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December 27th 2019

Favorite Sunflowers for Cutting

Written by
Floret

It’s no wonder that sunflowers have long held the top spot as the most commonly grown cut flower worldwide—they are ridiculously easy to grow, thrive during the dog days of summer and early autumn, bloom abundantly, and require very little attention to thrive.

There are two types of sunflowers, branching and non-branching. Branching types get quite large and produce an abundance of blooms over a long period of time. They require a good deal of room, so space them 18 to 24 inches (45 to 60 cm) apart. To stagger the harvest, sow a new batch every 3 to 4 weeks from spring through midsummer.

Non-branching types (also called single stem) produce one flower per seed and are prized for their fast bloom time and long, straight stems. These are the types that most flower farmers choose to cultivate.
Sunflowers in fieldTo keep them at a manageable size, it’s best to plant them quite close together, otherwise you’ll end up with broomstick-sized stems that are impossible to work into arrangements. For smaller, bouquet-sized blooms, space plants 4 to 6 inches (10 to 15 cm) apart. For a continuous harvest, sow successive plantings of these every 7 to 10 days throughout the spring and early summer.
Sunflower seedingsSunflowers can be either direct seeded or transplanted into the garden as soon as the weather has warmed and all threat of frost has passed. Seeds germinate rapidly, and within a few days plants will be poking out of the ground.

If birds and other wildlife are an issue, be sure to protect young seedlings until they are 3 to 4 inches (7 to 10 cm) tall, since critters will make short work of pulling out young plants and eating the tender seeds if given the chance. I cover freshly seeded beds with frost cloth and anchor the corners down with heavy stones to keep the birds away until the plants have had a chance to root in and anchor themselves. To avoid this extra step, you can plant out transplants instead of seeds.
Sunflower openingHarvest as soon as the first petals on a sunflower bloom start to unfurl, and strip the bottom three-fourths of the leaves from the stem for the longest vase life. No flower preservative is needed.

Sunflower arrangement in metal bucketAs summer fades and early autumn arrives, sunflowers are at their prime, and there’s no better way to usher in the changing seasons than by creating a wild, textural arrangement filled with the best the garden has to offer.

Barn full of sunflowersSunflower bouquetsThese gorgeous focals combine beautifully with amaranth, millet, and other grains and grasses, as well as rudbeckias (see my post on Grasses, Grains, and Pods). Be sure to mix some dark-flowered varieties to set off this predominantly green-and-yellow palette.

Unlike wild sunflowers, all of the varieties discussed here are pollenless, so they won’t stain. They’re perfect for arranging and gift-giving.
Sunflowers with frilled petalsOne of the most unique sunflowers we’ve grown, ‘Frilly’ (pictured above, left), is loaded with glowing spiky petals that surround dark fuzzy centers that are ringed by a delicate fringe. The effect is truly spectacular, and the coloring reminds us of a busy hive of honeybees.

I’ve grown dozens of branching sunflowers over the years, and none has topped ‘Panache’ (above left). Its ultra-fluffy, shaggy petals and dark green-brown centers make for a fantastic floral display. These blooms are the epitome of late summer-early autumn and look incredible displayed en masse or mixed with black-eyed Susans and ornamental grasses.

Sunflowers ProCut Gold & Greenburst‘ProCut Gold’ (pictured above, left) is a delightful addition to the cutting garden, featuring light green centers ringed by glowing gold petals. The cheerful blooms mix well with pastels and are perfect for early to midsummer bouquets. We grow more than 10,000 of these each year at the farm for market bouquets. With strong, tall stems, this uniform beauty and the entire ‘ProCut’ series is bred for commercial cut flower production.

The glowing golden semi-double petals of ‘Greenburst’ (above right) surround a fluffy green center, making for the most beautiful and cheerful display. This extremely productive and free-flowering beauty is a customer favorite and a must-grow. Flowering just 2 months from seeding, this cutie can be succession-sown from early spring through midsummer for flowers from early summer through late autumn. We grow loads of this variety every year.
Sunflowers with red petals‘ProCut Red’ (picture above, left) is a stunning new dark addition. Flowers are a deep, rich rusty-red, one of the best dark colors on the market. Dark chocolatey centers gradually give way to ruby-ringed petals that fade to a lighter tip.

One of the fastest flowering varieties, ‘Ruby Eclipse’ (above right) is an attractive branching sunflower that’s as productive as it is beautiful. Blooms are a mix of bicolor flowers in shades of cream, dusty rose, and ruby-red. Super easy to grow, with one planting producing for 3 weeks. Side branches are the perfect size for bouquets.
Sunflowers with white petalsTwo exciting new additions to the ‘ProCut’ line produce ivory-petaled flowers: ‘White Lite’ (pictured above, left) with honey mustard centers, and ‘White Nite’ (above right) with chocolatey brown centers.

I would love to hear your experience with sunflowers. Do you grow them or plan to add them to your garden this coming season? If so, what are your favorite varieties?

Please note: If you submit a comment and it doesn’t show up right away, sit tight; we have a spam filter that requires we approve most comments before they are published.

Lastly, if you find this information helpful, I would love it if you would share it with your friends.

67 Comments

  1. Dan on

    If you’re finding like I did that sunflowers are not opening more after cutting, and came here hoping to find out why [this info is great, and identical to what’s in her book, but lacks info about some sunflowers not opening after being cut], another flower farmer has this to say:

    “I have found that some sunflower cultivars are less receptive than others to cutting early, so I recommend that you experiment with a dozen or so of each type that you grow in order to find out just how early you can cut.” (The Flower Farmer by Lynn Byczynski, page 137). She cuts some as early as before the flowers even unfurl. The lack of opening after cutting I have experienced was on a yellow variety we grew (forget which variety), but also saw it happen on a yellow sunflower my mother received in a gift bouquet, and a local florist who only gets a yellow variety says they never (or was it only sometimes?) open more for her if cut before open.

    Lynn continues, but this is referring to flowers generally, not necessarily to sunflowers specifically, but it is in the paragraph following the quote above: “It’s better to cut unopened flowers in the evening, when their stems are full of starches and sugars that will help them continue to open. You also should use floral preservative [but maybe not for sunflowers, see note below*], which contains about 1 percent sugar. Some preservatives can be used at double strength to prompt buds to open; check the label. You can also make a bud opening solution that contains 2 percent sugar by adding 5 ounces of sugar to 2 gallons of water. Leave the flowers in this solution in a cool place out of the sun (but not in the cooler) until the flowers open.”

    *On page 17 she writes: “Sunflowers will do fine if you put them in plain water—research shows that only a few cultivars do better in water with floral preservatives added than in tap water.” So, I’d choose to skip the floral preservative when trying to open sunflowers, and just try the “opening solution” she suggests above.

    Reply
  2. Dan on

    Response to Taneda: might be multiple things. Short answer based on our two year experience: we watered more the second year and got much taller flowers than the first year.

    Long answer: Our first time growing a small cut sunflower patch last year was watered by hand with watering cans. By memory, I think they might have been about 3-4 feet tall. This year, with drip tape lines watering them, and therefore sufficient water instead of basically just enough to not die like last year, they are now growing 5 -6 feet tall or taller, and continue to grow taller even once fully bloomed. Flowers in the final two feet at the end of the drip line are much shorter, my guess being that drip lines might (don’t know, just a guess) deliver less water at the end of the line due to whatever physics are at play at the end of the line (again, just a guess).

    The patch of ground we’re growing on slightly slopes, maybe 15-18 inch drop over 15 feet or so, and when the drip lines were fed from the bottom of the slope, so the water had to flow slighltly uphill, the flower patch grew in a ramp shape with the upslope flowers being much shorter than the downslope flowers. I observed the rate of drip and found it to to be faster on the downslope end than on the upslope end. After switching things around so the drip tape lines were delivered water from the upslope end (so the water flows downslope instead of upslope), the shorter flowers on the upslope end have mostly caught up in height. Exception: the patch of white nites maintain the ramp shape, but they grew somewhat more poorly (height and germination) than the other varieties, so maybe their patch of ground has some nutrient issues as well. Lessons learned: water flowing slightly upslope delivered less water to the upslope end, and less water may lead to shorter sunflowers.

    Reply
  3. Jillian Brunell on

    This year I decided to go for it and plant 7000 sunflowers! I planted 6 different varieties and so far the favorites are Vincent’s Fresh Pro Cut and Vincent’s Choice Pro Cut that I purchased from Harris Seed. They are incredibly beautiful and have about a 10 day vase life. They are pollen free but we have honey bees by the thousands visiting them for their nectar. Red lemon Bicolor Pro cut is also very beautiful but seems to loose it’s pedals easily. Next year I plan to purchase some of your Pro Cut Red and Pro Cut White Nite. Thank you for so much inspiration. I have a small farm stand where we sell vegetables and now our sunflowers are a hit there too. Keep the books coming and hope to see more episodes on the Magnolia Network. Thank You. Jillian

    Reply
  4. Taneda on

    I have planted the Pro Cut sunflower 2years in a row but they are flowering at about 2-3 feet and not growing beyond that, what am I doing incorrectly…

    Reply
  5. Kathy Hill on

    Sunflowers are my favorite flowers! I plant them from seed every year right outside my office windows so I can watch them grow and burst into happy flowers.
    I’ve gotten my grandchildren hooked on them too. They help me sow the seeds in late May and every time they visit they race over to our sunflower patch to see how much the flowers have grown. The delight they feel seeing the tiny seeds they sowed just a few weeks before peeking through the dirt and then growing taller and taller just makes my heart happy!

    Reply
  6. Karen on

    I would love to order the three books , where and how can I get them

    Reply
  7. Val on

    I like to mix sunflowers in an arrangement with golden rod and an herb I find growing in dry places that’s a bit Invasive called Tansey golden buttons.It’s abundant growing near ditches in king county.

    Reply
  8. Wendy on

    @Malorie – those look like the Macau Rudbeckia, maybe?

    Reply
  9. Malorie on

    Hi! I’m curious: what are the tiny flowers in the beautiful arrangement pictured in the metal bucket? They look like mini rubeckias…would love to look into getting some if you remember the variety.

    Thank you!

    Reply
  10. Paula Betz on

    I so appreciate your site! You have taught me so much. I am growing a variety of sunflowers-for cut flowers-I brought some around to some florists today-the first said they are perfect-better than any she has been able to purchase-but the store manager only buys from a big supplier. The second said they were to big and I cut the stems to short and the third said I need the stem to be more erect so the flower is facing up instead of straight ahead-which brings me to my question….how do you get a sunflower head to face upwards more?

    Reply
  11. Glenna Dunagan on

    I am having trouble with my sunflower heads becoming droopy after harvest. Any suggestions?

    Reply
  12. jennifer on

    Help! I planted my sunflowers and have forgotten where I planted the single stem and the branching. They are all around 12- 18 inches tall now.
    Is there a way to tell which are branching and should be pinched??

    Thank you!
    Jennifer

    Reply
  13. Shawn on

    I am a small hobby farmer, this is my second year growing single stem sunflowers. I am growing ProCut Orange Excel, ProCut White Nite and ProCut Plum (can’t remember the entire name). I plant them about 6″ apart. They grow beautifully and straight. The flower stems get around 4 – 4 1/2′ tall, so they are very manageable. Love how long they stay good in a vase and their colors are simply beautiful. Trying to succession plant this year as well. Not on the exact 7-10 day planting, but getting there. Thank you Floret for all your helpful articles, seminars and videos. You inspired me to grow toward my passion. Yes, I meant to say “grow”.

    Reply
  14. Kate on

    Why do sunflowers not need flower preservative? I like to give each customer a packet of flower food. Is there a difference between preservative and food packets?

    Reply
  15. Jana on

    My sunflowers are blooming without fully developed pedals on one side( it this tacoing??). This didn’t happen last year. They are procut single stem Zojar and Sonya.Please advise. Thx

    Reply
  16. Dorathea on

    My favorite is planting abundant sunflowers where I can see them from my window. As they bloom dozens of golden finches gather to eat the seeds . It’s truly gorgeous. Better than any store bought bird feeder. We plant plenty so we have enough for birds and for arrangements ❤️

    Reply
  17. Sara on

    I use to think sunflowers were not very special…. just too ordinary. But then I grew them, and saw them up close and personal. And taking pictures of them really highlighted their simple beauty…so I was convinced they added alot to the garden, and are now in the garden every year.

    FAV #1: Teddy Bear Sunflowers are sooo adorable, they are ALL yellow, including the center (this is the unique part I love about em), and all fluff. They are shorter stems too, 2-3 feet ish.

    FAV #2: Van Gogh Sunflowers… these are stunning. Super heavy heads, pretty tall & thick stems, bright yellow petals and kelly green centers. 10 seeds, 10 big flowers… which then produce 100s of seeds when harvested, so I guess no see shortage here. Whoop! Whoop!

    To see what these 2 look like, Google either name and view images of each. Both gorgeou,s if you like bright yellow sunshiney faces looking back at you in your garden. =)

    Reply
  18. glenda on

    Are these above sunflowers pollinators, I’m thinking of the bees.
    thanks glenda

    Reply
  19. cathy on

    What is that darling seed/budded filler that is mixed in to your market bouquets on this post? it is cuter than cute and I can’t find it anywhere after scouring your site. thanks

    Reply
  20. Ashley L on

    I just grew my first sunflowers. I bought a mix pack of branching sunflowers and they have been amazing! I started out vegetable gardening and found it so frustrating and not as satisfying as I had imagined but these sunflowers have turned me into a flower gardener. They bring so much joy! Can’t wait to order Floret seeds in January!

    Reply
  21. Carol Dyar on

    I am so grateful for the information you provide for those of us learning to start a flower garden. You are a wealth of knowledge and I thank you for sharing your years of experience with me.
    Sincerely, Carol

    Reply
  22. Valerie Kay on

    To Laurie Barger. You know Floret is not obligated to give answers to every growing related questions people ask them thru all social platform.You have to understand they are running a business and they are trying their best to provide their readers with this kind of resources. I’m not asking you to be thankful but at least be appreciative of their effort they put in. You can always go search information that you need on google.

    Reply
  23. Lisa on

    Hi Erin. Love your farm and all the beautiful plants you grow. Thank you for sharing your knowledge with us. I would like to start a cut flower garden in my back yard. I have a rose garden in raised beds. But I would like to grow some other flowers. My question is about the best way to remove grass for the garden; cover and let die, remove by digging up or another method I don’t know about. Thanks again for sharing.

    Lisa

    Reply
  24. Amy Prince on

    Hi! I love your seeds and helpful videos. You have inspired me to grow a beautiful cut flower garden in my backyard. I am new to growing sunflowers and I bought the Pro Cut White Lite. On the back of the seed package it says to pinch at 18″ tall (which I did) but then I was reading on your website it says not to pinch that variety? Could you clarify this for me? Thank you so much!!

    Reply
  25. Carol on

    I was really disappointed to read that these sunflowers are all Pollenless. I want to grow flowers to give away and also to help the bees. Do you sell any variety seeds that are “natural”it’s like it is not a true flower.

    Reply
  26. Namrata on

    I ordered the procut gold this year and they just started blooming (zone 7a), but they are only 2 ft tall and approx 3inch blooms. They also seem to be producing more buds around the nodes – so confused if this was by mistake a different variety?

    Reply
  27. Rose on

    Do you have to protect the flowers from birds. We have parrots & cockatoos where we live in Australia.

    Reply
  28. Charlotte Mitchell on

    To answer the question from Anna, Sydney (May 26th 2020),…”In the image with the arrangement in front of a black board, there are tiny sunflower looking flowers. May I please ask what they are called?”

    I think they might be Rudbeckia triloba, common name: Brown-Eyed Susan. If it is that one, it’s a biennial wildflower. Biennials will produce only leaves in the first year after planting the seed, then produce the flowers in the second year.

    Hope this helps. Happy Gardening!

    Reply
  29. Kim on

    I’m growing almost all the pro cut series this year, my first try at growing flowers for market. So looking forward to seeing a garden full of sunflowers!

    Reply
  30. Laurie Barger on

    There were several comments that deserved replies as I know I had similar questions. Please take the time to give your readers and followers the respect of an answering reply.

    Reply
  31. Natasha Waanders on

    Enjoyed reading your blog & have both of your books. Sunflowers are a favourite of mine on my little flower farm/ florist, they are perfect for our long hot, dry summers when other flowers struggle. Finding the varieties/ choice are bit limited in Australia

    Reply
  32. Anna, Sydney on

    In the image with the arrangement in front of a black board, there are tiny sunflower looking flowers. May I please ask what they are called? Beautiful images and great post, thank you. Recently ordered your first book, still waiting for it to arrive, can’t wait.

    Reply
  33. Margaret Thorson on

    Joker is about my favorite bi color for cutting. Also Giant Sungold, a fully double yellow.

    Reply
  34. Cindi Poole on

    Great information. I am growing some of the ones you mentioned and cannot wait to see what they look like. I did find that when I started them earlier in April, some of them did not come up. After the days got warmer, they came us pretty fast.

    Reply
  35. Joanne Bath on

    I’ve got to grow some for a course I’m taking. First time with sunflowers so your blog is perfect timing :-)

    Reply
  36. Kristi Hein on

    Our biggest challenge was deer! We sowed a streetside triple row where we’d taken out an invasive rose hedge and at first I had a low wire fence with secured netting to keep out everything. But when I thought the plants had sized up enough, I took the netting off. — too soon! Overnight, deer destroyed (consumed) about 20%. I strung the surviving plants with a lot of yellow tape with fluttering ends, and that helped until the plants were big and sturdy enough (and fuzzy-prickly enough) to fend for themselves. And it turned out gorgeous. Many different kinds and colors and heights. Neighbors loved it, so did the bees and birds, and plenty for bouquets too. I’m about to sow this year’s.

    Reply
  37. Pat on

    I grow them easily, plant them in early spring and they come out within days . They easily self seed too. Love to grow them between pumpkins patch, they bring pollinators and are joy in the garden. I can’t have a garden without their presence, they cheer me up. Grow all kinds of variety of sunflower and others annual flowers and perennials. Sun flowers are a favorite!!! Your new sun flowers selections look very appealing will have get some from you next year. Thank you for the inspiration!!!😍

    Reply
  38. Debi on

    I recently planted sunflowers for my very first time. I’m excited to go on this journey! 🌻

    Reply
  39. Marie on

    Those are gorgeous shots! Thanks for posting so much details!! The deer here must have dreams of fields like yours. If you ever put out a photo book of mostly pics with only names of plants, I’ll be there ready to pre order. We love the cards and current books.

    Reply
  40. Christina Keller on

    My Ruby Eclipse are 7’+ right now and starting to bloom. I’m so confused when I can cut them because they are branching. Only one flower is open and I don’t want to cut when there are three other closed blooms. HELP!

    Reply
  41. Sue Risk on

    I love sunflowers, and for years I’ve had great success growing them.
    The last year I had extreme trouble, though.
    The squirrels eat the bloom before it has even un furled, so I had no sunflowers in bloom.
    What do you suggest? I thought of making tulle bags for their heads. Say, why not on the squirrels, the lil skunks? 😄

    Reply
  42. Connie McBride on

    We have Giant Sunflowers. So heavy the heads droop over. Heads the size of hubcaps. Full of black/white seeds. The stalks are like small trees. We save the heads full of seeds & dry them out. Sprinkle some seeds out next year from last years growth. The birds really enjoy them.

    Reply
  43. KaCee Bloom on

    I’m growing all branching this year! Strawberry blonde, strawberry lemonade, gold rush, and autumn beauty!

    Reply
  44. Sally on

    Is it too late direct sow? I live in Idaho zone 6

    Reply
    • Angela, Team Floret on

      Hi Sally- No, it’s not too late to plant them. Enjoy your flowers!

  45. Sharon on

    I really appreciated this posting with all the information and gorgeous photos :) TY

    Reply
  46. Val on

    I planted some 2 times so far this year and still not up,so not sure why but now to see if I can find some seed and replant ,,so pretty

    Reply
  47. angela neufeld on

    I do a bunch of different varieties every year but my go to variety is Soraya. I love the smaller size of the blooms and find them perfect for using in mixed bouquets. I’ve been experimenting with pinching the branching varieties when they are about 2-3 ft tall to keep them shorter and then getting shorter, straighter, more uniform blooms. Do you practice anything like this with your branching varieties?

    Reply
  48. Cynthia Gengras on

    My husband loves sunflowers and I’m trying to grow a few for him this summer in the garden. Love seeing all these varieties! Thanks so much for educating us a bit about this beauty.

    Reply
  49. Melnee Benfield on

    Several years ago, a chipmunk gathered oodles of sunflower seeds from our bird feeder. He planted them all around the front of our house. We had a
    Gorgeous display of sunflowers, all because that little critter took up gardening.

    Reply
  50. Kimi Hardesty on

    Will you have more sunflower seeds for sale this year?

    Thank you!

    Kimi

    Reply
  51. Patti Lisk on

    Will they grow successfully in zone 9b?

    Reply
  52. yvonne davis on

    I have the same question about pinching. I have Frilly in my beds and White Lite and I didn’t punch. Now they’re about 30 inches tall and I’m not sure what to do. This is my first year, so learning tons!
    Thanks
    Yvonne

    Reply
  53. Kayla on

    I have terrible luck direct seeding my sunflowers. I have started sprouting mine in a paper towel and then planting them. Such a difference!

    Reply
  54. Megan on

    I think there may be a typo where you mention Panache. It says the image is above left but I think you mean above right.

    Reply
  55. Tiffany Eaton on

    How do I prevent taco-ing? Is that when the fold on themselves?

    Reply
  56. Astrid Bowlby on

    For non-production growers, I suggest adding to your article that sunflowers are allelopathic and can effect the growth of other plants around them. It is fun to grow a mixed sunflower-only bed in a variety of shapes and sizes and this circumvents the problem.

    Reply
  57. Aeima on

    Hi there, what do you mean by taco-ed? I’ve just planted a bunch of the Pro Cut Reds lol, so would like to prevent that from happening. Than you

    Reply
  58. Abbie Fischer on

    Do you pinch branching varieties? If so, when? I ordered some Panache and I’m hoping for as many flowers as possible.

    Reply
  59. Karla on

    Two years ago, I grew several of the Procut series and all my ProCut Red taco-ed on my. They were in the same row with Procut Gold and Orange. Any idea? I’m going with Plum this year and left the Red out of my order (although it’s not to late to order).

    Reply
  60. Leha on

    How do I know if a variety is branching?

    Reply
  61. Jason on

    ‘White Nite’ is lovely. I grow branched sunflowers in my garden, and I think my favorite is ‘Italian White’, whose flowers are similar to ‘Whte Nite’ but smaller.

    Reply
  62. Laurie valentino on

    Your sunflowers are gorgeous. I love growing them every year. My flowers are always beautiful but my leaves turn brown starting at the bottom, going up. It’s not a big deal when I remove the leaves and put in a vase but it makes the plants look ugly. Any suggestions what they need? I grow in raised beds and in the ground and it seems no matter what I do for them this always happens. Thanks.

    Reply
  63. Olivia Plocharczyk - Bouquets of Blessing on

    ‘White Nite’ is our absolute favorite. Also, unlike many other Pro Cut varieties which bloom all at once and are hard to keep up with, ‘White Nite’ seeds planted at the same time bloom over a period of 7 to 14 days, making it easy to succession plant for a continual harvest. New-found favorites include ‘Starburst Panache’ and ‘Sunfill Purple’. Both of these types were even more amazing in reality than the pictures on online seed stores.

    Reply
  64. Sarah at Bloomette Flowers on

    Thank you for sharing, Erin. (I think Panache is mislabeled above. It is on the right, right?)
    We had a lot of success with our Pro cuts spaced 6 inches apart and loved the abundant blooms of buttercream, a branching variety.
    After reading your series, I think we will add white lite and white nite to our plans.
    Happy New Year!

    Reply
  65. Logan Hudlemeyer on

    I love these! My favorite is the Pro Cut White Nite, and I definitely plan to plant these next year :) As always, Thanks for sharing! :)

    Reply

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