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Helianthus annuus
About Sunflower (Helianthus annuus) Nurseries Show All Photos Sunflower (Helianthus annuus) is an annual plant in the Asteraceae (Sunflower) family that is native to the Americas and widespread in California. It possesses a large flower cluster (flowering head). In the Asteraceae family, what is usually called the flower is actually a head (formally composite flower) of numerous florets (small flowers) crowded together. The outer florets are the ray florets (often sterile). In Sunflower these can be yellow, maroon, orange, or other colors. The florets inside the circular head are called disc florets, which mature into seeds. In Sunflower the disc florets are brown. Horticultural varieties are available such as 'Autumn Beauty'. The overall plant can become quite large and the flower heads are large, up to 8 in. in diameter. This plant is most often seen in disturbed areas such as road shoulders, edges of farm fields, and vacant lots. However, it can also be a spectacular performer in the garden if given plenty of room, direct sun, and normal garden watering. Aside for watering, it requires little or no care.
Plant Description
Plant Type
Annual Herb

Max. Height
5 - 10 ft (1.5 - 3 m)

Max. Width
2 ft (0.6 m)

Upright, Upright Columnar

Growth Rate

Flower Color
Yellow, Brown, Orange

Flowering Season

Native Status

Natural Setting
Site Type
Disturbed places


Elevation ?
-124' - 8148'

Annual Precip. ?
2.5" - 58.9"

Summer Precip. ?
0.13" - 2.53"

Coldest Month ?
27.4° F - 60.6° F

Hottest Month ?
52.0° F - 89.2° F

Humidity ?
0.69 vpd - 40.83 vpd

Soil Description
Adaptable, tolerant of sand, loam and clay

Soil PH
5.4 - 8.6

Fast, Medium, Slow

Cold Tolerance(° F)
Tolerates cold to 0° F

Sunset Zones ?
2, 3, 4, 5, 6*, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17*, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24

Companion Plants
This plant can be used with many native plants in the garden as long as they can accept regular water. A good use might be as a border between native plants and vegetables.

Wildlife Attracted
Sunflowers seeds are very attractive to numerous birds. The flowers are important nectar source for various insects including Monarch and Bordered Patch butterflies.

Landscaping Information
Ease of Care
Moderately Easy

Water Requirement ?
Extremely Low
Very Low
Moderate - High

Moderately Popular

Max. Summer Water ?
No Summer Water
Keep moist

Deep Organic

After the seeds have been dispersed, the dried stalk and leaves may be chopped up for mulch

Propagation ?
By seed

Common uses
Bird Gardens, Butterfly Gardens, Bee Gardens

Nursery Availability
Commonly Available

Other Names
Common Names
Common Sunflower, Hairy-leaved Sunflower

Sources include: Wikipedia. All text shown in the "About" section of these pages is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License. Plant observation data provided by the participants of the California Consortia of Herbaria, Sunset information provided by Jepson Flora Project. Propogation from seed information provided by the Santa Barbara Botanical Garden from "Seed Propagation of Native California Plants" by Dara E. Emery. Sources of plant photos include CalPhotos, Wikimedia Commons, and independent plant photographers who have agreed to share their images with Calscape. Other general sources of information include Calflora, CNPS Manual of Vegetation Online, Jepson Flora Project, Las Pilitas, Theodore Payne, Tree of Life, The Xerces Society, and information provided by CNPS volunteer editors, with special thanks to Don Rideout. Climate data used in creation of plant range maps is from PRISM Climate Group, Oregon State University, using 30 year (1981-2010) annual "normals" at an 800 meter spatial resolution.

Links:   Jepson eFlora Taxon Page  CalPhotos  Wikipedia  Calflora

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