Saturday, August 11, 2012

Sunflowers in the Garden

 One of my favorite summertime annuals is the sunflower. Sunflowers come in a wide variety of sizes and colors. They begin blooming in late summer and provide lots of color at a time when lots of other blooms begin to fade. However, the main reason I enjoy growing them in my own garden is for their wildlife value.

Sunflowers are great companion plants planted near a vegetable garden. They attract lots of pollinators as well as other beneficial insects that help contribute to the overall health of the garden. They also attract lots of butterflies and would make a great selection for the butterfly garden as well. As sunflowers mature, birds, especially finches, love to feed on their protein-rich seeds. It’s an all-around great summer annual for the attracting wildlife to the garden.

Many varieties nowadays come in various colors and have more than one bloom on the stalk, like these ‘Sunny Babe’ Sunflowers.

Sunny Babe Sunflower

A new sunflower I added to my own garden this year is Tithonia, aka Mexican Sunflower (Tithonia rotundiflora). While it is related, it’s not a sunflower in the conventionally known sense. It’s slightly shorter in height and has larger, bushier leaves coming out of its stem. The center part of the flower is yellow as opposed to the regular sunflower's brownish color. Many compare the flower to the looks of a dahlia, but the color ranges in different varieties are only found in the red-yellow-orange portion of the spectrum. It’s native to Mexico and Central America.

This flower is an excellent attractant for butterflies, hummingbirds and lots of other pollinators.

Tithonia, Mexican Sunflower, Tiger Swallowtail

Tithonia, Mexican Sunflower, Butterfly

These guys grow to a height of 5 to 7  feet! I’ll definitely be saving seeds from these for next year.

This was a volunteer sunflower that came up near my birdfeeder filled with sunflower seeds. Notice the large shaped disk.

Large Sunflower, Sunflower seeds

This sunflower was definitely bred for seed production. This variety (unknown) would make an excellent choice for attracting birds to the backyard. I’ll try to save some of these seeds for next year if the birds don’t beat me to it first.

Sunflowers are an all-time garden favorite that provide that feel-good cheery aspect to the garden. They are remarkably tough and easy to grow. Give them a try in your own garden.


eileeninmd said...

Love the sunflowers and the butterflies are awesome captures. beautiful photos.

Janet, The Queen of Seaford said...

I grew some of the Mexican sunflowers in Seaford. Loved the velvety petals. Some of the best sunflower production was from the bird seed bin at the hardware store. Super pictures Alan.

Les said...

I have always been attracted to Tithonia, but then again I do like orange. May have to try some next year.

Alan Pulley said...

Thank you so much Eileen and Janet!

Les, this was my first year growing them - very easy from seed once the soil is nice & warm. The blooms last a long time & make a great cut flower. They do get tall!

Sara Jones21 said...

I love the smell from the sunflower plant, but i miss it these days. Gardening Tips