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Double sunflower varieties are showstoppers in the garden

April 4, 2018

Sunflowers deserve a place in every garden. Their bright, sunny flowers bring cheer to gardeners, guests and passersby.

While standard, single-stemmed sunflowers with their huge flower heads are gorgeous, branched varieties produce even more blooms, sometimes as many as a dozen or more per plant. But, if you’d really like to grow something different in this year’s garden, grow a double sunflower variety.

Standard sunflower blooms have a central disk, comprised of thousands of small flowers, surrounded by several outer rows of colorful petals. Double sunflower varieties, however, produce layers upon layers of petals that either replace the central disk of small flowers completely or hide it under thousands of fluffy petals. While this feature may not be as welcoming to pollinators as a sunflower with an exposed disk, double sunflowers sure do make stunning additions to the garden.

If you’d like to add a few double sunflowers to your garden this year, here are a few different varieties worth trying:

Starburst Lemon Aura: This double sunflower grows 4 to 6 feet tall and produces pale yellow flowers that look like a bursting sun. The outermost petals are slightly curved and elongated, making them look as if they’ve been twisted. The inner petals are shorter and densely packed. You’ll find seeds for this variety in the Johnny’s Selected Seeds catalog (Johnnyseeds.com)

Goldy Double: The fluffy yellow blooms of this double sunflower variety look like fringed pompons. Each bloom is 8 to 10 inches across, and the tall, highly branched plants produce dozens of long-lasting flowers per stem. Seeds of Goldy Double are available from High Mowing Seeds (highmowingseeds.com).

Teddy Bear: The quintessential double sunflower variety, Teddy Bear has been around for years. The double yellow flowers are borne on dwarf plants that top out at just 3 feet in height. Only one flower is produced per stem, but these blooms make great cut flowers and they last for a long time in a vase. A perfect choice for gardens where kids play. Territorial Seed Company sells seeds of Teddy Bear (territorialseed.com).

Sun-Fill Hybrid: Though technically this sunflower isn’t a double, it is one heck of a unique addition to the garden. Instead of producing brightly colored petals, this variety has rows of spiky green or purple-tinged leaves on the flower heads. Though they aren’t flashy in color, they sure are eye-catching in a vase. Seeds are available from Burpee Seeds (burpee.com).

Double Quick Orange: This hybrid sunflower is single stemmed, but the fringed blooms are held atop sturdy stems that are great for cutting. Reaching a height of 4 to 6 feet, Double Quick Orange’s blooms are 10 inches across and layered with thousands of petals. You’ll find seeds for this variety from Johnny’s Selected Seeds (johnnyseeds.com).

No matter which double — or single — sunflower varieties you decide to grow, wait until mid-May to plant the seeds directly into the garden here in Pennsylvania. Or, if you want to get a jump start on the growing season, start the seeds indoors in peat pots and under grow lights. Since the seedlings grow very quickly and can become leggy if left indoors too long, don’t start your sunflower seeds indoors until the second week of April. They’ll be ready to move outdoors by mid-May.

Horticulturist Jessica Walliser co-hosts “The Organic Gardeners” at 7 a.m. Sundays on KDKA Radio with Doug Oster. She is the author of several gardening books, including “Attracting Beneficial Bugs to Your Garden,” “Good Bug, Bad Bug,” and her newest title, “Container Gardening Complete.” Her website is jessicawalliser.com. Send your gardening or landscaping questions to tribliving@tribweb.com or The Good Earth, 622 Cabin Hill Drive, Greensburg, PA 15601.