What are the varieties of sunflowers?

Like many people who savor gardening as a hobby, we fancy the bright colors and upbeat feeling a sunflower brings! So, how many varieties of sunflowers are there?

species of sunflowers mirasol
Dwarf Sunflower variety SUNGOLD
Sunflowers
SUNGOLD is a dwarf sunflower
sunflowers in the desert
SUNGOLD aka TEDDY BEAR Sunflower variety

First, SUNFLOWERS belong to the genus Helianthus, which contains over 70 species.  Most varieties are annuals; but, Helianthus incorporates 38 species that are perennial (grow back every year on their own).  With so many cultivars out there one can get overwhelmed quickly!  We’ve identified several Sunflower favorites to make it easier.

Sunflower variety
Holiday Sunflower variety

The variety called “Holiday Sunflower”  has uneven heights and multiple blooms.

common sunflower in desert
Sunflower species HOLIDAY SUNFLOWER

Sunflowers track the sun throughout the day, but when they are fully grown the mature flower-heads face towards the east and no longer move. To grow the best sunflowers they will need full sun!

sunflower varieties
Dwarf sunflower species – Ring of Fire

The variety called Ring of Fire is another dwarf sunflower species that is very uniform and under 3 feet in height.

species of sunflowers with red
RING OF FIRE Sunflower variety

Dwarf sunflowers are a perfect choice if you want to grow sunflowers in a pot or window container.  After choosing the size of the container, add a layer of small rocks to help the soil drain. To grow sunflowers you will need fertile moist soil with heavy mulch.

sunflower variety
Big Smile sunflower species

The variety called Big Smile Sunflower is under 2 feet in height, has multiple blooms and is a Dwarf Sunflower Plant.

small dwarf sunflowers for pots
Sunflower variety BIG SMILE

The sunflower stem is rough and hairy with a circular head of flowers. The head has hundreds of individual flowers which mature into seeds.

sunflower species
Red, Orange and Yellow sunflower – AUTUMN BEAUTY

The sunflower species called Autumn Beauty branches out with a variety of yellow, red and orange colors.

multiple blooms sunflower
Sunflower variety AUTUMN BEAUTY

In the 16th century, sunflower seeds from the Americas were brought to Europe along with sunflower oil and they became a popular cooking ingredient.

ornamental type of sunflower
Tohokujhae Sunflower varieties

Tohokujhae Sunflowers are bright yellow with multiple blooms.  This variety has big double flowers 6-7 inches across.  The height of Tohokujhae sunflowers is 3-6 feet.

teddy bear sunflower species
Sunflower variety TOHOKUJHAE aka Teddy Bear

The leaves of the sunflower can be used as cattle feed and the fiber in the stems can be used in the production of paper.

sunflower species
Variety of Sunflower – SONJA

Some say Sonja Sunflowers are a weaker variety.  The height is uneven and ranges from 3-5 feet.  This sunflower has a dark center with big yellow petals.

wild sunflowers arizona
SONJA Sunflower variety

TIDBITS: The sunflower is the state flower of Kansas, USA.  American Indians had various uses for sunflowers, such as in bread, medical ointments, dyes and body paints.

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Desert Bird of Paradise quick facts

Arizona’s well-known desert bird of paradise shrubs burgeon with vivid red flowers or delightful yellow blooms.  The red bird of paradise, Caesalpinia Pulcherrima, is our favorite and we have several constituting a border.

drought resistant shrubs with flowers
drought tolerant bushes with red flowers

This Red Bird of Paradise is a drought and heat tolerant shrub that relishes full sun with its lively red- orange flowers cultivating out of long, thin stalks.

drought tolerant shrubs
Desert Bird of Paradise with red flowers

All the Desert Bird of Paradise bushes are Perennial (only plant them once).  Pruning and trimming is standard since these desert plants are easy growers; reaching over 10 feet tall.  PRUNING your Desert Bird of Paradise

Looking for detailed information on the Mexican Bird of Paradise pictured below?

drought tolerant desert shrub
Mexican Desert Bird of Paradise with yellow flowers

Caring for your Desert Bird of Paradise:

  • Exposure: full sun,  gets leggy in shade and blooming is reduced
  • Water:  deep irrigation; twice a week while blooming; height & growth rate determined by water supply
  • Propagation: been pod seed, very easy; peat pots provide easy transplanting
  • Soil: very tolerant, needs good drainage
  • Hardiness: damaged at 32°F, with increasing damage as temperature decreases
  • Leaves: fern-like, normally bright green turning red in winter, sometimes leafless in winter
  • Range:  common throughout Arizona Sonora desert, Mexico and naturalized in Texas
  • Maintenance:   pruning every year; sometimes pruned to ground in winter, periodic trimming to keep it shaped
Texas yellow bird of paradise
Yellow Desert Bird of Paradise with long red stamen

More details for the Yellow Bird of Paradise shrub pictured below.

tucson texas bushes with yellow flowers
Yellow Bird of Paradise bush with red stamen

PROPAGATION:

Peat Pots are great and make growing and transplanting your Desert Bird of Paradise seedlings easy. Start your seeds indoors and when you are ready to plant simply put the entire pot in the ground. Roots will penetrate the peat pot and the pot disintegrates enriching the soil.

germinating seeds
dissolving pots for Bird of Paradise seeds

To germinate Bird of Paradise seeds,  soak the seeds from the bean pods (pods need to be brown) in water for 48-72 hours.  Next plant them in peat pots, barely cover the seeds.  You may prefer to use the paper towel method to germinate your seeds; if so, when a white shoot (root) appears, plant it with the white root DOWN. Cover the seeds lightly with damp soil.

germinating and planting seeds
planting the seeds from the bean pods

Bird of Paradise seeds need at least 8 hours of sun, but not direct sun; it will be too hot! You can start to give them a little more direct sun after the first leaves appear.

phoenix heat tolerant plant with flowers
Red Bird of Paradise shrubs with cactus

These resilient desert bushes THRIVE in intense heat and look stunning with cactus, succulents, Lantana, even Bougainvillea!

Honeysuckles made # 5 – in the top Ten Heat Resistant plants for Arizona

Honeysuckles love the Arizona heat and the hummingbirds love the honeysuckle.  Now that is a desert garden delight!

As long as I water this thirsty honeysuckle shrub it will produce abundant blooms most of the year.  The narrow, orange, tubular flowers give enthusiasm to the garden with their bright colors.

heat resistant honeysuckle
heat-resistant orange honeysuckle

Our orange honeysuckles are fast growing perennial plants that are low maintenance.  Care for your honeysuckle with regular watering and pruning to keep the growth under control. With 180 species of honeysuckles, genus Lonicera, you can pick from pink, yellow, white, orange, red, etc., flowers.  Honeysuckles belong to the Caprifoliacea family which includes all types of woody shrubs and fragrant vines.

When choosing a honeysuckle to grow, be sure to check the label as some varieties are hardier than others and can cope with frost.  Also, there exists a few species of honeysuckle that are considered invasive such as Japanese honeysuckle.

common honeysuckle
Japanese honeysuckle is considered invasive

Pruning tips for honeysuckle vines:  Prune your plant in later winter when it is dormant.  With pruning shears, remove dead blooms from your honeysuckle as soon as you see them.

honeysuckle
honeysuckle flower

Tree, fence, trellis or wall; honeysuckle vines will climb on anything to seek out the sun.

orange honeysuckle flower
orange honeysuckle flower

Our garden has become a very busy place.  It is October in the Arizona desert and our honeysuckles are still blooming.  What a joy to sit quietly and watch the butterflies and hummingbirds feast on the bright tubular flowers.

Honeysuckle bush
Arizona heat-resistant Honeysuckle plant
Honeysuckle and Salvia plants for hummingbirds
Honeysuckle and Salvia plants for hummingbirds, butterflies

These heat tolerant honeysuckle plants did well even in full desert sun as long as they received their daily water.

native arizona honeysuckle
Lonicera arizonica Arizona honeysuckle

In the photo above is Lonicera arizonica which is a native Arizona Honeysuckle.  It is a perennial vine or shrub that you find in the open at elevations of 6,000 – 9,000 feet.  According to Northern Arizona University, this native honeysuckle was used by Native Americans to cleanse the bowels.  Navajo tribes used the leaves of the Lonicera arizonica  to induce vomiting.  Can I eat the red berries from the Arizona honeysuckle?  Yes you can eat the berries but it will have a purgative effect.

Purple, Yellow, and Red Lantana are some of the best drought resistant plants

Lantana is the best heat resistant plant that can add a punch of color to any flower bed. Lantana flowers come in a variety of orange, white, pink, yellow, purple, red and bi-color options.

These hardy plants are native to tropical regions of Africa and here in the Americas.  Lantana is a genus of about 150 species of perennial flowering plants in the VERBENA family, Verbenaceae.

yellow and red flowers bush
Lantana mounds and shrubs with continuous flowers

Depending on where you live and the type grown, Lantana plants can be treated as annuals or perennials.

Verbena, Lantana, requires heat to do well, so plant them where they will get plenty of sunWell-drained soil is a must, as Lantana won’t tolerate wet roots.

yellow lantana to attract butterflies
yellow colors of Lantana plants
  • More nurseries seem to sell Lantana plants by color and not by name.
best drought and heat resistant plants
Lantana shrubs and mounds

Trailing are the more popular low-growing, spreading types of Lantana, VerbenaPurple trailing Lantana looks beautiful cascading over walls or in hanging baskets.

  • New Gold Lantana – has deep yellow flowers
perrenial flowering plant
Texas New Gold Lantana
  • Dallas Red or Texas Flame Lantana – has red, yellow and orange flowers
Irene species of Lantana plants
Red Orange Yellow Lantana species in the Verbena plant family
  • Lantana shrubs with pink and light yellow flowers is called Pinkies Lantana or Confetti.
plants to attract butterflies
pink and yellow Lantana

Can you grow Lantana in containers?  You bet!  Lantana does well in pots that are in a sunny location.

pink camara shrub lantana flowering
Lantana Camara Plant, called Confetti Lantana

Are you looking for low maintenance plants that are drought resistantLantana is a good choice that is worth a try!

color ideas for your garden
red and yellow flowering Lantana next to oleander bushes

Lantanas are planted in spring once the threat of frost has ended.  These flowering plants love warm temperatures so growth may be slow at first.

grow Lantana heat tolerant plants
Trailing Purple Lantana in containers

Do you want to attract butterflies and hummingbirds to your gardenLantana flowers are one of the best choices for attracting butterflies.

Heat resistant tolerant flowering plant
Flowering Purple Trailing Lantana

When should I water my Lantana, Verbena plants?  On average the ground Lantana need a good soaking twice a week. A good indicator is the leaves.

Lantana growing in containers may need to be watered more depending on the temperature.

flowering plants for borders
Very hardy Gold Lantana is great for borders

If your Lantana is wilting, then water it but try not to get water on the leaves.  The sun can burn Lantana leaves that have water on them.

The stems of your Lantana are HOLLOW so overwatering will cause your Lantana roots to rot.

Choosing plants with colors, flowers, drought tolerant, heat resistant – white purple red orange yellow bushes

Adding splendid color and shapes to your low maintenance garden – Lets start with white and purple flowering shrubs.  TEXAS SAGES, Leucophyllums, are among the most reliable and fool-proof of the low water use plants available in Arizona!

White and Purple Texas Sage

Texas sage bushes have silvery gray leaves and purple or white flowers that bloom from summer through autumn. These sage plants are relatively carefree after they are planted, but good sunlight and proper drainage are essential to the Texas Sages success.

sage with prickley pear cactus

The purple and white flowers look amazing next to a prickley pear cactus.  In areas with poor drainage or with high average rainfalls, plant Texas sage brushes in raised beds.

Purple sage and oleander

The picture above has some of the best ideas for choosing plants with colors and different shapes that can be used in xeriscape or any low care, heat resistant yard.  Prickley Pear cactus are unique in gardens and add an architectural flare.

In the photo background is a Red Oleander, Nerium oleander, bush.  Oleanders make a popular divider or hedge, and can even be trained into a tree.

Of course we must mention the ever so popular Purple Texas Sage, also called Texas Ranger Plant.  The White flowering species of Texas Sage is called White Cloud and is a heavenly white bush that blooms commonly throughout Arizona and adds dazzling color to any garden.

white cloud texas sage

In the above photo you will see an Ocotillo Cactus standing tall behind the white flowering bush.  This White Cloud Texas Sage shrub could be trimmed; therefore creating a contrast between the magnificent Ocotillo cactus and the white blooms.

purple sage and new gold lantana

Texas New Gold Lantana and Purple Texas Sage are considered two of the best drought tolerant, easy care, heat resistant, flowering desert plants in Arizona, California, etc…  The yellow lantana mound looks dazzling next to a well pruned purple sage shrub.

add cacti to any flowering bush

Pictured above is part of the xeriscape area of our yard.  Cacti come in a variety of shapes and colors.  Some species of cactus have glorious flowers that bloom in the summer.  Grow a flowering desert plant, bush next to a cactus to create a beautiful desert garden.  The Bougainvillea shrub looks amazing next to a barrel cactus in the picture below.

bougainvillea and barrel cactus

 If desertscape makes you think of sparse, ugly gardens and cacti, think again!  Desert gardens can be gorgeous and cascading with color; all one needs is a little imagination

Red Bird of Paradise

Red Bird of Paradise plant is the best choice for orange, red and yellow flowering bushes.  Add a Saguaro cactus next to your desert shrub to create an unique design.

Pictured below is a common Arizona Wildflower called White Stem Paper Flower.  During Arizona Monsoon, (rainy season) the wild flowers paint the desert and many desert gardens.

white stem paper flower

Paint your own desert; the choices are endless!

Smallest Sunflower and growing tips – Part I

According to the 1996 Guiness Book of Records, the smallest sunflower ever grown to maturity measured 2 1/5 inches.  In this photo is a tiny, DWARF sunflower growing in our outdoor container.  When measuring this tiny flower, it checked in at 7 1/2 inches.

smallest sunflower
smallest sunflower in a pot

This small Sunflower is growing healthy in a lightly shaded area of the yard which has protected it from the extreme heat.  The seeds will provide a perfect size for growing Sunflowers in pots.

sunflowers plant bud
bud of the sunflower

The stem is thick and healthy. I will post another photo of the dwarf sunflower when it blooms.

A popular sunflower – dwarf variety – is the sunny PACINO.  Pacino is an improved dwarf pot type plant with more branching and flowers. Pacino sunflower’s height is only 16-24 inches and makes growing sunflowers in containers easy and rewarding.

Pacino dwarf sunflower
Pacino dwarf sunflower

Growing Pacinos and other dwarf sunflowers can be done on a balcony or a patio. Making sure they are positioned to receive plenty of sun.

plants on balcony
sunflowers in containers

How to grow a sunflower?   Just remember sunflowers do best in areas with full sun. Sow sunflower seeds April through May. Optimum soil temperature: 65-75°F. Sunflowers take 7-14 days for germination. When planting Sunflower seeds –  dig 1/2 inch deep, 3-4 inches between plants, and 30 inches between rows. Thin the sunflowers to 12-18 inches, leaving the strongest plants.

smallest sunflower
common garden sunflower

To promote deep roots and strong stems, water your sunflower deeply but infrequently. When caring for your sunflowers, try not to over fertilize your plants or it may cause stems to break in the fall.

Common Sunflower diseases and pestsWatch for cutworms and weevils on your sunflowers in the spring. A Pyrethrin powder, dusted or sprayed, works well on your sunflower to control pests.  When watering your sunflowers try to avoid wetting the foliage to help prevent browning.

Growing Sunflowers and harvest time! Cut sunflowers in the morning just after they open. Use a clean knife, a clean vase, and a few drops of chlorine bleach in the water, along with Floralife Cut Flower Food , to help maintain freshness.

sunflowers ready to harvest
sunflower’s mature flower head

Cutting the sunflower’s mature central flower head will promote side-shoot flower production.

What is the right time to harvest a sunflower for seeds? Harvest the heads when the bracts begin to shrivel, and hang the flowers upside down. **For seed-eating gardeners, gray and white striped sunflower seeds are the leading choice for munching raw, or roasted and salted. Harvest these the same way.
How to salt your sunflower seeds?  Rub the DRY seeds off the sunflower heads, put in 1 gallon of water with 1 cup of salt and soak them overnight. Now drain your salted sunflower seeds and place them in a 250 degree oven for 4-5 hours; then put them in an airtight container. That is how you make your own sunflower seeds! Easy and delicious!   Here is UPDATE part II