Imagining a sunflower will usually bring up a mental image of a single large, yellow flower with a brown center. While many popular varieties only produce a single flower, there are actually a whole host of varieties that will produce more than one flower during its life.
Branching sunflowers are known for producing multiple blooms throughout the season. As the plant grows upward, it also sends out multiple lateral, or side, branches, each of which will develop a bud and bloom into a sunflower. Single stem sunflowers will typically produce only one flower before it dies.
There are a few more details to dig into regarding sunflowers and their flowers. Read on to learn everything you need to know about these beautiful plants.
How many flowers will my sunflower produce?
If you grow branching sunflowers, you can expect to have at least a dozen flowers if you choose an abundant variety, such as Helios Flame or Velvet Queen. Branching sunflowers will produce one central stem and many lateral branches, all of which will form a flower head.
Most people don’t know that one sunflower head is actually made up of numerous tiny blooms called florets.
Next time you see a sunflower, look closely at the center. If you could count all the tiny blooms, you would get to 1.500 to 2,000. All those tiny blooms will turn into seeds after being pollinated to create the delicious sunflower seeds we enjoy eating.
The petals of the sunflower head, which range in color from golden yellow to deep burgundy, are also a type of flower. They are called ‘flower rays’ and do not go to seed.
In addition to the multiple bloom per flower head, there are varieties of sunflowers that produce multiple flowers on each plant. They can range in height from 3-14 feet tall, so there are some of these beauties that will be perfect for growing in your home garden.
Types of sunflowers and their blooms
There are two common types of sunflowers: single stem and branching. The main difference between the two types is in how they produce lateral branches and whether they have more than one flower or not.
Branching sunflower varieties produce more than one flower. You can usually expect to get at least a dozen blooms throughout the summer, and keeping the flowers cut or deadheaded will encourage even more. However, the flower heads will get smaller as the blooming period continues.
Because of the continuous blooms, branching sunflowers don’t necessarily need to be planted in succession. Two sowings will keep you in flowers if you want to ensure sunflowers all summer.
Depending on your last frost date, the first sowing should be in late April or early May. You can do the second in early July for flowers into fall.
Branching sunflowers will need more growing space in the home garden to accommodate their fuller growth habit.
Plant them 12-18 inches apart in a full sun location. If you don’t plan to cut any flowers for bouquets, try giving them more elbow room. 18-24 inches between plants will do the trick.
There are several bloom colors among the branching varieties, including burgundy and chocolate. Many varieties also produce an abundance of pollen (some are pollen-less) which is ideal for attracting and feeding pollinators.
The single-stem varieties typically produce one flower head, and once you cut it, the plant won’t produce any more flowers. This type of sunflower will need to be replanted after cutting if you want to have any more in your garden. The exception is if you pinch the sunflower when young; you may then get 2-3 smaller flowers.
The American Society published a study for Horticulture Science that showed that pinching single-stem sunflowers when they have 4-6 leaves can prompt the plant to produce 2-4 smaller sunflowers instead of one larger one.
Although most gardeners tend to grow single stem sunflowers for just one central flower, this is an excellent tip if you need to squeeze out a few extra blooms and you don’t have any branching varieties in your garden.
To extend the bloom time, use succession planting and plant new seeds every two weeks during the spring. Plant the seeds 6 inches apart in a sunny location where you can water them regularly for the best growth.
Staggering the planting will ensure that whenever you cut a sunflower for the vase, another plant will be ready to bloom in another week or so, minimizing the gap between the times the sunflowers are blooming.
The large flower heads make excellent cut flowers and will have a huge visual impact in a floral arrangement. You can find them in various colors, from classic golden yellow to ruby red.
What Sunflower Varieties Are Best For Cutting?
Growing sunflowers for your cutting garden? If so, see which sunflowers are most commonly grown by flower farmers in this article, What Sunflower Varieties Are Best For Cutting?
Dwarf sunflowers can be single-stemmed or branching; there are several types to choose from, including various bloom colors. The blooms are ideal for cut flowers so that you can enjoy them on your front porch growing in containers and indoors displayed in a vase.
Dwarf sunflowers will reach a mature height of 1-3 feet. The plants will remain smaller when grown in containers instead of planted in an in-ground location. Their growth habit will follow the ones listed above, either single stem or branching. They’ll just remain much shorter.
Will sunflowers rebloom?
For branching varieties that naturally have more than one flower, the plant will rebloom as the season goes on, and you harvest fresh flowers and deadhead spent ones. Single stem varieties typically will not rebloom once cut.
Each time you cut a sunflower from a branching variety, you signal to the plant that its job isn’t done and to keep producing flowers. This is because the plant ultimately wants its flowers to be pollinated so they can create seeds.
Branching sunflowers are a cut and come again flower, which describes their growth habit of putting on fresh flowers as old ones are cut. This behavior makes them an excellent choice for the cutting garden.
As for single-stem sunflowers, you might get a second flush of blooms after you cut the primary stem. I tried is this summer after reading the study mentioned above, where the growers pinched back sunflowers when they were young, to see what would happen.
After I cut the main sunflower, I left the stalks in the ground, and sure enough, a few new flower buds appeared after a few weeks. Once they bloomed, I could see they weren’t as “picture-perfect” as the original flower, but it’s still fun to get more sunflowers from one plant.
It’s no guarantee, but if you have the space, why not leave your sunflower in the garden to see if it will rebloom? You may get lucky!
If you’re just getting started with growing sunflowers, bookmark this next article and get all the details: How to Sow & Grow Sunflowers For A Summer Of Cheerful Blooms.