The sunflower is an extremely beautiful and rather dominating flower because of the height of the plant and the massive flower heads. They look fantastic if set out in a line all smiling up towards the sun!
The heads of these flowers can be as much as thirty centimetres across, and are exceedingly complex. It is not just a single flower, but actually thousands of little florets, each a perfect flower in its own right, perfect in every part, and each of which will ultimately form into a seed.
In its complexity and size it is reminiscent, perhaps, of the ancient ages of the world, when plant life dominated a great deal more over animals.
Only the outer most rings of florets have the distinctive petals - these are yellow and usually have a slightly greenish tinge when the flower is young.
As the flower matures, the greenish coloration disappears and the yellow of the flower itself tends to take on a deeper orange shade.
There is a great deal of symbolism associated with the flower for various reasons. It stands for spring, with its associations of life, birth, peace and progress.
Remember that this plant will thrive in strong sunlight, in conditions in which most other plants would simply wither away and die. Having said that, I have grown sunflowers successfully in dappled shade and where they only get full sun for part of the day in the shelter of a wall. The only advice I will give is that they do tend to grow really tall and needed some bamboo canes for support when the weather turned windy. But contrary to what most people believe they did fine without full all day sun.
Yes, the big yellow flower that everyone knows of is certainly not the only variety of this plant - there are all sorts of varieties available, in a wide range of colours, and in sizes that range from the massive to small dwarf varieties.
This means that this plant can be used to create all sorts of looks in a garden - you can use different varieties together to bring three dimensional beauties to your garden design, or you can mix these flowers in among other plants that will accentuate them.
These flowers are also excellent for decorating your house - if you cut them and put them into a vase, they will not only attract the attention and brighten the day of everyone in the house, but will also last a long time. A cut sun flower in water can last up to ten days.
The shells of the seeds contain some components which are poisonous to grass. Harvest the heads of this plant before the seeds fall out, they make a great stock of seeds for feeding wild birds in the winter.
Most species of sunflower need only light fertiliser, but well drained soil. They set their seed very rapidly and sprout rather fast, that is why you should sow the seeds in the exact place where you want them to grow.
I have found that putting lawn mower cuttings around the base of the plant as mulch works wonders. I did that this year on half of my sunflowers and they exceeded the height and colour than I have ever grown before.
I recommend that you sow three times more seeds than is actually needed to ensure they don't all get eaten before they grow. As for the birds, it is advisable to remove the seeds from a grown sunflower and you can then use them for your bird feeder in the winter.
Of course, you can allow the birds to eat the seeds directly from its heads, but it would be more beneficial to the birds if you save the seeds to feed to them during the winter months.