Versatile and long lasting, these delightful beauties are favorites of florists and consumers alike.

name calling.
Known botanically as Helianthus annuus (hee-lee-AN-thus AN-yoo-us), these flowers are more familiarly known as common sunflower, mirasol and marigold of Peru.

it's greek to me.
The genus name Helianthus is derived from the Greek helios, meaning “sun,” and anthos, meaning “flower,” reflecting these flowers’ heliotropic nature of turning toward and following the sun. The specific epithet annuus means “annual,” referring to the plant’s one-year life cycle.

family ties.
Helianthus is a member of the huge Asteraceae/Compositae family. Close relatives include chrysanthemums, Gerberas, Dahlias, Zinnias, Asters, marigolds, bachelor’s buttons and black-eyed Susans.

size 'em up.
Sunflower blooms range from about 2 inches in diameter to 10 or more inches, depending on cultivar. Most varieties average about 6 inches across while miniature varieties range from 2 to 4 inches. Stem lengths generally range from 2 to 5 feet.

anatomy lesson.
Sunflower blossoms are made up of ray flowers (“petals”) that surround central disks comprising yellow, brown, green or  even deep purple flowers. Some varieties (e.g., ‘Teddy Bear’) appear to not have any disk flowers. Ray-flower length and quantity, and disk diameter, vary among cultivars.

show your colors.
More than 60 varieties of sunflowers are available as cut flowers. Natural hues include yellows, from pale lemon yellow to bright golden yellow; bronzes; browns; reddish-browns; oranges; creams/tans; and bicolors. Stem-dyed sunflowers have grown in popularity in recent years.

now and forever.
Sunflowers are available year-round, but production peaks from June through October. Some varieties, especially novelties, are available only during the peak months.

physical examination.
Buy sunflowers with fully open blooms, but make sure the centers (disk flowers) are tight or only partially developed and not showing any pollen. Watch for yellow, wilted, dried out or otherwise aging leaves. Leaf health is a critical indicator of sunflower longevity—more so than bloom quality. Finally, check stems for rot, slime or bruises.

jump on it.
Remove sunflowers from the shipping boxes immediately upon their arrival. (They are highly susceptible to water stress.) Next, remove any stem bindings as well as any leaves that would be under water in storage containers. Because sunflowers are often field grown and have “hairy” stems, they capture debris easily, so rinse stems under tepid running water.

handle with care.
Recut stems with a sharp blade, removing at least 1 inch of stem. Immediately dip or place stem ends into a hydration solution (particularly important with sunflowers), then place them into clean, disinfected containers half filled with warm (100 F to 110 F), properly proportioned flower-food solution
    Research indicates that sunflowers do not benefit nutritionally from flower food, but it should be used because the bactericide in flower food helps control the growth of bacteria in containers.

cool off.
After processing, place sunflowers into a floral cooler at 33 F to 35 F, and allow them to hydrate for at least two hours before using or selling.

concerns about ethyl.
Some cultivars of sunflowers are sensitive to ethylene gas, but many are not. Exposure to ethylene can cause the ray flowers (petals) to drop, so make sure your purchases are treated with an ethylene inhibitor at the grower level or during transportation, and keep them away from sources of ethylene (fruit, cigarette smoke and vehicle exhaust).

change is good.
Recut stems, wash containers and change flower-food solution every other day to prevent bacteria buildup and keep water flowing up the stems.

time of their life.
Sunflowers typically offer five to 14 days of vase life, depending on cultivar, environment and care. Advise customers to recut the stems and to change the vase solution every other day.

Click here to purchase the current issue of Florists' Review.

Florists' Review Enterprises, Inc.
PO Box 4368
Topeka, KS   66604

Phone: 800-367-4708
Local: 785-266-0888
Fax: 785-266-0333

©Copyright 2009 Florists' Review Enterprises