The Story of the Sunflower
The potted sunflower is a not a permanent houseplant, but rather a temporary one, designed to beautify your home for a month or so. Usually available only during the summer months, it can make a wonderful and sunny gift plant.
Potted sunflowers (Helianthus annuus) are dwarf varieties and don’t grow as tall as the garden variety. They do, however, offer the same unique and cheerful bright yellow flowers with a dark heart and attractive dark green leaves. A perfect companion for the kitchen worktop, the (garden) table, an office, or any room that could do with a touch of summer. Place a couple together in a container or in a group to make it feel like a flowering field. You can add a touch of lilac or purple to visually offset all that yellow.
The sunflower originates from North America, but is now grown all over the world. It grows quickly from seed and turns into a fabulous yellow sunflower in just a few months. Potted sunflowers are widely grown in greenhouses specially for indoor use.
The sunflower is best known as a garden plant: one tall stem bearing one enormous flower. The potted range is more compact, better suited to pot culture. Also, it is pollenless, without the yellow pollen that can fall on clothes and furniture. This also keeps the heart nice and dark, giving an attractive contrast with the yellow ray flowers (petals).
The sunflowers that Vincent Van Gogh painted—flowers with yellow ray flowers and a dark heart—are the most common form offered as cut flowers and container plants. But there are also potted sunflowers with a yellow or brown heart and with lemon, orange or brick red petals. Cultivars such as ‘Sunsation’ or ‘Funshine’ are among the most popular.
What to Look for When Buying Potted Sunflowers
- Look at the proportions between the pot size, the number of plants per pot, the number of buds per stem, the height and maturity of the plant.
- The main flower should be half to fully open at the time of purchase.
- Also check that the stems are healthy and sturdy, and the soil is sufficiently moist: wilting leaves are an ominous sign.
- Give the plants a thorough inspection. Sunflowers are vulnerable to aphids, leaf-miner flies and slugs. Botrytis mold on leaves, stem or flower does nothing for their decorative value either.
- As their name suggests, sunflowers love sunshine and can tolerate a lot of light.
- The plant needs a lot of water. The soil should always be a bit damp.
- Wilted flowers can be removed to give the new buds more space.
- A bit of fertilizer once a week keeps the flowering going.
- Once the last flower has faded, the plant’s useful life is over and you can put it into the compost bin without feeling any guilt.
Can You Grow Your Own?
Seed for dwarf pollenless sunflowers suitable for container culture is widely available, but growing sturdy, attractive dwarf sunflowers indoors is a huge challenge, as it’s hard to find an indoor spot with enough sun to bring it off. Instead, start yours in pots outdoors in late spring or early summer in full sun, then bring them indoors as they come into bloom.
Potted sunflowers: they bring a touch to summer to any décor!
Text and photos adapted from a press release by Thejoyofplants.co.uk.
Styling by Elize Eveleens, Klimprodukties