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Annual Sunflower

Helianthus annuus

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Plant Profile

Flowering Months:
Asteraceae (Daisy)
Also in this family:
Alpine Blue Sow-thistle, Alpine Cotula, Alpine Fleabane, Alpine Saw-wort, Annual Ragweed, Argentine Fleabane, Autumn Hawkbit, Autumn Oxeye, Beaked Hawksbeard, Beggarticks, Bilbao Fleabane, Black Knapweed, Black-eyed Susan, Blanketflower, Blue Fleabane, Blue Globe-thistle, Bristly Oxtongue, Broad-leaved Cudweed, Broad-leaved Ragwort, Brown Knapweed, Butterbur, Buttonweed, Cabbage Thistle, Canadian Fleabane, Canadian Goldenrod, Carline Thistle, Chalk Knapweed, Chamois Ragwort, Changing Michaelmas Daisy, Chicory, Chinese Mugwort, Chinese Ragwort, Coltsfoot, Common Blue Sow-thistle, Common Cat's-ear, Common Cudweed, Common Daisy, Common Dandelion, Common Fleabane, Common Goldenrod, Common Groundsel, Common Michaelmas Daisy, Common Mugwort, Common Ragwort, Common Wormwood, Coneflower, Confused Michaelmas Daisy, Corn Chamomile, Corn Marigold, Cornflower, Cotton Thistle, Cottonweed, Creeping Thistle, Daisy Bush, Dwarf Cudweed, Dwarf Thistle, Early Goldenrod, Eastern Groundsel, Eastern Leopardsbane, Elecampane, English Hawkweed, Fen Ragwort, Feverfew, Field Fleawort, Field Wormwood, Fox and Cubs, French Tarragon, Gallant Soldier, Garden Lettuce, Giant Butterbur, Glabrous-headed Hawkweed, Glandular Globe-thistle, Glaucous Michaelmas Daisy, Globe Artichoke, Globe-thistle, Goat's Beard, Golden Ragwort, Golden Samphire, Goldilocks Aster, Grass-leaved Goldenrod, Great Lettuce, Greater Burdock, Greater Knapweed, Grey-headed Hawkweed, Guernsey Fleabane, Hairless Blue Sow-thistle, Hairless Leptinella, Hairy Michaelmas Daisy, Harpur Crewe's Leopardsbane, Hawkweed Oxtongue, Heath Cudweed, Heath Groundsel, Hemp Agrimony, Highland Cudweed, Hoary Mugwort, Hoary Ragwort, Hybrid Knapweed, Intermediate Burdock, Irish Fleabane, Jersey Cudweed, Jerusalem Artichoke, Lance-leaved Hawkweed, Lavender-cotton, Leafless Hawksbeard, Least Lettuce, Leopardplant, Leopardsbane, Leptinella, Lesser Burdock, Lesser Hawkbit, Lesser Sunflower, London Bur-marigold, Magellan Ragwort, Marsh Cudweed, Marsh Hawksbeard, Marsh Ragwort, Marsh Sow-thistle, Marsh Thistle, Meadow Thistle, Melancholy Thistle, Mexican Fleabane, Milk Thistle, Mountain Everlasting, Mouse-ear Hawkweed, Musk Thistle, Narrow-leaved Cudweed, Narrow-leaved Hawkweed, Narrow-leaved Michaelmas Daisy, Narrow-leaved Ragwort, New England Hawkweed, New Zealand Holly, Nipplewort, Nodding Bur-marigold, Northern Hawksbeard, Norwegian Mugwort, Oxeye Daisy, Oxford Ragwort, Pearly Everlasting, Perennial Cornflower, Perennial Ragweed, Perennial Sow-thistle, Perennial Sunflower, Pineapple Mayweed, Plantain-leaved Leopardsbane, Ploughman's Spikenard, Plymouth Thistle, Pontic Blue Sow-thistle, Pot Marigold, Prickly Lettuce, Prickly Sow-thistle, Purple Coltsfoot, Rayed Tansy, Red Star Thistle, Red-seeded Dandelion, Red-tipped Cudweed, Robin's Plantain, Roman Chamomile, Rough Cocklebur, Rough Hawkbit, Rough Hawksbeard, Russian Lettuce, Safflower, Salsify, Saw-wort, Scented Mayweed, Scentless Mayweed, Sea Aster, Sea Mayweed, Sea Wormwood, Seaside Daisy, Shaggy Mouse-ear Hawkweed, Shaggy Soldier, Shasta Daisy, Shetland Mouse-ear Hawkweed, Shrub Ragwort, Sicilian Chamomile, Silver Ragwort, Slender Mugwort, Slender Thistle, Small Cudweed, Small Fleabane, Smooth Cat's-ear, Smooth Hawksbeard, Smooth Sow-thistle, Sneezeweed, Sneezewort, Spear Thistle, Spotted Cat's-ear, Spotted Hawkweed, Sticky Groundsel, Stinking Chamomile, Stinking Hawksbeard, Tall Fleabane, Tall Mouse-ear Hawkweed, Tansy, Thin-leaved Sunflower, Trifid Bur-marigold, Tuberous Thistle, Tyneside Leopardplant, Viper's Grass, Wall Lettuce, Welsh Groundsel, Welted Thistle, White Butterbur, White Buttons, Willdenow's Leopardsbane, Winter Heliotrope, Wood Burdock, Wood Ragwort, Woody Fleabane, Woolly Thistle, Yarrow, Yellow Chamomile, Yellow Fox and Cubs, Yellow Oxeye, Yellow Star Thistle, Yellow Thistle, York Groundsel
Life Cycle:
Maximum Size:
3 metres tall
Fields, floodplains, gardens, riversides, roadsides, wasteland, waterside.

Yellow, many petals
Enormous golden yellow daisy-like flowers, up to 30cm wide. Flattish brown disc florets and pointed bracts.
An oval achene (type of dry, one-seeded fruit, not opening to release its seeds).
Very large, floppy, rough, heart-shaped leaves. The long-stalked leaves have coarsely toothed margins and alternate as they go up their stems. The leaves can be as large as 16 inches long and 8 inches wide.
Very little or no fragrance at all.
Other Names:
American Mary-gold, Comb Flower, Common Sunflower, Garden Sunflower, Golden Flower of Peru, St Bartholomew's Star, Wild Sunflower.
Frequency (UK):

Similar Species

Other Information


Helianthus annuus, also known as the common sunflower, is an annual or perennial herbaceous plant that is native to North America. It is known for its large, yellow, daisy-like flowers that bloom in late summer and early fall, and its rough, hairy leaves. The plant can grow up to 6-12 feet tall and spread up to 2-3 feet. It is a hardy plant that can tolerate a wide range of soil and climatic conditions, and is often used as an ornamental plant in gardens and landscapes. The seeds of this plant are also widely cultivated for their oil and as a food source for both humans and wildlife. Sunflower oil is used in cooking and as an ingredient in products such as margarine and soap, and sunflower seeds are often eaten as a snack or used as an ingredient in food products such as bread and crackers.


Sunflowers are iconic plants known for their large, brightly colored blooms and towering heights. Among the different varieties of sunflowers, the Annual Sunflower (Helianthus annuus) is perhaps the most well-known and widely grown. In this blog, we will explore some of the interesting characteristics and benefits of this beautiful flower.

History and Origins

The Annual Sunflower is native to North America and has been cultivated by indigenous peoples for thousands of years. It was an important crop for the Native American tribes who used the seeds for food and oil, and the plant as a source of natural dye. The plant was introduced to Europe in the 16th century and quickly gained popularity as an ornamental plant due to its striking appearance.


The Annual Sunflower is an annual plant, which means that it completes its entire life cycle from seed to flower and seed production within one growing season. It can grow up to 10 feet tall, although smaller varieties are also available. The stem is thick and sturdy, with large leaves arranged in an alternate pattern. The flower heads are large and showy, with a dark center (disc florets) surrounded by bright yellow, orange, or red petals (ray florets). The petals can be up to 12 inches long, making the flower head up to 24 inches in diameter.


The Annual Sunflower has many benefits, both practical and aesthetic. Here are some of the most notable:

  1. Attracts Pollinators: The large flower heads of the Annual Sunflower attract a wide range of pollinators, including bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds. This makes them a great addition to any pollinator garden.

  2. Edible Seeds: The seeds of the Annual Sunflower are a nutritious and tasty snack. They are high in protein, fiber, and healthy fats, and can be roasted, salted, or used in a variety of recipes.

  3. Ornamental Value: The Annual Sunflower is a popular ornamental plant due to its bright and cheerful appearance. It is commonly used in cut flower arrangements, as well as for landscaping and garden design.

  4. Soil Health: The Annual Sunflower has deep roots that can break up compacted soil and improve soil health. It is also tolerant of a wide range of soil types and conditions, making it a versatile plant for gardeners.

Growing Tips

The Annual Sunflower is relatively easy to grow and can be sown directly in the garden after the last frost. Here are some tips for growing healthy and vibrant sunflowers:

  1. Sun: Sunflowers need full sun (at least 6 hours per day) to grow and bloom.

  2. Soil: Sunflowers prefer well-draining soil that is rich in organic matter. They can tolerate a wide range of soil types, but do not like to be waterlogged.

  3. Water: Sunflowers need regular watering, especially during the early stages of growth. Be sure to water deeply to encourage strong root growth.

  4. Fertilizer: Sunflowers do not require a lot of fertilizer, but can benefit from a balanced, slow-release fertilizer once or twice during the growing season.


The Annual Sunflower is a beautiful and versatile plant with a rich history and many benefits. Whether you are looking to attract pollinators, grow a nutritious snack, or simply add a splash of color to your garden, the Annual Sunflower is an excellent choice. With a little bit of care and attention, you can enjoy the beauty and benefits of this amazing plant all season long.

Additional Facts about the Annual Sunflower

Here are some additional fun facts and information about Annual Sunflowers:

  1. The Annual Sunflower is not just a pretty flower, but it is also used for commercial purposes. The seeds are used to make cooking oil, and in the production of animal feed, birdseed, and biodiesel.

  2. The tallest sunflower on record was grown in Germany in 2014, and it measured 30 feet and 1 inch (9.17 meters) tall!

  3. Sunflowers are phototropic, meaning that they follow the sun as it moves across the sky. This phenomenon is known as heliotropism, and it allows the flower to maximize its exposure to the sun for optimal growth.

  4. Annual Sunflowers are incredibly versatile when it comes to their size and color. There are over 70 different varieties of sunflowers available, ranging in size from 2-3 feet tall to over 12 feet tall, and in color from bright yellow to deep red.

  5. Sunflowers have been used in traditional medicine for centuries, and they are believed to have anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and antifungal properties. Some studies have also suggested that sunflowers may have a positive impact on cardiovascular health.

  6. Sunflowers have become a symbol of hope and positivity, and they are often associated with the idea of turning towards the light and finding happiness. This is perhaps why they are such a popular choice for wedding bouquets, gifts, and other celebratory occasions.

In conclusion, the Annual Sunflower is a beautiful and fascinating plant with a long and rich history. It has many practical and aesthetic benefits, and it is easy to grow and care for. Whether you are a seasoned gardener or a beginner, the Annual Sunflower is a great addition to any garden or landscape.

And some more facts...

Here are some additional interesting facts and uses of the Annual Sunflower:

  1. Annual Sunflowers are also used for phytoremediation, which is the process of using plants to remove pollutants from soil and water. Sunflowers have been found to be effective at removing heavy metals such as lead and arsenic from contaminated soil.

  2. In addition to their many culinary uses, sunflower seeds have also been used in traditional medicine for centuries. They are believed to have a range of health benefits, including reducing inflammation, improving heart health, and boosting the immune system.

  3. The Annual Sunflower is also an important plant in traditional Native American culture, and it is often used in spiritual and healing ceremonies. The plant is believed to symbolize strength, resilience, and good luck.

  4. Sunflowers are also a favorite subject of artists, and they have been depicted in countless paintings, drawings, and other artworks over the centuries. Some of the most famous examples include Vincent Van Gogh's "Sunflowers" series and Claude Monet's "Sunflowers" painting.

  5. The Annual Sunflower is not just a popular garden plant, but it is also a common sight in the wild. Sunflowers grow naturally in fields, meadows, and along roadsides throughout North America, and they are an important source of food and habitat for wildlife such as birds and insects.

In conclusion, the Annual Sunflower is a fascinating and versatile plant with a wide range of uses and benefits. Whether you are interested in gardening, cooking, or traditional medicine, there are many ways to appreciate and enjoy this amazing flower. So why not plant a few sunflowers in your garden this year and see what they can do for you?


Video 1: Annual Sunflowers filmed at Humphrey Head, Cumbria on the 17th July 2022.


Video 2: Annual Sunflowers filmed on the coast in Carnforth, Lancashire on the 13th August 2023.


Music credits
Danse Morialta by Kevin MacLeod is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license.

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Distribution Map

Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

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