You know them at a glance. The vibrant sunflower is no stranger to kitchen table centerpieces, especially in the summertime. It’s never met a windowsill it didn’t like, either. Symbolic of joy and happiness, the effervescent golden bloom is a rarity in that it can probably bring a smile to anyone’s face. Whether sunflowers are dressing up your home or livening up your garden, they’re destined to make any day brighter.
They aren’t just decorative, though. In fact, sunflowers offer so much more than mere cosmetic beauty. Sure, they have pretty faces — who can resist those showy yellow petals framing the dark disc in the center? Like little rays of, well, sunshine, these eye-catching flowers are eye-catching expressions of pure jubilation. What makes them even more special, though, is that they’re so incredibly useful even after they’ve wilted.
It’s the rare flower that’s more than just a piece of eye candy. The truth is that, unlike many other blooms, it’s possible to make the most of these flowers in both seed form and after they’ve run their course. Here are some ideas to make sunflowers an even more integral part of your life.
Mild and nutty, sunflower seeds have a gentle quality about them. They aren’t overpowering, but they can enhance the taste of many different dishes. Derived from the sunflower plant’s oversized heads, they are also incredibly healthy. Think of them as something of a humble superfood. They’re loaded with protein and offer a rich blend of healthy fats and fiber. Plus, they’re packed with essential vitamins, minerals, and nutrients.
There are countless ways to use them in your recipes, from breakfast to lunch to dinner. Add them to a homemade granola or energy bar recipe for an instant nutrient boost. Toss a few into your salad for some added crunch. Toss them in a blend of olive oil, sea salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, and olive oil, then toast them to create an ultra-flavorful topping that’s great as an anytime snack or to throw on soup or pasta. You can even use them to make anything from pesto sauce to homemade veggie burgers.
Sunflower stalks are incredibly thick and fibrous, making them a great source of kindling for your comfort during fall and winter. Use them to start a fire when you’re camping outside with the kids or if you need something in a pinch and don’t have any other alternatives for tinder. You’d be surprised at just how well those stalks do the job.
Their strength and stability also make the stalks great for creating complicated yard accents, like trellises. All you need are the stalks, a pair of pruning shears, and some garden ties. Using two of your strongest stalks, create the sides of the trellis and cut a few smaller stalks for the central pieces. Use your garden ties to secure the smaller stalks to the stronger ones on the sides, creating a ladder of sorts.
Weeds can take their toll on your beautifully designed garden beds, making it difficult to appreciate the depth of your hard work. If you’re growing sunflowers, place them in gardens where weeds tend to crop up most. These sunny flowers actually inhibit the growth of other plants — including weeds.
Of course, that also means you have to be mindful of what you plant alongside your sunflowers. Flowers like daisies, marigolds, and snapdragons are all friendly companions. By contrast, some crops, like potatoes and fennel, won’t perform as well because the allelopathic nature of the sunflower means they’ll use too many of the nutrients in the soil to allow the others to thrive as well. Some simply require more TLC and nourishment, and those should be planted away from sunflowers for best results.
If you appreciate the beauty of the great outdoors, you know that feeding the birds is one of life’s real joys. It’s a way to connect with nature on a deeper level while soaking up the peace and enjoying the sights and sounds of the birds nipping away. What’s great about sunflowers is that they’re incredibly nutritious, so you can feel good about giving them to your birds or doling them out to the local birds that fly to your garden every now and then.
You don’t have to do anything special to feed the birds sunflowers. No roasting is necessary! Plus, when winter arrives, you can just let your sunflowers be. The birds will naturally fly to them and peck away at the sunflower seeds whenever the craving strikes. Talk about an easy way to support your winged friends.
To begin, trim the stems to your preferred size, then secure the stems together using a piece of cut twine. Wind it around several times until you’ve got yourself a sturdy miniature bundle. Tie the twine in a secure knot. Add a bit of hot glue to your gift tag, then press the miniature arrangement directly on top. Wait for the flowers to cure, then fish some twine through the gift tag’s opening and tie it to your gift. This is an easy way to dress up packages that are wrapped in plain wrapping paper or anything that could use a splash of extra color.
With a single look at a sunflower, you can probably figure out why it’s so popular among pollinators. These insects are naturally drawn to the brightest and boldest of plants. Studies find that bees can even detect actual ultraviolet light — so it’s certainly no wonder they’re known to swarm the most golden yellow flowers in your garden. The more you add to your outdoor space, the more pollinators you’ll encourage to visit.
Keep in mind that there are different kinds of sunflowers, and if your goal is primarily to grow for pollination, you need to nurture the right type. Pollinator-friendly blooms have plenty of nectar and pollen, and they can attract everything from butterflies to bees to hummingbirds. Ensure that they receive at least six to eight hours of consistent exposure to sunlight daily for best results. You’ll yield thicker stalks with deeper, more resilient roots and lush, vibrant yellow flowers.
It’s clear that there’s so much more to the sunflower than meets the eye. Sure, they can brighten up anyone’s day, and there’s no better flower to send to someone who needs a little mood boost or feels under the weather. Make the most of these beauties by positioning them throughout the home — and by taking advantage of the many other uses that make them so special.