The Best Sunflowers For Cutting (Grown By Flower Farmers)

four sunflowers in metal vase

Few other flowers are as well known as the sunflower. Whether for photographs, attracting birds and bees, or cutting, the sunflower is a fantastic plant for the garden. It’s also one of the most popular flowers sold by flower farmers and growers at the farmer’s market, their cheerful yellow faces calling passers-by over for a peek.

This summer, take some pointers from flower farmers and grow the most productive and long-lasting sunflower varieties for your bouquets.

Single stem sunflowers such as ProCut Series (Orange, Peach, White Lite, and more) and the Sunrich Series (Gold, Lemon, and more) are perfect for cutting. Branching sunflower varieties Autumn Beauty, Buttercream, and Strawberry lemonade are also classic choices for the cutting garden.

I’ve got packets of ProCut Orange, ProCut White Light, Teddy Bear, and Autumn Beauty ready for my flower beds. I get my seeds from Johnnys Selected Seeds, which offers a library of sunflower varieties perfect for cutting.

Let’s dig into which varieties will work best for you and your garden.

The best sunflowers for cut flowers

Single stem sunflowers

Single stem sunflowers produce one stem and one flower, much as the name implies. Once that flower is cut, the plant is done producing and needs to be replaced.

The flower comes to maturity quickly, some in just under two months. Because they’re quick growers and only produce one bloom, you might want to leave some space in your garden for a second or third planting.

This process is called succession sowing, and it’s a method used regularly by flower farmers. They plant a new crop of sunflowers every 1-2 weeks, so they have a fresh supply for their customers, which I learned about in Lisa Mason Ziegler’s flower farming course.

Sunflowers are such a staple on her farm that her logo is a big, yellow sunflower, and you can watch her start a new round of seeds every week on YouTube.

For a continual wave of sunflowers for your bouquets, consider growing some of these top-performing varieties.

Single stem varietyDays to maturitySpecial notes
ProCut Orange50-60Classic gold sunflower
ProCut White Lite50-60Pale petals add interest
ProCut Bicolor50-60Two-tone petals of
mahogany and orange
Sunrich Gold60-70Gold petals,
yellow-green center
Sunrich Lemon60-70Yellow petal,
dark center

A great benefit of single stem sunflowers is that with a tight spacing of six inches between plants, you can encourage thinner stalks and smaller blooms. This makes them easier to use in bouquets and arrangements.

Close spacing is also perfect when growing in a small space, as branching sunflowers take up more space and crowd neighboring plants.

Branching sunflowers

Branching sunflowers still have the main stem, as well as many lateral (side) branches. Each branch will produce a flower, and if you harvest or deadhead the blooms, you can even encourage the plant to grow more because they are cut and come again flowers.

Branching sunflowers are the best bang for your buck if you only want to plant one or two rounds of seeds the whole summer.

Branching varietyDays to maturitySpecial notes
Autumn Beauty75-85Bicolor petals,
bears pollen
Buttercream50-60Pale yellow, pollenless,
blooms over several weeks
Lemonaide85-95Double blooms,
minimal pollen
Teddy Bear65-75Double blooms,
dwarf height
Strawberry Blond55-65Bicolor petals,
pollenless

One of the great benefits of branching sunflowers is that they come in a variety of colors. From classic yellow to ombre rust to almost chocolate brown, the variations are many. Some branching sunflowers also have double blooms, giving them a fuzzy look.

On the other hand, one downfall of this type of sunflower is that they don’t last as long in the vase. 5-7 days is typical.

Remember that branching sunflowers often have pollen, which can be a little messy when you cut them. Some branching varieties, such as Buttercream, are pollenless, so if that’s important to you, be sure to read the seed description when making your selections.

The pollen makes this type of sunflower a magnet for bees and other pollinators, so they’re an excellent choice for when you want to share your sunflowers with these garden allies.

A note about pollen

If you’ve looked closely at any garden flower, you’ve probably noticed the bright yellow dust in the center. That’s pollen, which bees collect for food. The problem with pollen on cutting flowers is that it drops from the flower to whatever surface the vase is on, making a mess and potentially staining clothes and table cloths.

Close up view of the center of a sunflower to show the pollen.

To avoid this mess, you can choose to grow pollenless sunflowers that are specifically bred for cutting.

They have zero pollen to drop, making them cleaner to bring inside. As you’re shopping in the seed catalog for your sunflowers, pay attention to the description to find out what type of flower you’re getting.

If you’re worried about pollenless sunflowers being useless to beneficial insects, don’t fret. I used to avoid planting these sunflowers for that very reason.

I recently learned that pollenless sunflowers still have valuable nectar that bees can drink, earning them a place in the cutting garden. I just make sure to plant many other flower types with pollen. One-stop shopping for the bees and bugs!

Read more about the power of sunflowers here: Sunflowers: The Ultimate Pollinator Magnet For Your Garden.

How to cut sunflowers and make them last

Once you have your sunflowers up and growing, here are some best practices for cutting sunflowers for extended vase life.

three sunflowers in white vase
  • Cut early in the morning or late in the day (learn why in this article about when to cut flowers)
  • Choose flowers that have just a few petals lifting to open
  • Cut the branch at a 45-degree angle to allow for better water uptake
  • Put the cut stems directly in a bucket of clean, lukewarm water
  • Allow the cut sunflowers to sit in the water for several hours after cutting before arranging
  • Keep your bouquet out of direct sunlight
  • Change the vase water every day or two

With these tips, you’ll be able to enjoy your bouquet for 1-2 weeks.

Now pick your varieties and get those bouquets growing!

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