Sunflowers (Helianthus annuus)
Winning qualities: They’re the “essence of summer,” as Kolla says, and they’re especially easy to grow.
Favorite varieties: ‘Bright Bandolier’ and ‘Cinnamon Sun’ (reneesgarden.com) are multibranching, so they look better in bouquets than the mammoth, single-flowered types.
When to plant: Sow seeds in spring where plants are to grow, or start them in small pots, then transplant after first true leaves appear.
Growing tip: For beefy stalks that can support lots of flowers, bury the seedlings’ bottom inch or two of stem with soil when transplanting them to garden beds.