The USDA keeps seed stocks of most wild sunflower species on hand, partly because they contain genetic material that can be exploited to improve cultivated sunflower types.
A pest-resistant species, for example, may give genes that reduce insect damage in cultivated sunflowers. The sunflowers H. annuus and H. petiolaris have regularly bred, resulting in three new sunflower species that dwell on the desert floor, dunes, and salt marshes.
While many hybrids are infertile, other genetic modifications result in hybrids with additional traits, allowing the Helianthus genus to adapt to different environments.
|Botanical name||Common Name||Height||Hardiness|
|1||Helianthus debilis||Beach Sunflower||2 to 4′||8 to 11|
|2||Helianthus angustifolius||Swamp Sunflower||4 to 8′||5 to 9|
|3||Helianthus atrorubens||Appalachian Sunflower||3 to 4′||6 to 8|
|4||Helianthus carnosus||Lakeside Sunflower||2 to 3′||8 to 11|
|5||Helianthus decapetalus||Forest Sunflower||3 to 5′||4 to 9|
|6||Helianthus divaricatus||Woodland Sunflower||5 to 7′||3 to 9|
|7||Helianthus giganteus||Giant Sunflowers||4 to 10′||2 to 11|
|8||Helianthus gracilentus||Slender Sunflower||2 to 7′||5 to 11|
|9||Helianthus laciniatus||Alkali Sunflower||3 to 5′||6 to 11|
|10||Helianthus maximiliani||Maximilian Sunflower||3 to 10′||3 to 11|
|11||Helianthus microcephalus||Small Woodland Sunflower||4 to 6′||4 to 8|
|12||Helianthus neglectus||Neglected Sunflower||3 to 4′||8 to 11|
|13||Helianthus petiolaris||Prairie Sunflower||3 to 5′||3 to 11|
|14||Helianthus resinosus||Resinous Sunflower||4 to 6′||7 to 9|
|15||Helianthus schweintizii||Schweinitz’s Sunflowers||6 -7′||7 to 9|
|16||Helianthus mollis||Ashy Sunflower||2 to 4′||4 to 9|
|17||Helianthus occidentalis||Western Sunflower||1 to 4′||3 to 9|
|18||Helianthus salicifolius||Graceful Sunflower||8 to 10′||4 to 9|
|19||Helianthus tuberosus||Jerusalem Artichoke||6 to 10′||3 to 9|
|20||Heliopsis helianthoides||False or Oxeye Sunflower||3 to 6′||3 to 9|
3. Beach Sunflower (Helianthus debilis)
The beach sunflower is a spreading perennial with lovely, tiny, sunflower-like flower heads that bloom annually. These spectacular flowers feature 10 to 20 pale yellow rays around a half to an-inch broad purplish-brown disk.
4. Swamp Sunflower (Helianthus angustifolius)
Swamp sunflowers add a low-maintenance splash of fall color to the garden. They are taller than Florida’s beach sunflowers but shorter than the famous enormous sunflowers. Mass plantings of these unusual indigenous will keep the neighborhood pollinators happy all fall.
5. Appalachian Sunflower (Helianthus atrorubens)
Helianthus atrorubens grows in forests with rocky, clay, or sandy soils and along road banks. It thrives in open forest gardens, cottage gardens, and mixed perennial beds, attracting bees and butterflies. Woodland birds collect the seed. This plant has a medium flammability rating.
6. Lakeside Sunflower (Helianthus carnosus)
Lakeside sunflower is a perennial wildflower that grows on northeast Florida’s open sunny borders of lakes and marshes. The bright yellow sunflowers attract a wide range of pollinators, butterflies, and beetles, and birds consume the seeds.
7. Forest Sunflower (Helianthus decapetalus)
As the name indicates, this is a ten-petalled flower. It is a high-value wildlife plant native to eastern and central North America. This plant prefers moist, loamy, well-drained soil in full sun to light shade.
8. Woodland Sunflower (Helianthus divaricatus)
Woodland Sunflower is endemic to eastern and central North America, growing 5 to 7 feet tall in rocky or sandy forests and dry open areas. Woodland Sunflower grows well in medium, well-drained soils in partial shade. It is one of the few sunflowers that are deer resistant.
9. Giant Sunflowers (Helianthus giganteus)
Giant sunflowers is a proper name as this perennial can grow to be 13 feet tall (4 m). This is one of several wild sunflowers species that may provide critical sources of disease resistance in commercial yellow sunflowers (Helianthus annuus).
10. Slender Sunflowers (Helianthus gracilentus)
Slender sunflower grows 2 to 6 feet tall, and even with no summer water, their foliage remains a fresh green through the Fall. Between May and October, it will bear hundreds of cheery, 2-inch wide, bright blooms with a mild chocolate scent.
11. Alkali Sunflowers (Helianthus laciniatus)
The alkali sunflower grows in dry, alkaline desert soils and can be found in the southwestern United States and north-central Mexico. It is relatively common in the Chihuahuan Desert.
Helianthus laciniatus is a perennial that grows to about 7 feet tall (2 m). A single plant can produce up to nine flower heads.
12. Maximilian Sunflowers (Helianthus maximiliani)
Helianthus maximiliani is a prairie sunflower that loves damp, clay-like soil and full sun (may need staking). Maximilian sunflowers in bathwater are said to alleviate arthritis pain, and planting them near windows can help repel mosquitoes.
13. Small Woodland Sunflowers (Helianthus microcephalus)
Small woodland sunflower grows 4 to 6 feet tall. The yellow flowers are attractive in bunches and bloom for a long time. It proliferates in well-drained soil and tolerates moist to occasionally dry soil and full sun to partial shade.
14. Neglected Sunflowers (Helianthus neglectus)
This species was listed on the Rare Plants of Texas site but has since been found relatively abundant across almost all of the southern half of Lea County. It grows on dunes and sandy soil.
15. Prairie Sunflowers (Helianthus petiolaris)
Prairie Sunflowers can form clumps resembling tiny shrubs; however, it is not uncommon to see single plants spread around. It is common along sandy soil or gravelly wayside in mid to late summer. According to some sources, the plant can grow up to 6 feet tall in full sun.
16. Resinous Sunflowers (Helianthus resinosus)
Several southeastern states are home to the resinous sunflower. It can be found growing along roadsides and in pine woods. Each stem can reach a height of 8 feet and produce up to five heads.
Each head contains 10 to 20 yellow ray petals and approximately 90 yellow disc blooms. It prefers full sun to moderate shade and average moisture in the soil.
17. Schweinitz’s Sunflowers (Helianthus schweintizii)
Schweinitz’s sunflower may be found in the clay soils of woodlands and forest openings but is listed as an endangered species by federal and North Carolina state agencies.
This plant is one of the rarest sunflower species in the United States and is not recommended for home landscapes.
18. Ashy Sunflowers (Helianthus mollis)
Helianthus mollis, commonly called ashy sunflower, typically grows to 2 to 4 feet tall. It is quickly grown in average, well-drained soils in full sun. It is drought tolerant.
19. Western Sunflowers (Helianthus occidentalis)
Tolerates various soil conditions, including poor sandy soil, loams, and clays. Plants should be divided every 3-4 years to limit the spread and preserve plant vigor. Western sunflower is drought tolerant.
20. Graceful Sunflowers (Helianthus salicifolius)
Easily cultivated in full sun on average, medium, well-drained soil. Tolerates various soils. Plants planted in partial shade grow tall but have fewer blooms. Divide every 3 to 4 years to preserve vigor and control the spread.
21. Jerusalem Artichoke (Helianthus tuberosus)
This plant is cultivated for its attractive late summer to fall sunflowers and in food gardens for its knobby edible tubers produced below ground on white rhizomes. Tubers are said to have an artichoke-like flavor.
22. False Sunflowers (Heliopsis helianthoides)
Plants in the genus Heliopsis resemble and are closely related to plants in the genus Helianthus, the actual sunflower. Heliopsis is sometimes known as the fake sunflower.
Heliopsis helianthoides, sometimes known as oxeye sunflower, is a short-lived, upright, clump-forming, sunflower-like perennial endemic to eastern and central North America. It can reach 3 to 4 feet tall in full sun.
10 Sunflowers with Colored Flower Heads
Dwarf varieties are sunflowers shorter than 48 inches (4 feet tall). When grown in containers, dwarf varieties are generally more compact than those grown in garden beds. Flower bed-grown dwarf sunflowers tend to be a little taller.
The table below lists my favorite colored sunflowers—from the shortest to the tallest. The list of ten sunflowers includes nine that are classified as dwarf sunflowers.
23. Gaillardia Dwarf Sunflowers
Height: 12 to 16 inches
Even in its first year, the Arizona Sun Gaillardia, popularly known as Blanket Flowers, produces multiple flowers. It develops a low, compact mound covered in daisy-like flowers from June until September. Arizona Sun, an All-American and Fleuroselect Gold Medal winner, will stand out in your garden. Check out NatureHills for seeds.
24. Sundance Kid Dwarf Sunflowers
Height: 12 to 24 inches
Sundance Kid dwarf sunflower was established in a Sunflowers Selections breeding program years ago as one of the earliest dwarf sunflower varieties offering early flowering, semi-double petal and bicolor yellow and red with a brown center.
Sundance Kid sunflowers flower fast, growing to around knee height, and continue to flower longer than most sunflowers.
Sundance kid flowers are ideal for small bouquets or adding a burst of color to a border in your garden. Reminder: Add Sundance kid sunflowers to your list.
25. Solsation® Flame Dwarf Sunflower
Height: 18 inches
This dwarf sunflower variety is designed to bring the sunshine indoors and outdoors, whether used in flower arrangements, containers, baskets, or garden beds. Sunsation® Flame is a striking yellow/red flamy variety that brings you the ultimate Indian summer feeling well into fall.
26. Florenza Dwarf Sunflower
Height: 15 – 30 inches
Florenza offers a unique color combination and mild chocolate fragrance with heads that don’t droop. The plants have limited small leaves, accentuating the multiple flowers. Get it from Johnny’s Seeds.
27. Ms. Mars Dwarf Sunflower
Height: 20 to 30 inches
That is a stunning dwarf sunflower variety brought to you by Burpee. The merlot-colored ray petals of this low-growing, robustly branched, flame-type, 20 to 30 inches tall sunflower change to a reddish-pink. It needs full sun to thrive.
28. Double Dandy Dwarf Sunflowers
Height: 24 inches
Double Dandy, brought to you by Garden Stars, is a dwarf sunflower variety with very early maturity, abundant flowering, and a unique semi-double petal-type with a mauve hue that is unlike any other sunflower. Great for a cutting garden.
29. Firecracker Dwarf Sunflowers
Height: 24 to 36 inches
Brought to you by Johnny’s Seeds, Firecracker sunflowers are a branched dwarf sunflower variety with red and gold flowers. This small plant produces a mass of vivid, bicolored flowers that range in size from 4 to 6 inches and look fantastic in containers.
30. Tiger Eye Dwarf Sunflowers
Height: 30 inches
The first time I saw this plant, the first thing than came to mind was the flower-power-tied-dyed days. Burpee’s gleaming new bicolor beauties are perfect for the garden, vase, happy bees, butterflies, and other pollinators. Each plant can produce up to eight 5-inch flowers. Ensure the Tiger Eye gets full sun.
31. Little Becka Dwarf Sunflowers
Height: 36 – 40 inches
Becka sunflowers are 3-foot-tall compact charmer dazzles with a profusion of 6-inch flowers with bright yellow halos, orange petals, and golden picotees. Little Becka sunflowers give a splash of color to flower arrangements, borders or balconies. Little Becka sunflowers need well-drained soil and full sun.
32. Strawberry Blonde Sunflower
Height: 5 to 6 feet
Tall sunflowers can be colorful, too. Johnny’s Seeds Strawberry blonde has ruby-red flowers with petals that stay put. The petals are burgundy or pink, with lemony tips and a dark center. Branching plants have robust side stems 18 to 24 inches long for cut flowers.
It is recommended to pinch branching variety to stimulate branching and longer stems. Sow for a continuous crop every 2-3 weeks, or plant various types.
5 Dwarf Sunflowers With Bright Yellow Flowers
33. Elf Sunflower
Elf sunflowers are Burpee’s shortest sunflower, standing only 14 to 16 inches tall! It blooms throughout the growing season in full sun. These dwarf sunflowers make excellent garden companions for garden gnomes, clay frogs, and ceramic salamanders.
34. Teddy Bear Sunflower
Teddy Bear is a versatile sunflower for fields or containers. Like the other dwarfs, the final height depends on the size of the container. Expect 8- to 12-inch-tall plants from teddy bear seeds directly sown in 4-inch pots and plants 35 to 42 inches tall if planted in the garden.
A teddy bear dwarf sunflower is unlike any other and offers yellow, shaggy blooms. The teddy bear name suits them, and they’re a favorite with children (and adults). Check out Johnny’s Seeds
35. Suntastic Yellow
Award-winning dwarf sunflower that is ideal for pots and containers. Suntastic Yellow is a well-branched dwarf annual with a profusion of big blooming up to 6 inches in diameter (15 cm), decorated with dazzling golden petals and dark-brown centers. Ensure the sunny smile of Suntastic yellow gets full sun.
36. Sunbright Supreme Sunflowers
The Johnny’s Seeds Supreme blooms more quickly than the original Sunbright and has more rounded petals and shorter, more rigid stems with reduced lower leaves, making this an excellent variety for bouquet work.
The heads are 4 to 6 inches, and this single-stem plant grows 5 to 6 feet tall and needs full sun.
37. Sunspot Sunflowers
Park Seed has an 18 inches tall sunflower packed with seeds in a 10-inch head. Quite spectacular. Ensure it is in a sunny spot and gets direct sunlight.
Three Sunflowers Mixes to Try
38. Sunforest Mix Sunflowers
Plant a fast-growing sunflower forest where your kids can frolic—so plant lots. Burpee’s Sunforest mix sunflowers blend three tall and sturdy varieties to create an enchanted natural playground.
39. Fantasia Mixture Sunflowers
What could be better than a five feet tall, branching stem plant with five-inch pollen-free blooms? Pine Tree’s blend has the broadest color range conceivable, ranging from white, lemon, and yellow to a very dark red, with several bi-colors in between.
40. Summer Breeze Mix
Johnny’s Seeds offers a branching sunflower mix that’s simple to grow. Varieties are chosen for color harmony and matching plant height and bloom period ranges.
The Non-Sunflower Sunflower – Tithonia rotundifolia
Tithonia Fiesta del Sol, sometimes known as the Mexican sunflower, is not a sunflower. It is a plant endemic to Mexico and Central America and a robust annual that can grow 4 to 6 feet tall in a single season.
Tithonia Fiesta del Sol blooms from midsummer to fall, offering showy sunflowers up to 3 inches wide with orange to orange-red rays and orange-yellow disks bloom with a dark brown center. It has multiple stems.
What’s in a Name?
Tithonus, a young man adored by Aurora, the dawn goddess, inspired the name of the genus. Rotundifolia refers to round-leaved plants.
Congratulations, you now have a better understanding of the various sunflower varieties that you can grow in your garden! Choosing suitable sunflower varieties can add a burst of color and cheer to your outdoor space. Don’t miss out on future gardening tips and tricks – sign up for our newsletter using the form below and never miss an update![mailerlite_form form_id=5]