Top 10 Sunny Sunflower Varieties

Discover a whole new face of this radiant bloom with our top picks of cool sunflower varieties.

I’ve never met a sunflower I didn’t like. They’re just so darn cheery and happy—no wonder they’re the go-to seed for kids to grow. If you share my love for these big beauties even a little bit, then it’s time to start branching out. Sure, the bright yellow blooms that produce seeds for the birds are classics, but there are so many more options on the market. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by all those cultivars, though, so we’re here to help. Start with this list of some of our favorite sunflower varieties.

John Glover/Alamy
Giant Sungold

Best Double Bloomer: Giant Sungold

The Teddy Bear cultivar first made double-blooming sunflowers popular—and now you can find even more varieties, including our top pick, Giant Sungold. This plant can easily top 6 feet, while the big puffy blooms grow up to 8 inches wide.

Runner-up: Golden Cheer—which works the shaggy, unkempt look in the best way possible—is a very close second.

Burpee Seeds
Strawberry Blonde

Multicolored: Strawberry Blonde

You’ll do a double take when you see that the petals are rose-pink at the base, while the ends seem to have been dipped in yellow paint. Like most sunflower varieties they grow best in a sunny spot with well-draining soil. This cultivar can grow more than 6 feet high.

Runner-up: Ring of Fire is like an edgier, darker version of Strawberry Blonde. It was also an All-American Selection Winner in 2001.

Burpee Seeds
Mammoth Russian

Best Mammoth: Mammoth Russian

Burpee Home Gardens says if you want to enter a sunflower competition at a fair, this is the one to plant. It grows a whopping 9 to 12 feet tall and produces large striped seeds.

Runner-up: Mammoth Grey Stripe grows 8 to 12 feet tall, with seedheads that are a foot across. Start your seeds early, because they need about 110 days to bloom fully.

Jonathan Buckley/Gap photos
Italian White

Best Light Bloomer: Italian White

You won’t find a more gorgeous or reliable light bloomer. Italian White has a top-notch reputation for dependable 4-inch white blooms with chocolate centers. The plants reach 5 to 7 feet and are known for producing lots of flowers over the course of the season.

Runner-up: Coconut Ice is a newer variety, with petals starting out creamy and then gradually getting lighter and brighter.

Burpee Seeds
Little Becka

Dwarf Variety: Little Becka

Whether you lack space or just like smaller plants, this one should be on your list. At just 3 feet tall, Little Becka packs a big punch, with lots of 6-inch flowers in a unique color sequence: from gold to crimson and then back to gold again.

Runner-up: Want to go even smaller? Sunny Smile will reach only 12 to 15 inches in height, making it perfect for containers and patios.

Joe Herbert
Moulin Rouge

Best Dark Bloomer: Moulin Rouge

Do you like dark, bold sunflowers? This one delivers. You can find other red variations, but Moulin Rouge is the most reliable of the bunch. It grows to about 4 feet tall.

Runner-up: With slightly darker, richer hues than Moulin Rouge, Chocolate is another strong choice and the name says it all.

Johnny’s Seeds/johnnyseeds.com
Soraya

Award Winner: Soraya

In 2000, the Soraya cultivar made history when it became the first sunflower chosen as an All-American Selections winner. It boasts stunning blooms on sturdy stems, so you don’t have to worry about them falling over. It grows up to 6 feet tall and is a pretty cut flower as well.

Runner-up: Another All-American Selections winner, Suntastic was honored just last year. It’s a dwarf and can get up to 20 blooms on a single plant.

Burpee Seeds
Lemon Queen

Best for Pollinators: Lemon Queen

Go online right now to greatsunflower.org and check out the Great Sunflower Project. This group counts pollinators visiting plants, which helps with conservation and plant science. Joining up requires you to plant the No. 1 pollinator around, the Lemon Queen sunflower. We hope you’ll sign up to help with the project, but even if you don’t, please plant Lemon Queen to support the bee population. As you may have read, bees urgently need our help to survive and keep pollinating plants.

Runner-up: Take your pick! Most sunflowers are good for bees, as long as you remember not to pick a pollen-free variety.

Seed Sense Ltd./J.W. Jung Seed Company
Super Snack Mix

Best Sunflower to Eat: Super Snack Mix

Growing sunflowers mostly for seed, either for the birds or to munch on yourself? The name says it all for this cultivar. Its originators claim to offer the largest seeds around—and they’re easy to crack, too. This classic sunflower grows up to 6 feet and will also attract bees and butterflies.

Runner-up: Royal Hybrid is also known for its prolific seed. Remember to let the seedheads dry completely before harvesting.

Baker Creek Seed
Taiyo Sunflower

Best Cut Flower: Taiyo Sunflower

You know those perfect-looking sunflowers you see at grocery stores and flower shops? Chances are they’re Taiyos, but you can grow your own cut flowers instead of buying them. These Japanese heirlooms grow 5 to 6 feet tall and have large flower heads with huge centers.

Runner-up: Look for any pollen-free flower to grow for bouquets: It won’t make a mess when you bring it indoors (though keep in mind, as mentioned above, that it won’t benefit bees, either).

Stacy Tornio
Stacy Tornio is a freelance writer and author with more than 15 gardening and outdoorsy books. She tries to get as much sunshine as possible and is currently on a quest to see all the national parks in North America.