Get Growing – Facts about Sunflowers

Children love giants and they love to know facts—especially nature facts they think no one else knows. Sunflowers deliver on both counts. Some varieties of sunflowers grow to 12 feet high. They are fast growing plants that almost grow before your eyes.

Share the facts below with your children, and I bet you will soon hear them quizzing their friends and grown-ups about them: “Did you know that a sunflower head is made up of thousands of little flowers?” “Do you know why sunflowers face the sun?”

Some Sunflower facts:

  • The scientific name for sunflowers is Helianthus—Helia for sun, and Anthus for flower.
  • Sunflowers attract birds and bees.
  • Sunflowers are one of the fastest growing plants. They can grow 8 to 12 feet tall in rich soil within six months.
  • The tallest sunflower was grown in The Netherlands (25’ 5.5” tall) in 1986 by M. Heijmf.
  • The sunflower is native to North America.
  • Sunflowers were cultivated by Native Americans well over 1,000 years ago.
  • Wild sunflower is highly branched with small heads and small seeds, in contrast to the single-stem and large seed head of the domesticated sunflower.
  • A well-known sunflower characteristic is that the flowering head tracks the sun’s movement, a phenomenon known as heliotropism. The daily orientation of the flower to the sun is a direct result of different growth rates on the sunny and shady sides of the stem. A plant-growth regulator, or auxin, accumulates on the shaded side of a plant. Because of this accumulation, the darker side grows faster than the sunlit side. Thus, the stem bends toward the sun.
  • The sunflower resembles one huge flower, but a single sunflower head hosts 1,000 to 2,000 individual flowers. The yellow petals are actually protective leaves that cover the center of the head while it is growing. Each of those tiny flowers will eventually generate a sunflower seed.
  • Sunflower seeds are rich in oil.
  • The sunflower is the national flower of Russia and the state flower of Kansas, USA.


You and your children might enjoy perusing the list below of varieties of sunflowers. The names conger up images of  giants, big fiery disks, and  fuzzy flowers; others may make you say, “I wonder what that one will grow up to look like?”

  • Aztec Sun
  • Dwarf Sunspot
  • Evening Sun
  • Italian White
  • Kong Hybrid
  • Mammoth Russian
  • Orange Sun
  • Ring of Fire
  • Skyscraper
  • Teddy Bear
  • Valentine
  • Velvet Queen

Check out Sharon Lovejoy’s books Sunflower Houses and Root, Shoots, Buckets, and Boots for more ideas about planting sunflowers in ways that will delight and engage children.

Best Gardening – Sunflowers

Grow a Sunflower House for Kids

Alternative Field Crops Manual – Sunflowers


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