Sunflower Meaning, History and Uses

Sunflowers are known the world around as one of the most joyous and flamboyant flowers. They are growing rapidly in popularity as cut flowers for bouquets and flower arrangements as well as garden flowers. Learn more about sunflowers below:

Meaning of Sunflowers
   Sunflower Symbolism and Distribution
   Sunflowers and the Americas
   Sunflowers in Song and Poetry
Sunflower Symbolism for Special Occasions
   Sunflowers for Housewarming Presents
   Sunflowers for Get Well Gifts
   Sunflowers for Congratulations
   Sunflowers for Those You Adore
Natural History of Sunflowers
   Varieties of Sunflowers
   Interesting Facts About Sunflowers
   Use of Sunflowers as a Food Source
   Use of Sunflowers as a Natural Dye
   Sunflowers in Arts and Crafts
Growing Sunflowers in Your Garden
   Tips on Growing Sunflowers
   Problems to Avoid
   Finding Sunflower Seeds
More Resources
   Bouquets Featuring Sunflowers

Meaning of Sunflowers

Sunflower SymbolSunflower Symbolism and Distribution
Sunflowers are symbolic of adoration. Sunflowers turn their heads to the sun, which is the origin of their common name. Sunflowers belong to the genus helianthus, a reference to Helios, the sun god. In the United States, sunflowers are found in the midwest prairies as well as roadsides. The sunflower generally grows in scrub land and dry areas. Sunflowers are native to the Americas and are the state flower of Kansas and the national flower of Russia. Sunflowers bloom from July through September. Sunflowers are traditionally bright yellow with a central disk or reddish brown. (Photo courtesy of Jason Pratt, Wikimedia Commons)

The head of the sunflower actually consists of 1,000-2,000 individual flowers. Each petal is a ray flower. Sunflowers vary widely in size depending on their adaptive genetic make up, but can reach maximum heights of of three to ten feet. Cultivated sunflowers can reach an incredible twenty feet in height. Sunflowers are one of the fastest growing plants in the world, increasing in height up to one foot a day. These lofty heights have resulted in the sunflower being symbolic of haughtiness as well as adoration.

sunflower symbolSunflowers and the Americas
The Inca Indians worshipped the sunflower as a symbol of the sun. Their priestesses wore necklaces of sunflowers made of gold.
Spanish explorers took sunflowers back to Spain, where they were cultivated and hybrids were created. Eventually, they were brought to America with European explorers. Native Americans, however, already had their own sunflowers in cultivation along the shores of Lake Huron. (Photo courtesy of 3268zauber, Wikimedia Commons)

Sunflowers in Song and Poetry
Sunflowers have been celebrated in poetry and song for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. One of the most famous songs referencing sunflowers is "Believe Me If All Those Endearing Young Charms" by the poet Thomas Moore:


...the heart that has truly loved never forgets,
But as truly loves on to the close,
As the sunflower turns on her god, when he sets,
The same look which she turned when he rose.

For more on flower symbolism, see recommended books from Amazon:
Folklore and Symbolism of Flowers, Plants and Trees
The Language of Flowers: Symbols And Myths
The Language of Flowers
The Meaning of Flowers
Forget-Me-Not: A Floral Treasury

Sunflower Symbolism for Special Occasions

sundlower arrangementSunflowers for Housewarming Presents

The cheerfulness and warmth of sunflowers are perfect for a bright bouquet of flowers to set the tone in a new home or office. Sunflowers are hard to miss in any room and go with most decors. Make a strong statement with a beautiful bouquet of sunflowers!

See bouquets featuring sunflowers below.

sunflower giftSunflowers for Get Well Wishes

Those who are recovering from illness will appreciate the powerful rays of sunshine that uplift a room through a flower arrangement featuring sunflowers. Sunflowers are a reminder of the source of life and all that is good in life.

See bouquets featuring sunflowers below.

sunflower vaseSunflowers for Congratulations

Sunflowers are big and bold--just what you may need to send a hearty congratulations for a graduation, a feat accomplished, a new job or a successful endeavor
. Think about a stunning sunflower bouquet for celebrating a big event!

See bouquets featuring sunflowers below.

sunflower bouquetSunflowers for Those You Adore

Don't forget that the central meaning of sunflowers is adoration. Send something different and meaningful for Valentine's Day, Mother's Day or a special birthday. Sunflowers say "I adore you".

See bouquets featuring sunflowers below.

Natural History of Sunflowers

sunflower symbolism
Varieties of Sunflowers
Sunflowers have recently been bred to produce shorter varieties for garden use. The petals were originally quite small and irregular, so efforts have also been made to increase the size and number of petals. Some double petal varieties have also been created as well as variations in the color of the center (brown to black) and even of the petals (honey, beige, pinkish cream, soft yellow, pale russet).

Interesting Facts About Sunflowers
Wild sunflowers have multiple stems and more than one head, with the heads or flowers usually being smaller than what we are accustomed to seeing. Modern sunflowers
have been bred to have a single stem and one large flower. The largest sunflower head ever recorded was 34 1/2 inches across, grown by Emily Martin of Maple Ridge, Canada in 1983 (Source: Guinness Book of World Records).

sunflower symbolism 2Use of Sunflowers as a Food Source
Sunflower seeds are highly edible and are packed with healthy fats, vitamin E, protein, fiber and minerals. Sunflower oil can be used for cooking. Sunflower sprouts can also be eaten and the seed husks can be ground and used as a coffee-like beverage. Sunflowers serve as animal food, too, mainly for cattle and birds. American settlers used the leaves of sunflowers as fodder for their livestock.

Use of Sunflowers as a Natural Dye
The seeds of sunflowers have also been used by Native Americans for blue or black dye and the petals for yellow dye. Fibers from the stalks can be used as cloth. Smaller sunflower varieties are often used as cut flowers for bouquets and flower arrangements.

sunflower vangoghSunflowers in Arts and Crafts
The most famous series of paintings by artist Vincent Van Gogh is his series of sunflowers in vases. The simplicity of the sunflower form makes it a perfect chose for art projects with children. The stunning sunflower is a natural for home decor and crafts. If you need high quality photos of sunflowers for your next project, visit Dreamstime Stock Photography. The Dreamstime database is renewed with thousands of fresh images and titles on a daily basis.

For more information about sunflower history and lore, see the following Amazon books:
Sunflowers: A Secret History
Vincent Van Gogh: Sunflowers and Swirly Stars (Smart About Art)

Sunflowers (Photography)

Growing Sunflowers in Your Garden

Tips on Growing Sunflowers
Sunflowers need plenty of direct sunlight, but should be sheltered from excessive wind due to the top-heavy flowers that may break the stems in brisk wind. Flower stems should be supported with bamboo stakes wherever possible. The soil should be kept moist and prevented from drying out completely. Plant seeds at a depth of one to two inches. Sunflowers are fully grown in about 90 days and are attractive to butterflies, bees and birds.

Problems to Avoid
Although sunflower seeds can be sown in pots, they will likely need to be replanted in the garden before they reach the flowering stage. Some varieties can grow to have tap roots that are 4' deep and obviously cannot be contained in pots! Sunflowers should not be grown in grassy areas as the seeds will kill surrounding grass when they fall to the ground.

Finding Sunflowers Seeds
sunflower gardenFind plants, trees and flowers at Nature Hills Nursery, Inc. Nature Hills Nursery offers one of the largest selections of high quality live plants and related products online, complete with extensive plant information, while maintaining an exceptional level of customer service. Sunflower seeds available at Nature Hills Nursery, Inc include Teddy Bear, Moulin Rouge (red), Mammoth Grey Strip, Vanilla Ice, Autumn Beauty, Mexican Torch, FLorist Favorite Yellow and Drop Dead Red. (Photo courtesy of Twice25, Wikimedia Commons)

For more information about growing sunflowers, see the following Amazon books:
Sunflowers: Growing, Crafting, and Cooking With the Sunniest of Plants/Book and Sunflower Seeds
The Ultimate Sunflower Book

More Sunflower Resources

Bouquets Featuring Sunflowers
The extensive FloristOne catalog features flowers for every occasion and an extensive network of florists that allows for same day delivery to nearly all of the United States and Canada. Send a classic gift of flowers with special symbolic meaning for a birthday, holiday or other special occasion. Nothing else communicates your sentiments quite as well as flowers.

See bouquets featuring sunflowers below, see a selection of our favorite bouquets and flowers or go directly to the FloristOne website to see all flowers available.

©2008-2010 Living Arts Enterprises, LLC


Martin, Laura C. Wildflower Folklore. Old Saybrook, Connecticut: The Globe Pequot Press, 1993.


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