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Inside sunflower and pumpkin display, showing large and small sun flowers and unusual colored gourds.

Sunflower Variety Selection

[vc_row][vc_column width=”2/3″][vc_column_text css=”.vc_custom_1506257800509{margin-bottom: 0px !important;}”]Sunflowers are a very popular cut flower and have potential to add diversity to any market grower’s product mix.  We started growing a few last Fall for our seasonal retail stand to add diversity to our pumpkin patch.  There are many different options when looking at selecting varieties to grow.  There are differences in single stem or branching, pollen or pollenless, stem strength, blooms per plant, bloom size, days to bloom, color, day-neutral or not, and climate considerations.  When I started looking at which varieties to pick it was overwhelming, but there are a lot of good resources to help choose the right varieties for your operation. I hope that this post will help get you started on finding the flowers that are best for your operation.

Beautiful, bright yellow, small multi-stem sunflowers.The two basic categories that you have to first choose from are single stem or branching types.  We tried both this past year and there are pros and cons to both.  Branching types were beneficial because they had many blooms and they were a wide variety of colors.  Branching types give more options for bicolor, doubles (more than one layer of petals), and other unique qualities.  However, the stems on these are not near as strong or as long as the single stem varieties. This became a problem as we tried to cut them and sell them in vases and jars. They also take up more space and take 90 days to bloom usually.  The longer time gives more opportunity for insects and disease to degrade the quality of the flowers. They don’t tend to live as long in the vase and most have a lot of pollen.

Single stem varieties like Sunrich and the Pro Cut series are available and they are pollen less hybrids.  They usually quicker to bloom than branching, usually 60 days.  There are many day-neutral varieties which means that they are ideal to be grown in a hoop house earlier in the spring or later in the fall.  The spacing will determine the size of the flower which can range from bouquet to dinner plate sizes. They have stronger stems and they can last up to 2 weeks in plain water. The negative side is that you would have to succession plant every 10-14 days to have a continuous supply and that you need to charge $1 to $2 per stem in order to make a profit.

There are new varieties coming out every year and this will change some of the negative aspects of these two choices.  For example, we had some Pro Cut Red/Lemon Bicolor sunflowers this past year and they were very unique and beautiful.  As far as the branching varieties, it was harder to get the stems long enough or strong enough to look right in a vase.  It was also more difficult to get the spacing correct on them since we planted both single and branching varieties.  I recommend the Sunrich and Pro Cut series because they have a good stem and plenty of color choices. They provide the traditional look of the sunflower that appeals to so many people and they are pollenless. They are also relatively easy to grow and are not sensitive to when you grow them. They last well for the consumer and we had many people that came back to get more! There are nice variety packs of these series that offer a couple of the most popular cultivars.  Once you have established what works best for your needs, you can then explore some of the other options that are available. I am looking forward to growing some of the plum and strawberry blonde sunflowers this year!

Lydia Fitzgerald: Student, writer, flower & vegetable farmer!About: I grew up on a farm in Nelson County, Va and helped raise wholesale pumpkins, apples, corn, and soybeans. I did work in food safety and certifications and started a retail sector with pumpkins, gourds, sunflowers, Indian corn, and sweet corn for a pick-your-own operation. I have been involved in home vegetable gardening and I love to learn about different management and marketing strategies for small and large scale production systems. I am currently a student at Virginia Tech studying Crop and Soil Science planning to attend graduate school in the fall.


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