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Sunflower engraving Helianthus species
Native Americans have been cultivating this plant for at least 4000 years, and its use predates that of the Three Sisters (corn, beans, and squash). The Aztecs put gold sunflowers (called xochitl, still used as a girl's name among Aztec descendants) in their temples and priestesses wore them as headdresses and adorned themselves with sunflower-decorated jewelry (read the rather doleful Aztec Flower Song). The native peoples made the petals into a dye and used the bloom time as a guide for hunting. The Spaniards brought sunflower seeds back to Europe with them in the 1500s, and since then sunflowers have spread all over the world. Top

In Magick

Because of its strong Sun aspect, this plant is good for building a healthy ego. It is also associated with fertility on account of its numerous, prominent seeds; it is said that women who wish to conceive should eat them. Sometimes considered a haughty flower due to its height, the sunflower is also thought to exemplify loyalty or adoration, because of how it follows the Sun's path. Like all Sun herbs, the sunflower is great for rituals for acquiring wealth and for creating a relaxed, comfortable happiness--the same sort you feel on a warm, sunny day. Sunflower combats depression or grief and protects from the negative. It is connected to solar festivals and solar gods like Apollo and to the sign of Leo. The petals are a nice addition to a bath, especially a ritual bath to attract happiness. Top

Mundane Uses

Sunflowers protect a garden; a mass planting helps to dry marshy soil and acts as a good windbreak. Bees enjoy the pollen, and birds, especially crows and red-winged blackbirds, love the seeds. In Hungary, a folk violin called the kóróhegedü was made from a hollowed-out sunflower stalk. Its strings and bow-hair were made of the fibers from inside the stalks. Sunflowers make a nice "house"--just plant them in a circle or square with space for a "door." Some people intersperse them with morning glories, which will climb the sunflowers to make walls.When the sunflower nods, it will rain. This plant is also known as marigold of Peru, Flos solis, Corona solis, sola Indianus, and Chrysanthemum peruvianum.Top  

Three kinds of sunflowers:

Titan, Autumn Beauty, & Grey Stripe

Helianthus 'Titan'
Titan/Russian Mammoth Sunflower
20 seeds $3.75

Helianthus multiflora
Autumn Beauty Sunflower
30 seeds $3.75

Helianthus 'Grey Stripe'
Mammoth Grey Stripe Sunflower
25 seeds $3.75

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Uses in Witchcraft & Magic:

Fertility Charms
Money Spells
Protection Spells
Honoring Apollo
Sun Herb

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Sunflower grown from my seedsTitan (Helianthus 'Titan')
This sunflower began being cultivated in Europe in the 1550s and was especially popular in Russia because sunflower oil was the only oil not fobidden during Lent--and because sunflowers grow very well on the steppes (they are also fond of the northern plains of North America). It was reintroduced to the US in 1888 and is a very large sunflower--a height of 12 ft is not unusual, and record sunflowers of this variety have been up to 25 ft high. This variety makes one flower instead of many, like the Autumn Beauty does, but the flower is much larger--up to one foot wide. The shells are thin and easy to crack with tasty meat; it takes 75-80 days to harvest from transplanting. Butterflies love this sunflower. How to grow them. Top


Autumn Beauty SunflowersAutumn Beauty (Helianthus multiflora)   We expect the sunflower to be completely bright, but this annual sunflower, also known as Colour Fashion, is unique for combining the dark and the light, almost as if you are looking at the Sun being eclipsed by the Moon with the Sun's corona showing all around the edges. The 8"/20cm flowers are red yellow, bronze, and purple and are borne on a branching plant that gets 6ft/1.8m tall. The plant blooms from late summer to fall and is especially good for cut flowers, because you get more than one flower on each plant. It looks nice against a wall or the south side of the house. Top

Grey Stripe SunflowersMammoth Grey Stripe (Helianthus 'Grey Stripe')
This cultivar is a traditional variety of giant sunflower. Mammoth Grey Stripe is the sunflower to grow if you want to eat the seeds. It's also great for mazes or to create a sunflower hedge to lend a bit of privacy to your garden. Mammoth Greys are usually between 6-12" and take 120 days from planting to harvest. Start them indoors 3-4 weeks before last frost, or direct sow after frost. Plant 1' or more apart in rich, friable (crumbly) soil. This sunflower will self-sow. Like the Titan, it is especially attractive to pollinators, feeding the bees and the butterflies, and then the birds too. Top

How to Grow Sunflowers

Sow outside after all danger of frost is over 1/4 in deep and 4" apart to germinate in 10-15 days. Seed can be started indoors in individual peat pots 3 to 4 weeks before setting out. Plant in full sun with rich soil and keep well weeded. The seeds are ripe when the heads droop and the back of the head turns first yellow and then brown. Cut flowers early or late in the day, not at noon. Take off the extra leaves and put in tepid water for cut flowers. For dried flowers, cut the stems and hang them upside down in a dry warm airy place until the flowers become light and brittle. To dry the heads for crafts, put cut heads face up on a screen or poke them through the spaces in a section of wire fence in a dry warm airy place. You can also put large flower heads in the oven at 150-175F/65-80C until they are dried. General growing info. Top

Sunflower Aztec Flower Song
Be indomitable, Oh my heart!
Love only the sunflower;
It is the flower of the Giver-of-Life!
What can my heart do?
Have we come, have we sojourned here on earth in vain?
As the flowers wither, I shall go.
Will there be nothing of my glory ever?
Will there be nothing of my fame on earth?
At most songs, at most flowers,
What can my heart do?
Have we come, have we sojourned on earth in vain?