By Madison Haas

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Sunflower Description

  • Official name is Helianthus
  • Name comes from Greek word Helios, meaning sun, and anthos, meaning flower.
  • They can grow up to 12 ft. tall
  • They have a rough and hairy stem that is branched in the upper part in wild plants, but is usually unbranched in domesticated plants.
  • They have an alternating leaf arrangement.
  • They can have one or several flower heads with yellow petals on the outside, and a dark brown center (where sunflower seeds are).
  • During growth, sunflowers tilt to face the sun during the day, but stop when they begin blooming.
  • By the time sunflowers mature, they generally tend to face east.

Sunflower Stages

VE - Emergence

V4 - 4 True Leaves

V8 - 8 True Leaves

V12 - 12 True Leaves

V16 - 16 True Leaves

V20 - 20 True Leaves

R1 - Miniature Terminal Bud

R2 - Bud <1" From Leaf

R3 - Bud >1" From Leaf

R4 - ud Open Ray Flowers Visible

R5.1 - Early Flower

R5.5 - 50% Flowered

R6 - Flowering Complete

R7 - Back of Head - pale yellow

R8 - Bracts Green - head back yellow

R9 - Bracts Yellow - head back brown

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Leading States for Sunflower Production

Top U.S. states in total sunflower production in 2014 (in 1,000 pounds)

  1. South Dakota (876,620)
  2. North Dakota (848,600)
  3. Texas (137,400)
  4. Kansas (91,540)
  5. Minnesota (87,870)
  6. Colorado (63,300)
  7. California (61,250)
  8. Nebraska (45,055)
  9. Oklahoma (3,200)
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How to Grow and Harvest Sunflowers

  1. Sunflowers prefer soil with a pH of 6.0 to 7.5, but they can adapt to other types of soil, as well.
  2. They grow the best in sunny areas (North Dakota is most popular for sunflower growth).
  3. Till the soil to reduce weeds.
  4. Sunflowers should be planted May 1st until late June. Late June planting results in lower yields.
  5. They're planted with a planted within 20 inches of row space.
  6. They harvest the sunflowers with a combine.
  7. The seeds are ripe and ready to be harvested when the back of the flower head is banana yellow or brown and most of the yellow petals are dry.
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Common Sunflower Pests

  1. Banded Sunflower Moth- Newly hatched larvae move to the florets of the sunflower head, where they enter open florets to feed. During later stages the larvae tunnel through the base of the floret into the seed and consume the contents. Each larva may destroy 5 to 7 seeds.
  2. Cutworms- Cutworms usually damage the young plants by cutting them off below or above the soil surface. This generally occurs in early emergence.
  3. Head Clipper Weavil- They clip off the tops of the flowers.
  4. Longhorned Beetle- An infected plant is susceptible to lodging breaking off at the base of the plant making harvesting of the downed plant nearly impossible.
  5. Midge- When infestations are severe, the bud may not fully develop or the head becomes gnarled and twisted resulting in significant yield reduction.

Pest Prevention

  1. Banded Sunflower Moth- Chemicals should be applied from the late bud stage (R4) to early bloom (R5.1). Border spraying can be an option.
  2. Cutworms- Most of the commercial insecticides labeled on sunflower include cutworm as well. This works well for surface feeding cutworms.
  3. Head Clipper Weavil- Insecticide application may be advisable if one out of every two plants has an adult present.
  4. Longhorned Beetle- This insect does not appear to be of economic consequence unless the infected plant lodges.The larvae are well protected in the stalk and insecticide treatment has not proven effective.
  5. Midge- Chemical controls are not available. Rotation and varied planting dates are good management tools. Some hybrids are more tolerant to midge damage.

Sunflower Uses

  • Sunflower oil (for salad dressings)
  • Fiber from stems for paper and fabrics
  • Sunflower Seeds
  • Ornamental (decoration)
  • Sunflower seed flour
  • Bird food
  • Soap
  • Candles
  • Dye (out of petals)
  • Herbal medicine (from roots)

Sunflower Fun Facts

  1. The former Soviet Union grows the most sunflowers. The sunflower is the national flower of Russia.
  2. One sunflower can have up to 2000 seeds.
  3. Sunflowers originally came from the U.S.
  4. There are two kinds of sunflower seeds. Oil is made from black seeds and snacks are made from striped seeds.

Two Designated Facts

  1. South Dakota is the top state for growing sunflowers.
  2. Sunflowers face the sun in early growth.