COMMON NAME: sunflower
GENUS: Helianthus
SPECIES: H. annuus-grown for seed and flower
FAMILY: Compositae
BLOOMS: summer
TYPE: annual
DESCRIPTION: Characterized by its height and size of flower, the sunflower has earned a welcome place in the summer garden. Many varieties on the market now offer diversity in color {even a white sunflower!}, size of flower, and plant height. Dwarf plants grow only 15 inches tall.
CULTIVATION: Extremely heat and drought tolerant, most sunflowers can easily exist under conditions unsuitable for growing many other garden flowers. Although the shorter strains can be grown in poor soils, the taller varieties need moderately rich soil and regular watering. They will also need staking. Sow seeds outdoors where you want them to grow. Depending on the size plant you are growing, thin the seedlings to 24 to 48 inches apart.

These towering plants, beacons of light and warmth, have been loved and worshiped for many centuries. The Incan Indians of Peru considered this flower a symbol of the sun and worshiped it accordingly. Priestesses of the temple wore sunflower medallions made of gold.
American pioneer families found many uses for sunflowers. New growth was eaten like asparagus, and the seeds were eaten as a tasty snack, used for baking, and fed to birds during winter months. The leaves and stalks were used as fodder, and fibers from the stalks were used to make cloth. Oil from the seeds were used in cooking and for making soap, and the blossoms made a good yellow dye. Not only were the plants grown in the garden, they were also planted close to the house because of the superstition that sunflowers were protection against malaria.
Sunflowers are native to North America and South America, and many Indian tribes used the plant for cooking, mixing paint, and dressing their hair.
The genus name, Helianthus, is from two Greek words, helios, meaning “sun” and anthos, meaning “flower.”
According to the Victorian language of flowers, sunflower is a symbol of haughtiness.