Sunflower: June 2019 Houseplant of the Month
The story of the Sunflower
The Sunflower (Helianthus) doesn’t grow as tall as the garden variety, but it does offer those unique cheerful bright yellow flowers and the dark heart of a real sunflower with attractive dark green leaves below the flowers. A perfect companion for on the kitchen worktop, the (garden) table, an office, or any room that could do with a touch of summer. Place a couple together in a container or in a group to make it feel like a flowering field. You can add a touch of lilac or purple to visually offset all that yellow.
The sunflower originates from North and South America, but also does very well in Europe and other temperate regions. It’s an annual with enormous growing power: a sunflower seed turns into a fabulous yellow sunflower in just a few months.
The sunflower is particularly known as a garden plant: one tall stem bearing one enormous flower. The potted range is more compact and is bred in such a way that it does not release any pollen. This keeps the heart nice and dark, giving an attractive contrast with the yellow petals. The sunflowers that Vincent van Gogh painted - flowers with yellow petals and a dark heart - are the most common form offered as cut flowers and pot plants. But there are also potted sunflowers with a yellow or brown heart and with lemon, orange or red petals. Appealing cultivar names such as Sunsation or Funshine are therefore very appropriate.
What to look for when buying Sunflowers
- With potted sunflowers look at the proportions between the pot size, the number of plants per pot, the number of buds per stem, the height and the ripeness of the plant.
- Also check that the stems are healthy and sturdy, and the soil is sufficiently damp: wilting leaves are an ominous sign.
- Sunflowers are vulnerable to aphids, leaf-miner flies and slugs. Botrytis mould on leaf, stem or flower does nothing for their decorative value either.
Care tips for customers
- As the name suggests, the sunflower loves sunshine can tolerate a lot of light.
- The plant needs a lot of water. The soil should always be a bit damp.
- Wilted flowers can be removed to give the new buds more space.
- A bit of plant food once a week keeps the flowering going.
Sales and display tips for sunflowers
Keep the display fresh: not Van Gogh, but modern and trendy, with rectangular containers in rows and at different heights. Combine with the trend colours of pink and purple and ensure that the plants are not positioned too high, so that customers can look into their beautiful hearts.