How Do You Tell if A Sunflower Is Annual or Perennial?

How Do You Tell if A Sunflower Is Annual or Perennial?

 The number of species and colors of Sunflowers are diverse and so is their use. When it comes to the type of sunflower based on how it grows you may need to have some basic knowledge on what to look for; the roots, germination time, and also the size of the head.

Annual Sunflowers can be identified by the size of the flowers/ seeds and the same can be said of the perennials. Annual sunflowers have larger seeds.

If you want to know how to tell if a Sunflower Is Annual or Perennial, read on and we can also look at how to grow them, what you need to know about the diseases that affect them and more. Let’s get started.

Also check – Sunflowers Are Turning Brown

How do you tell if a sunflower is annual or perennial?

You may have seen the sun-like plant at a distance in your neighbor’s garden, or you may have noticed it on your own but can’t remember when you actually planted it. 

So you wonder to yourself, how did it get there or how long does it take to bloom. Your questions are spot on and here’s what was hidden from you.

Annual sunflower

Amongst other tell-tale signs, an annual sunflower grows every year after winter. It is planted from the ground using it’s seeds. It takes one year to bloom.

Another thing to look out for is the size of the seeds. Generally they have larger seeds compared to perennial sunflowers. And this is why birds find it easier to chomp down on annual sunflower seeds and carry them away- hence the spread of annual sunflowers by the seeds.

You can also notice that the roots of the annual sunflower are shallow and threadlike in nature.

Another interesting thing you can observe about annual sunflowers is their unique, almost symmetrical spacing, in the growth pattern. They don’t clump up like perennial sunflowers, rather they’re spaced out from a single stem.

Perennial sunflower

Unlike the annual sunflower, perennial sunflowers tend to need more attention before they can bloom and announce their arrival in your garden. They take upto at least two years after planting them using their seeds. 

Perennial sunflowers don’t come back every year after winter.

The root system for a perennial sunflower is more like that of a tuber- think arrowroot. These roots will go deeper into the soil as compared to the annual sunflower root. 

You will notice that the perennial sunflower also has fewer seeds/flowers on its head. However, through some genetic modification, perennial sunflowers have more seeds on their heads.

In addition, you will notice that the growth pattern is distinctively different; the perennial sunflower grows in clumps that emanate from one stem.

The perennial sunflower seeds are also fewer in number and smaller than their annual counterpart.

Now that you know how to tell if a Sunflower is annual or perennial, let us have a look at the a few common types of both annual sunflowers and perennial sunflowers.

Types of sunflowers

Sunflowers are native to North America and their scientific name is Helianthus.

That said, we can list a few of them with a brief description:

  • Mammoth  With an impressive 12 inch -wide bloom this variety makes a perfect play garden for children and due to its fast growing nature- the best fence hedge for a vegetable garden. You can also harvest the seeds to make for a healthy, low fat snack too.

It’s height has been measured to be 12-feet.

  • Autumn Beauty- This is another one known for its wide bloom of upto 8inches. This sunflower has color combinations of yellow, purple and bronze which makes it ideal for flower arrangements.
  • Moulin Rouge- As the name indicates, this one has highlights of yellow while the petals are predominantly red in color; a go-to for flower decorators.
  • Teddy Bear- Aptly named because of its significantly smaller size, the Teddy Bear sunflower neatly fits into your limited garden space bringing you the experience of the ‘sun’ for a fraction of the size, literally. It can be planted in a container. It is 6 inches in diameter without a flat center.

From the above list you can see that there’s a lot more to sunflowers than what you knew. 

Let’s go on to the part where we learn how to prepare a garden for sunflowers to grow in successfully.

Preparing a sunflower garden

A sunflower garden has to be prepared carefully and in the right way so that when you are planting the seeds- annual sunflower or perennial sunflower- they will have the proper environment and conditions to thrive.

You must remove all debris from the selected space. This will ensure that the garden is free from pests; caterpillars, beetles and the like. In huge numbers these pests can destroy the foliage (leafy part of the plant) and render it unhealthy.

Another thing to consider is the soil. You want to make sure the soil is well drained so that you don’t drench your sunflowers in water every time you water them. Adding organic matter to the soil also keeps it healthy for the seeds to feed on when planted. Although not necessary, you may add fertilizer just as an additional growth nutrient for your sunflower seeds.

Adding fertilizer should be under the advise of a qualified agrovet.

The space in which you intend to grow your Sunflowers should have uninhibited sunlight. Sunflowers require adequate sunlight to grow and bloom effectively.

And it goes without saying that weeding should be part of your preparation for growing your sunflowers. 

In the event that your sunflowers get attacked by pests and, or diseases you should be able to identify and act immediately to save your sunflowers. Here are some pointers:

  • Stunted growth- This is one of the most common and destructive conditions that can affect a sunflower. It can be caused by stalk eating fungi that bore through the stalk and stem, starving the plant of any nutrients for its growth.
  • Drooping-  Some observations have been made to refer this to a very large head of the sunflower. But it’s also related to stem rot- caused by white mold. Eating up the sunflower from the inside out.

Now when you have observed these kinds of signs, you can be sure that your sunflowers are under serious attack. However, these can be mitigated with the following methods:

  • Use of spacing- Space out your sunflowers as a way to reduce diseases. Most sunflowers rely on pollination and the use of pesticides should be a last resort.
  • Remove and burn- When mold or rust occurs on a sunflower plant, your best approach is to remove the affected plants and burn them away from the healthy remnants.

Most annuals are very resistant to pests and diseases. They’re indeed hardy. But when you are growing for seed harvesting, birds will be a regular unwanted ‘pest’. The only safe way for you to handle birds is to put up a scarecrow. Should that be inadequate, you can plant oil based sunflowers to distract them from your seed sunflowers.

Sunflower seed harvesting

Sunflowers are known for their health benefits; especially the seed sunflowers. When you’re growing sunflower varieties for their seeds you should know how to go about it.

You can eat the sunflower seeds in baked bread, or just slightly roast them. You may be wondering when is the best time to harvest the seeds, right? Well simply put, you may harvest them 30 days after the pollination period.

So how do you go about harvesting the seeds?

  • Get them before the birds- Check, at the beginning of fall for seed maturity. The head progressively begins to face downward signaling you to get the head off the stalk. Further, you can hang it in a dry and fairly warm place devoid of pests like rodents.
  • Cover the seed head- You obviously intend to harvest all the seeds so the way to go about it is by covering it with a paper bag which has small air holes. As the seeds fall off you can be sure you will get all of them without any going to waste.
  • Be patient- Although you may have the excitement of being a first time sunflower seed farmer, you may want to exercise some restraint when harvesting your seeds. When you notice the back of the head turning brown that is the time to cut it off not before. At this time, the seeds come off easier.

Final Thoughts

Sunflowers are a very rewarding plant to grow in your garden, whether as a play garden for your children or for commercial use. They do require at least 6 hours of sun for optimal growth and spacing is important here also.

Plants which haven’t been spaced well compete for sunlight by growing too fast, leading to weaker stems and that can cause drooping. For healthy living, seeds from sunflowers have healthier fats. Even animals tend to enjoy them too. 

So now that you know how to tell if a sunflower is annual or perennial, how about you get that sunflower garden going.

Are you interested in getting such content that ranks for your website? I can help you produce well-researched content in the gardening niche, and many other niches, at an affordable rate. I am a passionate gardener and gardening writer myself and I also work with several other writers and editors to produce content for my website and for clients. Reach me at, or check where I offer my writing and digital marketing services.