Sunflowers

These are quick to grow and easy to tend
Kathleen N. Brenzel and Jim McCausland

In 1888, while living in southern France, Vincent van Gogh made a remarkable series of sunflower paintings. Done to decorate his house for a visit from fellow artist Paul Gauguin, the works show sunflowers with dark and light centers, long and short petals, and blooms of many sizes.

These oils hint at the wonderful variety of these large, sunny flowers. Today the color range is even greater, with red, mahogany, and white forms in many sizes.

Sunflowers grow quickly and are easy to tend―that's why they're favorites with children. If you want to use them for cut flowers, as van Gogh did, choose varieties with long stems and smaller flowers. It helps if they're pollenless, so they don't shed on your furniture and carpet.

OUR FAVORITES: Pollenless 'Dorado' bears golden yellow flowers with dark centers on 5-foot stems. 'Sunrich Lemon' is pollenless and has 3- to 8-inch flowers with lemon yellow petals and black disks on 4- to 6-foot-tall plants. 'Strawberry Blonde' is pollenless and bears 5-inch straw-colored flowers overlaid with light red on 6-foot-tall stems. Multiflowering branching types such as creamy yellow 'Valentine' (5 to 6 ft. tall with 5- to 6-in. blooms) look better in the garden longer than single-stemmed sunflowers like 'Sunrich Lemon'.