Sunny and vibrant, sunflowers are the perfect flower to brighten anyone’s mood. The bold bloom comes in the common single-petalled varieties as well as the delightfully fluffy teddy bear variety which is likened to a ball of happiness! Sunflower petals are not only yellow but also found in shades of orange, red and brown with large seed-filled heads which sit atop tall, chunky stems. Most interestingly, sunflowers in the ground move their heads to follow the sun as it moves through the sky from east to west which is called heliotropism and is how they got their name.
History of sunflowers
Sunflowers originated in the USA and were first cultivated by North American Indians as a food crop. The seeds were crushed into flour to make bread, and the botanical is still primarily grown in agriculture as a source of oil. Packed full of healthy vitamins, the oil was also used for skin and hair care. Fascinatingly, sunflower stems were used as a building material and to fill lifejackets before the advent of modern materials.
The botanical name helianthus annuus comes from the Greek word ‘helios’ meaning sun and ‘anthos’ meaning flower. In Greek mythology, a nymph named Clytie was in love with Apollo, the god of the sun. After a while, Apollo’s attention moved to another nymph, and in a jealous rage Clytie told the other nymph’s father who then buried his daughter alive as punishment. Apollo was so angry with Clytie that he turned her into a sunflower, but as her love for him was so strong, she watch him move across the sky every day, just as sunflowers follow the sun. Due to this myth, sunflowers are said to symbolise loyalty and adoration and are viewed as a highly spiritual flower as they appear to worship the sun.
How to care for sunflowers
Buy sunflowers that are half to fully open, with strong, thick stems to support the weight of the large flowers. Because the leaves are quite soft and wilt quickly, it is advisable to strip most of the leaves off the stem leaving a few at the top only. Always strip leaves off the lower part of the stem which will be below the waterline of the vase you will display them in. Cut approximately 2cm off the ends of the stems on an angle and immediately plunge into a tall vase of cool water. Recut the stems and change the water every one to two days as the water can become cloudy quickly.
How to style sunflowers
Sunflowers are bold, bright and cheerful! A vase brimming with these beauties is sure to brighten any space whether styled alone or combined with other flowers. Fluffy teddy bear sunflowers look magnificent styled with botanicals of vibrant shades of magenta, purple, orange and lime green in the warmer months. When the weather begins to turn and the leaves fall from the trees, sunflowers look fabulous styled with autumnal hues of red, orange and rust with structural rosehip branches.