May 14, 2018

Bud, Bloom, Seeds - The Evolution of a Sunflower

Bud, bloom, seeds - the evolution of a sunflower.

Here's your daily dose of Plant Nerd, Sunflower edition.

What's in a name?

The word "sunflower" comes from the Greek words "helios" (sun) + "anthos" (flower), also known as the Helianthus genus of plants.

They are given this name because of a phenomenon known as "heliotropism", which causes the flowers to orient themselves toward the sun throughout the day, beginning in the east at sunrise, facing west by sunset, and returning to east by the following morning.

Click here to order "Two Queens" sunflower seeds 

Why do they do this, you ask? 

Facing the sun allows the flowers to stay warmest, making them more appealing to pollinators, like my favorite, the honey bee.


A study from professors at UC Davis and UC Berkeley found that facing the sun brings the flowers 5 times the number of pollinators.  Once the flowers are mature, they stop tracking the sun and stay facing east, where they'll get morning sun.
Sunflowers are a great plant for beginner gardeners (and kids!), and they come in a variety of sizes and colors, all of which are loved by pollinators and birds. Some of them, you can eat, too.
A few varieties of sunflowers reach over 10 feet tall, and others stay as small as 2 feet tall. 
As you probably guessed, sunflowers grow best with plenty of sunshine. Just push a seed or two directly into the soil in a sunny spot and water to get them started.

Click here to order "Lemon Queen" sunflower seeds

Pro tips for sunflowers

Plant sunflowers in your vegetable garden to draw in pollinators, and use them to shade plants like tomatoes and peppers from hot, afternoon sun in the summer, thereby extending the growing season for those plants.

Edited to add: I follow California beekeeper/entrepreneur, Hilary Kearney, from Girl Next Door Honey on Facebook/Instagram.  She mentioned in a post that some sunflower varieties do not produce pollen (an important source of food for bees) because they were bred to be less messy for florists.  I recommend planting multiple varieties of sunflowers, so you'll be sure to have some good food available for bees.
Click here to order "Mammoth" sunflower seeds.

Where to buy seeds

If you live in Texas, you can probably find a variety of sunflower seeds at your neighborhood HEB Texas Backyard garden center.  If you're not in Texas, or if you prefer to order them online, you can use one of my links above and I may make a few cents, at no additional cost to you.

Before you plant sunflowers

Be sure to check out my other article on sunflowers before you plant sunflowers in your vegetable garden since they "fight dirty" with other plants.  

Do you have a gardening question?  You can ask on Facebook or Instagram and I'll pick my favorite topics to feature on this page.  Follow me for more helpful gardening tips, tricks, and how-to's.

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