Probably one of the most-loved and familiar flowers in the world, sunflowers have long been a favorite for borders and bouquets alike because of their huge, brightly colored blossoms. While not quite as large as its annual cousin, the perennial sunflower makes up for what it lacks in size with tons of blooms in late summer and into fall.
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The perennial varieties of sunflower are not quite as colorful as their annual counterparts, but they still put on an impressive display of color. Perennial sunflowers can generally be found in varying shades of gold, with a few cultivars in a softer lemon yellow.
The biggest difference among many of the sunflower species is in the foliage. While sunflower leaves tend to be coarse in texture, there are some exceptions, such as Helianthus salicifolius which has fine foliage. These plants don't branch, except at the flowering tips, creating an extremely soft and airy texture.
Perennial Sunflower Care Must-Knows
Many native perennial sunflowers in the United States are tough plants coming from the Great Plains, prairies, and open rocky woodlands. They are well-adapted to a variety of conditions. Ideally, perennial sunflowers prefer well-drained soil with average moisture. Many types, though, are adapted to drought, while others like the swamp sunflower prefer, you guessed it, swampy moist soil. Most perennial sunflowers do well in average-to-poor soil, while a few others like soil rich in nutrients. Be careful with some of the larger growing types; if they are planted in too-rich soil, they may flop over from an overabundance of growth.
Related: Yellow Flowers for Your Garden
To prevent legginess, plant sunflowers in full sun. This encourages the most blossoms possible on the most compact habit. Many species will tolerate part shade, but they are more likely to develop fungal diseases like leaf spot and powdery mildew.
If you are planning on growing some of the taller species, make sure you can stake them as they are prone to flopping. Or plant them near other tall plants, walls, or fences for surrounding support. After they have finished blooming, don't remove the spent blossoms; the oil-rich seeds in the blossoms are loved by small birds, who happily perch on the old blooms and snack to their hearts' delight. The spent flowers also add winter interest to the garden.
More Varieties of Perennial Sunflower
'Lemon Queen' sunflower
Helianthus x 'Lemon Queen' is a bold plant that reaches 4-6 feet tall. Its single, light yellow flowers are produced in abundance from midsummer to fall. Staking may be necessary if soil is rich. Zones 5-9
'Low Down' sunflower
This variety of Helianthus angustifolius packs the flower punch of tall perennial sunflowers but only grows 18 inches tall. It requires no staking and blooms from midsummer to fall. Zones 5-9
Helianthus angustifolius bears masses of bright yellow daisies with brown-purple centers atop rough, 6-foot-tall stems in early fall. Zones 6-9
Perennial Sunflower Companion Plants
Nothing beats a dahlia for summer color. Growing these varied, spiky flowers is like having a box of garden crayons at your disposal. The flowers form on branching, fleshy stems, or open in solitary splendor on the bedding-plant types in mid- to late summer. Several different flower categories, from the petite mignonettes to the gigantic dinner-plate dahlias, offer possibilities for any space.
Daylilies are so easy to grow you'll often find them growing in ditches and fields, escapees from gardens. And yet they look so delicate, producing glorious trumpet-shape blooms in myriad colors. In fact, there are some 50,000 named hybrid cultivars in a range of flower sizes (the minis are very popular), forms, and plant heights. Some are fragrant.The flowers are borne on leafless stems. Although each bloom lasts but a single day, superior cultivars carry numerous buds on each scape so bloom time is long, especially if you deadhead daily. The strappy foliage may be evergreen or deciduous.
There are few gardens that don't have at least one salvia growing in them. Whether you have sun or shade, a dry garden or lots of rainfall, there's an annual salvia that you'll find indispensable. All attract hummingbirds, especially the red ones, and are great picks for hot, dry sites where you want tons of color all season. Most salvias don't like cool weather, so plant them outdoors after all danger of frost has passed.