Sow a Sunflower Prairie on Your Rural Land
Is there anything more cheerful than a field full of sunflowers? Rows and rows of those hardy yellow blooms turning their faces to the sun. The French name for sunflowers is tournesol, or "turns with the sun." Apropos! The botanical name is helianthus, a combination of helia, meaning "sun" and anthus, meaning "flower." They also resemble the sun, when you think about it. Whether these delightful blooms got their name because they turn toward the sun or look like the sun is lost to the annals of botanical history. But we do know they're a great addition to any rural homestead.
Why should you grow sunflowers? From harvesting tasty seeds to attracting winged critters to adding to your summer bouquets, there are many reasons. If you're new to rural life, you may simply want to plant these pretty flowers around the wide expanse of your yard and get the most out of them while enjoying their beauty. If that's the case, here’s some information about a few of the reasons to get planting.
Honeybees and bumblebees love the nectar they get from sunflowers.1 You'll be helping your own rural ecosystem, and the planet at large, if you plant sunflowers to attract and nourish the bees. But, be aware. Plant from seed if you want to make sure your sunflowers are free of toxic chemicals that can actually kill the pollinators you're trying to provide for.
Sunflowers are the showpiece of any summer or fall bouquet. That's great if you like fresh flowers in your home, but with a field of sunflowers, you've also got the possibility for a lucrative side gig. Sunflowers are having a wedding bouquet moment.2 It's a popular trend right now. If, like many people who have moved to the country, you are planning to turn your barn into a wedding venue, it would be wise to plant a field of sunflowers to supplement the bouquets and the reception decor.
In sunflower seeds, you'll find a treasure trove of nutrients, including vitamin E, which is a powerful antioxidant, in addition to magnesium and selenium.3 Sunflower seeds are also rich in the "good fats" that can combat heart disease and bad cholesterol. They're a healthy snack that can supplement your diet. You can also work with those seeds to produce delicious sprouts! They'll go from seed to sprout in as little as two weeks.
It's true that birds will confiscate some of your sunflower seeds. But think of it as a small fee for combatting the pests and insects they might eat along the way.4 If you have chickens [link to post when live], you'll find they love sunflower seeds. They're a great source of feed that (bonus) you don't have to buy. Tip: Toss the sunflower heads into your henhouse and let them peck away!
Types of Sunflowers
There are different types of sunflowers to choose from, mainly oilseed and confection.5 Choosing the right type depends on what you plan on doing with them.
An oilseed crop of sunflowers is, by definition, the type that can produce sunflower oil. They're also great for birdseed! Cardinals love them. Their seeds are black and small.
Confection sunflowers — the type of sunflower seeds we eat — is the variety we're most familiar with. The seeds are black with white stripes. Visit any grocery store or baseball dugout and you'll find a bag of them.
Like what you're seeing? Subscribe to our Rural Living eNewsletter for monthly tips and guides about making the most of your rural lifestyle.