Tall sunflower varieties can usually grow up to 15 feet tall. The height of your sunflowers will depend on which variety you plant. Some dwarf sunflowers only grow to be about 3 feet tall while the tallest recorded sunflower was over 30 feet.
When you decide to grow sunflowers, the height of the sunflower you choose will depend on what result you have in mind.
How Tall Can Sunflowers Grow?
Annual sunflower varieties (Helianthus annuus) can be tall, medium or dwarf plants in sizes ranging between 3 and 14 feet tall.
Giant or Tall Sunflowers
The tall sunflowers that grow 10 to 14 feet tall are useful to grow as a living privacy fence, a temporary screen, to harvest for sunflower seeds, or as part of a “land of the giants” themed garden that could also include giant pumpkins, elephant ears, and other oversized flowers and vegetables.
Another idea is to plant tall sunflower seeds in a large circle. As the sunflowers grow, they create a sunflower house that you can walk into and sit. Some of the tallest sunflowers you can grow are ‘Sunzilla’, ‘Titan’ and ‘Mammoth’.
A cutting garden would include medium height (6 to 8 foot) sunflowers that generate one main stem and several flowering branches. These varieties were bred for ornamental use and often come in colors other than yellow. Many of the medium-sized sunflower varieties are also pollen-free. ‘Autumn Beauty’, ‘Soraya’, ‘Chianti’ or any of the new ProCut® series would be excellent choices.
Dwarf or Short Sunflowers
In sunflower terms, a dwarf plant grows about 40 inches tall. For a short border, the fluffy double ‘Teddy Bear’ or ‘Double Dandy’ are ideal. Good choices for single flowers are ‘Sunny Smile’, ‘Little Becka’, ‘Little Tiger’ and ‘Firecracker’. If you are restricted on plant height by a homeowners’ association, you can plant dwarf sunflowers in patio pots, a window box or in large containers.
Reasons to Grow Sunflowers
Cut Flowers for Tall Sunflower Arrangements
Sunflowers make cheery bouquets and are terrific as the focal point in an informal arrangement. They blend well with other daisy-shaped flowers, such as zinnias, and create a nice base for tall flowers such as gladiolus or bells of Ireland. Here’s a comprehensive list of summer-blooming flowers for cutting.
When growing sunflowers for cut flowers, stagger your seed planting over the course of four or five weeks. This will provide continuous blooms throughout the summer and into fall.
When harvesting for sunflower bouquets:
- Harvest before all the colored petals have opened, and harvest early in the day, to help preserve moisture.
- Cut the stems at an angle and remove all leaves that will be below the water line in the vase.
- Larger sunflowers will need an extra sturdy vase. The flower heads and thick stems are heavy.
- Change the water in the vase often. Sunflower stems have a reputation for being “dirty” and the water can foul quickly.
- It’s helpful to place a doily or napkin under the vase. Sunflowers that are not pollen-free varieties will shed pollen. The pollen can leave bright yellow stains on the table or tablecloth.
Grow Sunflowers for Pollinators and Birds
Any variety of short or tall sunflower is a good choice for a bird or butterfly garden. Sunflowers’ size and color are magnets for pollinators and the seeds are favorites of seed-eating birds. Goldfinches are especially drawn to sunflowers. It’s entertaining to watch their acrobatics as they hang upside-down from the petals to get the seeds. A mix of sunflowers ranging in height and color would make an eye-catching, bird-attracting focal point in any yard.
Tips for Planting Sunflowers
Sunflowers need to receive at least 6 hours of sunlight a day. A south- or west-facing spot would assure enough sunlight. Avoid planting near large trees or in the shadow of the house or other tall buildings.
Because sunflowers are tolerant of all but the most extreme soils, there is the temptation not to do very much soil preparation. Every plant prefers fertile soil so digging in compost or using a “bloom booster” fertilizer throughout the growing season is a good idea.
Sunflowers are Resilient and Versatile Plants
Anyone who wants a plant that is resilient, thrives in most soils, provides cut flowers, is a food source and just plain looks happy as it blooms, needs to look no further than the sunflower. The sunflower is a versatile annual that grows from the Dakotas south to Texas and throughout the Midwest. It’s rare to find a plant that is as adaptable about soils, climate and growing conditions as the sunflower.
A testament to the sunflower’s resilience and a sight to behold was that of a lone sunflower in bloom that had pushed up through a crack in the asphalt of an abandoned steel mill outside of Gary, Indiana. The hardy nature of the sunflower makes it a good choice for beginning gardeners and as a part of a child’s first garden as well.
For a list of more easy flowers to try, check out Top 10 Easy to Grow Annuals.