Helianthus annuus

Daphne’s pick of the week is sunflower, Helianthus annuus, a lovely annual that many people may not consider planting, due to its simplicity, but a good one to consider.

There are a multitude of different varieties to choose from, so pick a flower type, a size, and plant away. Or, pick several. Sunflowers are very easy to start from seed and grow very quickly once they’ve sprouted. Because of this, it’s uncommon to find them for sale as seedlings. So purchase seed packets and plant directly in the garden.

Sunflowers don’t need a lot of space in width, but many get very tall. Plant the seeds close together, 9 to 12 inches apart, and in full sun.

The common sunflower is bright yellow and blooms from mid-summer through early fall. You can plant the seeds anytime and they’ll sprout, but if planted too late in the summer, the plants will die before they have a chance to produce blooms.

Sunflowers are annuals, so you’ll need to plant again each year, normally in late spring or early summer, once temperatures have reliably warmed into the 70’s and days are bright and sunny. Not only do bees and butterflies love sunflowers, but songbirds do as well, as the seed heads are very nutritious, and yummy. Sunflowers require very little water and reseeds easily, so if you want to control where it grows in your garden, remove the flowers before seeds can drop off.

Occasionally, sunflowers will form a double head, as this one did in viewer Nancy Donner’s garden.

Our Viewer Picture comes from Rich Hartsell of his gorgeous bottlebrush tree in Cibolo. Although it’s not a native plant, Rich has never provided extra water after they were established. Not only are they evergreen for him, they bloom from spring through fall, attracting lots of hummingbirds and bees.