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Cut Flower
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Helianthus annuus
(hee-lee-AN-thus AN-yoo-us)

Sunflower, Common sunflower, Mirasol, Marigold of Peru

Sunflowers have nodding daisylike blossoms, 2 to 10 or more inches in diameter (depending on cultivar), with ray flowers (“petals”) surrounding central disks comprising hundreds of tiny yellow, brown, green or deep purple flowers. Some varieties (e.g., ‘Teddy Bear’) appear to not have any disk flowers. Ray-flower length and quantity, and disk diameter, vary among cultivars.

    Stem lengths generally range from 2 to 5 feet. Sunflowers typically have a single bloom per stem, but they also can be branched, with several blossoms per stem.

More than 60 varieties of sunflowers are available today as cut flowers. Natural hues include yellows, from pale lemon yellow to bright golden yellow; bronzes; browns; reddish-browns; oranges; creams; and bicolors. Stem-dyed sunflowers (reds and oranges) have grown in popularity in the last few years.

Sunflowers typically offer five to 14 days of vase life, depending on cultivar, environment and care.

Available year-round, sunflower production peaks from June through October. Some varieties, especially novelties, are available only during the peak months.

PROCESSING Remove sunflowers from the shipping boxes immediately upon their arrival
    (they are highly susceptible to water stress). Next remove any packaging and stem
    bindings as well as any leaves that would be under water in storage containers. Because
    sunflowers are often field grown and have “hairy” stems, they capture debris, so rinse
    stems under tepid running water.
Recut stems with a sharp blade, removing at least 1 inch of stem. Immediately dip or
    place stem ends into a hydration solution (particularly important with sunflowers), then
    place them into clean, disinfected containers half filled with warm (100 F to 110 F),
    properly proportioned flower-food solution.

REFRIGERATION/STORAGE After processing, place sunflowers into a floral cooler at 33 F
    to 35 F, and allow them to hydrate for at least two hours before using or selling.

ETHYLENE SENSITIVITY Some cultivars of sunflowers are sensitive to ethylene gas, but
    many are not affected. To be safe, make sure your purchases are treated with an ethylene
    inhibitor at the grower level or during transportation, and keep them away from sources of
    ethylene (fruit, cigarette smoke and vehicle exhaust).

CARE EXTRA Recut stems, wash containers and change flower-food solution every other
    day to prevent bacteria buildup and keep nutrient solution flowing up the stems.
     Sunflowers are somewhat geotropic (affected by gravity), so store them as vertical as
    possible, particularly at room temperatures, so their heads won’t nod even more.

CONSUMER ACTION Advise customers to recut the stems and change the vase solution
    every other day.


fun facts


WHAT’S IN A NAME The genus name Helianthus is derived from the Greek helios, meaning “sun,” and anthos, meaning “flower,” reflecting these flowers’ heliotropic nature of turning toward and following the sun. The specific epithet annuus means “annual,” referring to the plant’s one-year life cycle.

FAMILY MATTERS Helianthus is a member of the Asteraceae/Compositae family. Close relatives include chrysanthemums, Gerberas, Dahlias, Zinnias, Asters, marigolds, bachelor’s buttons and black-eyed Susans.

HOME SWEET HOME Sunflowers are native to the Americas, from southern Canada to South America. Evidence indicates that they were first domesticated in Mexico.


purchasing checklist


Look for fully open blooms, but watch that the centers (disk flowers) are not showing any pollen.

STEMS Check stems for rot, slime or bruises.

LEAVES Watch for yellow, wilted, dried out or otherwise aging leaves. Leaf health is a critical indicator of sunflower longevity—more so than bloom quality.


Some information provided by:
Chain of Life Network® ,
Firefly Dictionary of Plant Names, The: Common & Botanical, by Harold Bagust
Hortus Third, by Liberty Hyde Bailey and Ethel Zoe Bailey
SAF Flower & Plant Care,
by Terril A Nell, Ph.D. and Michael S. Reid, Ph.D.


Super Floral Retailing •• Copyright 2009
Florists' Review Enterprises, Inc.