4 min read
What is it called?
Everyone knows this flower as the sunflower, which is its common name, but not its only name. Its “proper name” in floral terms is Helianthus, coming from its Latin name of ‘Helianthus’. Whilst we speak of sunflowers, true gardeners and florists know that there is more than one type of sunflower. Whilst we would commonly use the same term for both, there is the ´Helianthus annuss’ and the ‘Helianthus verticillatus’, although the latter is now an endangered species and usually grows only in the wild in woodlands.
Where does it come from?
Sunflowers are native to North America, but are now found growing all over the world. Once popular with Native Americans, the flower soon spread around the world and only really rose to fame once it reached Russia where it became one of the most popular flowers to give as a gift or to grow yourself.
In the 1930’s, the sunflower became increasingly popular in North America, to the extent that Canada even start a specific sunflower breeding program! This was just the start as sunflowers quickly spread in popularity across Europe and across the globe.
When does it grow?
Sunflowers are usually associated with summer, and this is when it grows best. While there is less rainfall and therefore water, sunflowers have long roots which mean that they can reach the water further down in the soil that most flowers and plants can’t reach.
For best results, sunflower seeds should be planted in spring, to allow them time to grow in time for summer. This is because they need around 6 to 8 hours of sunlight each day to reach their full potential, and that is much more likely in the peak of summer!
Some experts like to get a head start and are known to plant their sunflower seeds in the winter, planting the seeds inside in pots. This allows them to ensure that the conditions are right for the seedlings, who can then be planted outside when spring arrives meaning that whilst everyone else’s sunflowers are going into the ground, theirs are blooming and bringing their golden joy to spring.
What does it mean?
When you think of sunflowers, the first emotion that comes to mind is usually happiness and joy! Their bright colours and association with the season of summer means that these are the most common thoughts when it comes to the meaning of the flower.
Other symbolic meanings are often also linked to the sun, due to the many links between the two. However, it is also said that the flower represents longevity, loyalty and adoration. This is why sunflowers are often a popular flower when it comes to weddings and anniversaries in the summer months.
How can it be used?
Sunflowers are not just pretty plants, but are also one of the most practical plants. You will most likely have heard of sunflower seeds and sunflower oil. The seeds are often eaten as a snack, while sunflower oil is often used in cooking by chefs of all levels of expertise. Sunflower oil is particularly popular on salads in the summer, and scientists are researching the potential of the oil as a source of fuel.
However, in history they have had other uses. In China, the fabrics of the sunflower where once used for papers and textiles, whilst in Europe, sunflowers where once a common solution to pulmonary infections, although modern medicine struggles to find any link!
If your a sunflower fan, or just want to bring some colour to your home, then sunflowers are often used as decorations. You can simply have a bouquet in a vase, grow your own in a pot or in the earth in your garden, or, if you’re feeling adventurous, grow your own unique floral sponge in a box with sunflowers, following our ‘DIY with Flowers’ instructions here!
Last but not least, we can’t write a post about sunflowers with letting you know that, unfortunately, the myth that sunflowers rotate to face the sun throughout the day is not true. The phenomenon, known as heliotropism, has been observed in some sunflowers as they begin their growth, but no more than any average heliotropic flower or plant. Do you like sunflowers? Have you ever grown, given or received one?