Do sunflowers grow back every year? Sunflowers are a gorgeous addition to any garden, so you obviously want to keep their bright blooms around every year! Some plants can grow back every year, but are sunflowers one of them?
Some types of sunflowers grow back every year. There are two types of sunflowers: annuals and perennials. Perennial sunflowers, such as the Beach Sunflower or Jerusalem artichoke, grow back every year, but annuals don’t.
Next year, you’ll only see annuals if they drop seeds and the seeds sprout successfully in the spring. Let’s get into each type of sunflower so you can know what to look for in your garden.
Annual sunflowers complete their entire lifecycle in one growing season. You can plant seeds in the spring, and they’ll grow to maturity, drop seeds, and die in the same year, usually at the end of summer or the beginning of autumn.
Annual sunflowers have some visual differences from perennials. Common characteristics of annual sunflowers include:
- Blooms the same year you planted them
- Stringy roots with a deep taproot
- Seeds germinate quickly in late spring
- Numerous large seeds
- A single thick stem with small branches coming off of it
Not every variety and cultivar will have these traits, but they’ll certainly give you a clue whether the sunflowers you have are annuals.
How To Get Annual Sunflowers Every Year
Once an annual sunflower dies, it won’t come back next year. However, you can save the seeds to make sure you get the same beautiful blooms year after year.
Begin saving seeds when the flower petals are dry and start to fall off. The back of the flower head will be yellow on its way to turning brown. The seeds will be plump and deep black.
Some varieties will have a white stripe. Birds, squirrels, deer, and other animals love sunflower seeds, so you need to be careful not to wait too long before you start harvesting!
You can tie a paper bag around the flower head, or you can cut off the flower head, tie a paper bag around it, and hang it upside down in a cool, dry place like a shed or garage.
Allow the seeds to dry completely before placing them in an envelope to store for next year. If you don’t want to save seeds yourself, find a reliable seed supplier who has the same selection each year.
Perennial sunflowers come back every year as long as the plant is healthy and the conditions in your garden are just right. You won’t see blooms when you plant perennials from seed until the following year.
But, once they develop blooms in the second year, you’ll continue to see blooms each year.
Perennial sunflowers look quite different from annuals! You’ll notice some of these traits:
- Flower heads are always small
- Won’t bloom the same year you planted them
- Roots are shallow and will have rhizomes and tubers
- Seeds germinate slowly in early spring
- Fewer seeds, unless you have a modern hybrid
- Many small stems coming from a clump on the ground
There may be some exceptions that will look different, so treat this list as a general guideline. Also, perennial sunflowers have wildlife and food uses.
How To Keep Perennial Sunflowers Coming Back Every Year
Inappropriate temperatures, diseases, and a lack of nutrients in the soil can kill perennials once and for all. As long as you take care of them, they’ll keep coming back.
Add compost or fertilizer once or twice a year to keep the soil healthy and remove diseased plants as you see them to prevent them from spreading.
Since perennial sunflowers come back every year, they tend to become weedy if you don’t prune them. You can divide clumps or remove entire clumps completely. You can transplant them if you’d like, or dispose of them.
Overcrowded sunflowers may die, so it’s best to prune them at least once a year to make sure they have good airflow and don’t have to compete for the sun or nutrients.
Sunflowers That Will Grow Back Every Year
If you’re new to perennial sunflowers, here are a few to look out for to get you started! There are numerous varieties to choose from, so this certainly isn’t a complete list.
- Beach sunflower: Helianthus debilis, or the cucumber sunflower, grows up to 6 feet (1.8 meters) tall. It’s tolerant of sandy soils and has rounded yellow petals and a deep brown center.
- Jerusalem artichoke: Helianthus tuberosus is a food staple in some cultures. It has thin petals and a yellow center and can become weedy if left unattended.
- Swamp sunflower: Helianthus angustifolius can reach up to 7 feet (2.1 meters) tall and has clusters of small yellow flowers with wispy, dark green foliage.
- Western sunflower: Helianthus occidentals is a dwarf variety that grows up to 4 feet (1.2 meters). It has wide petals that are a gorgeous deep yellow.