Which sunflower varieties are best for your garden?
The Best Sunflowers for the Birds and Bees
‘Giganteus’ produces heads a foot or more across (county fair alert!) on plants growing to 12 feet or more in height. It doesn’t need to be staked and produces pounds of seeds (for you and the birds).
‘Lemon Queen’ is the sunflower chosen by the Great Sunflower Project for its annual bee count. Bees love this sunflower, which can be grown in containers. It tops out at about 72 inches tall in the ground. Find out more about the project at greatsunflower.org.
‘Mammoth Grey Stripe’ is huge—growing to 12 feet tall—and it produces seed that both you and the birds will love on blooms about a foot across.
The Best Sunflowers for Cut Flowers
‘Autumn Beauty’, a multistem variety, grows 40 to 60 inches tall with 5-inch flowers in shades of red and yellow and bronze.
‘Chianti Hybrid’ is wine-red with flecks of gold, a real showstopper that tops out at around 5 feet. It’s multiple-branched with purple stems.
‘Italian White’ produces delicate 3-to-4-inch white to pale yellow blooms with brown centers on a 60-inch plant.
‘Soraya’ is the first sunflower named an All-America Selections Winner. Raised both for flowers and to attract birds, this branching plant produces 4-to-6-inch flowers in orange with dark centers on 6-foot-tall plants.
‘Taiyo’ is a top florists’ choice. Its 10-to-12-inch yellow blooms grow on a 5-to-6-foot plant.
The Best Big and Tall Sunflowers
‘Kong Hybrid’ is a sturdy-stemmed, 14-foot sunflower with perfectly round 10-inch golden flowers.
‘Mammoth Russian’ is the classic county-fair competition sunflower. It grows 12 to 15 feet with a 15-inch head filled with striped, edible seeds.
‘Sunzilla’ will grow to 16 feet tall with golden flowers filled with edible seeds.
‘Titan’ is an heirloom with giant golden flower heads growing to as much as 24 inches across.
The Best Small Sunflowers
‘Big Smile’ will give you one. These 10-to-24-inch plants produce 3-to-6-inch blooms in bright golden yellow with nearly black centers. Perfect for containers.
‘Elf’ produces 4-inch blooms on a plant that grows to only 16 inches tall—great for containers. Also attracts butterflies.
‘Junior’ is the first pollen-free, dwarf, branching sunflower. The 2-foot-high plants boast bright yellow petals on 4-to-5-inch faces.
‘Little Becka’ packs a lot of personality into a relatively small package. At only 3 feet high, it produces a profusion of 6-inch bicolor flowers of red and yellow.
The Best Pollen-Free Sunflowers
‘Bashful’ is a bushy plant producing 4-inch flowers of pastel yellow and salmon pink. And it’s a dwarf (could you tell by the name?) at only 36 inches high.
‘Chocolate Cherry’ is a midsized plant covered by chocolate-burgundy petals that surround dark brown disks.
‘Firecracker’ yields armfuls of gold and russet flowers on a compact, multistemmed plant that grows 2 to 3 feet high.
‘Moulin Rouge’ is a branching, 60-to-80-inch plant bearing 3-to-4-inch dark burgundy blooms.
The Best Sunflowers for Snacking
‘Hopi Black Dye’ is an indigenous variety once grown by Native Americans for use as both dye and food. Golden yellow petals surround a dark, blue-black center on a plant that grows to about 9 feet tall.
‘Royal Hybrid’ is a high-yielding seed used by growers to produce bird and snack seed for the market. Plants grow 7 feet and up and produce large, edible seeds on 8-inch flowerheads.
‘Snack Seed’ is a large-headed hybrid producing pounds of fat seeds for humans and birds.
‘Super Snack Mix’ produces only single, 10-inch flowers on a 5-foot plant, but the seeds are extremely large and easy to crack.