Sunflowers (Helianthus annuus) are annual plants belonging to the Asteraceae family. These plants are native to North America, and were a common food source for Native Americans. Young sunflower plants turn to face the sun, but their flowers stop turning once the stem becomes woody. Sunflowers consist of hundreds of small flowers clustered together. There are many different types of this plant.
Autumn Beauty sunflowers bear numerous large blooms on branched stems. The flowers typically reach about 5 inches across with petals in various shades of yellow, orange, brown, red and gold. This hybrid stands between 4 and 6 feet tall. It blooms late in the season and dies with the frosts. American Beauties are commonly used in the cut-flower trade.
The Moulin Rougue sunflower has velvety, deep red petals surrounding a black center. This pollenless sunflower is commonly grown in cutting gardens and used for short borders. The large flowers are about 4 to 6 inches across and bloom from summer until fall. Mature Moulin Rouge plants have dark branching stems that reach up to 7 feet high.
Ring of Fire
The Ring of Fire is a dwarf sunflower variety that reaches 3 to 5 feet in height. This bicolor sunflower bears medium yellow petals and dark yellow to brown centers. It gets its name from the ring of red that separates the center from the petals. It blooms late in the season and needs to be planted in a full-sun garden.
The Joker is a bicolor, double sunflower that produces large clusters of 4-inch flowers on top of 6-foot stems. The dark red centers fade out to yellow, orange, gold and brown-tipped petals. The Joker is a pollen-free, early-blooming variety.
The Velvet Queen has dark mahogany petals that surround dark brown centers. The flowers spread 4 to 6 inches across and stand on 5- to 6-foot stems. It blooms earlier than other types of sunflowers, typically from summer until frost. This drought- and heat-tolerant plant needs to be planted in full-sun locations.
The Teddy Bear is a dwarf variety that bears shaggy little flowers that look similar to pom-poms. It has fluffy yellow centers instead of the smooth, dark discs common to other types. This variety produces multiple blooms of bright orange flowers on 16- to 24-inch stems.
The Sundance Kid is a dwarf that stands under 3 feet. It produces semi-double blooms in pure yellow to bronze shades. The center is typically brown and uneven. They often look wilted because the petals tend to curl. It makes excellent cutting flowers, with its long vase life and strong stem.