Why Do Sunflowers Follow the Sun?

Why Do Sunflowers Follow the Sun?


“Sunflower, good mornin', you sure do make it like a sunny day…” Neil Diamond’s Sunflower song playing in the background, and the perennial sunflower is still bright and blooming as ever in always sunny Los Angeles. A sunflower can sure make anyone’s day. But aside from the kind of beauty that makes people write songs about them, sunflowers got a few more secrets up their yellow sleeves, err petals rather.

Sunflower Are Sun-Flowers

For starters, know that there is no name that suits this iconic summer flower (which, by the way, lingers until the middle of fall/autumn) best. “Helianthus” is the scientific name of sunflower. “Helia” for sun and “anthus” for flower.

Bonus Trivia: Sunflower is the only flower, the only one, with “flower” in its name.

Sunflowers didn’t only get their name because of their looks, but because they are in fact sun-loving flowers after all.  These big yellow flowers display a natural plant behavior called heliotropism, which to put simply is the growth or movement of plants in response to sunlight. Sunflowers literally track the rising and setting of the sun, facing east in the morning and west come dawn.

                                                                               Sunflower Surprise 

However, this phenomenon only happens while they’re still young. Once they start to mature, sunflowers almost always stay facing east.

Other flowers that display heliotropism are Arctic poppies and Alpine buttercup flowers.

#1 They’re Flowers Within a Flower

Sunflower Symphony

A single sunflower is actually made up of up to 1,000 to 2,000 tiny individual disc florets. These are the little yellow buds we see in the middle of every sunflower head, where the seeds develop. The petals surrounding the disc are called ray florets.

#2 The Biggest Sunflower Head

On the other hand, the biggest sunflower head ever was 32 ¼ inches in diameter (measured from the outer tip of the petal on one side to the outer tip of the petal on the opposite side), and was grown by Emily Martin from Maple Ridge, British Columbia, Canada back in 1983.

#3 Sunflowers Can Grow as Tall as 30 Feet


Typically, sunflowers grow as high as 16 feet when they’re allowed to bask in the sun for at least six hours a day. This is quite high for a flower all right.

But did you know, the world’s tallest sunflower actually grew 30 foot and an inch tall. Unbelievable.

Guinness World Record Hall of famer Hans-Peter Schiffer actually holds the title for the Tallest Sunflower in the World for three straight years now.



 Sleek Sunflower 

#4 They’re of Royal Descent – Sort of

Russia’s Tsar Peter the Great fell in love with sunflowers on one of his trips to the Netherlands that he actually brought some back home to plant and cultivate. Come 19th century, Russia was harvesting over two million acres of sunflowers annually. Sunflower became an absolute hit to the Russians because sunflower oil was not included in the list of banned items by the Russian Orthodox Church during Lenten season.

#5 Sunflower Symbolizes…

Sunflower Madness

According to sources, sunflowers are the symbol of happiness, faith, loyalty, adoration, and longevity.

Popularly known as the “happy flowers”, which perhaps is due to their lively and vibrant color, sunflowers provide that kind of cheerful and positive vibe you can’t get enough of. This is why they make perfect as pick-me-up gifts.

Need to know more about these fascinating flowers? Check out our Sunflower Collection.

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