We’ve seen a steady expansion in the flower forms and colours of annual sunflowers in recent years, largely driven by their increasing popularity as cut flowers. But this is the first sunflower which is all bracts and no petals.
Instead of the bracts that enclose the flower bud folding back to allow the petals to develop, the bracts proliferate and become the main feature. I asked Peter Denney of Select Sunflowers to explain:
“The concept of the SunFills is quite new,” he told me. “The breeding was started around ten years ago by our specialist sunflower breeder Dr Thomas Heaton while evaluating the plants on our breeding nursery. He found a single plant that was showing this trait and we believed there was a market for a sunflower that could be used a novel filler for the cut flower industry.
“Plants are single headed and should not be pinched as the result will be spindly growth and small heads. The size of the head depends on the density of planting, but are usually about 9cm, and not more than 12cm.
“If the buds are left they will develop small and unattractive flower heads, although some growers have let the petals develop so they are just open. This can look quite novel and attractive, but to go to full bloom is not recommended.
“These are only two varieties in the series but they have led to further breeding of other types of novel sunflower which are now in the pipeline.”
The two varieties are ‘Sunfill Green’, with green bracts, and ‘Sunfill Purple’ with green bracts edged in purple.
You can order seed from Plants of Distinction of both 'Sunfill Green' and 'Sunfill Purple'.
*Please note, the contents of this blog reflect the views of its author, and do not constitute an official endorsement by the RHS.