There’s nothing more breathtaking than a field of golden sunflowers holding up their heads to the sun. These regal sun-worshippers originate from South America, in particular from Peru, where the sunflower was the symbol of the Inca Sun God. In South Africa, the sunflower is the natural choice for December’s birthday flower because it expresses perfectly the carefree mood of this holiday month that is full of sunshine, sea and sun-worshippers. Besides the taller growing varieties that can reach a height of up to two metres, there are also lower growers that are perfect for the garden. These include ‘Sunspot’, a dwarf variety, which grows 40 to 60cm high and bears yellow flowers with dark centres. ‘Sunspot’ also does well in containers. If you have the space to grow the taller varieties try a mix that includes the bronzes and reds alongside the gold and yellows.
Sunflowers are quick-growing annuals that like full sun and grow in any garden soil. Sow the seed in September and divide existing plants in autumn or early spring. For a good show of flowers, water well and fertilise at least once a month with 3:1: 5 or Vigorosa 5:1:5 and support tall varieties with stakes. Most sunflowers flower within eight to 10 weeks of sowing. Sunflower varieties that are easily available in seed packet form are: Tall Yellow (100 to 120cm), Cut-flower Mixed (100 – 120cm) which will give you blooms in bronze, red, yellow and golden colours, Sunspot Dwarf (40 – 60cm) and Taiyo (150 cm). Taiyo, an early flowerer that produces bright yellow blooms with a black centre, is sold in a bumper pack.