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Maximilian Sunflower (native) Photo by Maggie Dwyer


Common Name: Sunflower


Botanical Name: Helianthus spp.


Family: Asteraceae (old name: Compositae)


Type and Use: Annuals and perennials with edible flowers, seed, and roots


Location: Full sun


Planting Dates: Plant seed or root tubers of perennials such as Jerusalem artichoke in the spring after the last frost.


Planting Method: Plant seed or tuber pieces in well-drained soil in full sun in the spring.


Seed Emergence: Both seed and tubers emerge quickly to grow into large plants.


Harvest Time: Harvest the flower petals any time, the seeds after the flower heads have matured and dried, the edible tubers in the fall.


Maximilian sunflower (photo by Maggie Dwyer)


Height: 3-12 feet


Spread: Annuals grow as single plants; perennials spread by runners


Spacing: Seeds should be planted 18-24 inches. Clumps of perennial at 18-36 inches.


Growth Habits: Tall-growing and coarse for the most part. Maximilian is the most refined looking and often the best choice for residential gardens.


Culture: Plant in well-drained soil and fertilize monthly for the largest flower heads. Soil amendments are not that important for sunflowers.


Troubles and Solutions: Too large and coarse for many residential locations. Solution: don’t plant them there. The perennials spread and can become invasive.


Harvest and Storage: Harvest the flower petals any time to use as an interesting garnish. Gather and eat the mature seed after the flower head has dried.


Sunflower Varieties


Varieties: The common sunflower is Hedera annua. Maximilian sunflower (with edible tubers) is Hedera maximiliani. Sunchoke or Jerusalem artichoke is Hedera tuberosa and has the largest edible tubers.


Notes: The tubers of Maximilian and Jerusalem artichoke taste like water chestnuts. They are delicious and can be used just like potatoes. Maximilian sunflower is an excellent landscape perennial.


HABIT: Helianthus annuus is the annual common sunflower. Helianthus multiflorus is a perennial. Helianthus angustifolius, swamp sunflower, likes wet soil.


Helianthus maximiliani is Maximilian sunflower


Helianthus maximiliani is Maximilian sunflower, a beautiful clumping perennial that blooms from August to October. Helianthus tuberosus, Jerusalem artichoke or sunchoke, is a 6’-8’ perennial grown for its edible underground tubers that taste like water chestnuts and are used as a potato substitute. Make sure you want it before you plant it – it spreads easily.




Culture: Plant seed or tubers in any well drained soil in full sun. Fertilize monthly for the largest flower heads. I recommend it for the lazy gardener’s garden. Dig the tubers in the fall after the tops have died. Mexican sunflower is Tithonia rotundifolia.


Uses: Food, summer color, bird attractant.


Problems: Too large and coarse-textured for many small gardens.





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