Smart, Smiley Sunflowers

Can you think of a flower with more personality than the sunflower?  Their wide faces, perched atop strong stems seem to nod and welcome garden visitors. Varying from the 16 foot tall Sunzilla, to the petite 1.5 foot Teddy Bear variety, there is a sunflower to suit most needs. Other fun, descriptive common names include Big Smile, Moon Walkers and Paul Bunyan. Newer introductions include bronze, bicolor or orange blooms in single or ruffled double flower varieties. Multi-stem cultivars are available, but for me, the classic Jack in the Beanstalk-like single stem yellow bloomer evokes childhood memories and is the one to grow.

Beyond their charming appearance, sunflowers are fascinating plants. It’s long been observed that as they grow, the flowers turn to follow the sun in a daily sun bathing ritual. Until recently, why this happens has been a mystery. Science, a scientific peer reviewed journal, reports “a new study suggests that this daily sun worship activity is guided by circadian rhythms during development.” So just like us, sunflowers have an internal clock!  Until full maturity, sunflowers will move with the sun’s path throughout the day, stretching to capture the sun’s energy and  warming the flower to entice more pollinators.

Check out this one minute video to learn more and if you don’t already grow them, consider sowing sunflower seeds in a sunny spot next spring. They are a fun and fascinating addition to the garden.



Submitted by Linda McDonnell, a Denver County Master Gardener



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