Ah, sunflowers, the gardeners’ floral king. With their tall, thick stems and large dramatic heads, there is little wonder this flower has been a popular summer bloom for decades.
As with all our garden plants, sometimes they can do some unexpected things that can have us scratching our heads with confusion – like growing multiple heads!
If you are desperate for a little more sunflower love in your garden this summer, read on to find out why sunflowers have multiple heads and what sunflowers to plant if you’re looking for more than one single bloom.
Can Sunflowers Have Multiple Heads?
The more popular taller varieties usually only have one head, but there are other species of sunflowers that can have many flower heads.
Did you know that your sunflower consists of dozens of tiny little flower heads right in the center of its main bloom?
So technically, even our single-headed sunflowers have multiple miniature flowers.
Why Does My Sunflower Have Multiple Heads?
There are many reasons your sunflower may be growing multiple heads, even if you’re growing a species that should only grow one flower head per stem, such as multiple head species, using too much fertilizer, pest damage, or herbicide drift/chemical residue.
This wide variety of reasons for your sunflower growing multiple flower heads usually isn’t a massive cause for concern.
However, it’s important to know what the cause is just in case it is a serious issue that could affect your beautiful sunshine blooms.
Although our popularly grown sunflowers are well known for their massive height and single, large flower heads, there are actually many species of sunflowers that are supposed to grow multiple heads.
It’s a lot more common for sunflower species to grow more than one head than you may think.
Multiple head sunflower species tend to be more of a bush variety plant and can be much more suited to container growing due to their dwarf sizes.
Too Much Fertiliser
Although sunflowers may need a little help with their nutrient levels at some time or another, you have to be careful about how much you use and how often you are fertilizing them.
An overabundance of nutrients may cause your plant to focus on growing more heads to make use of the extra nutrients that have become available.
Growing A Hybrid Seed
Using a hybrid sunflower seed could be the
reason your sunflower has been growing more than one flower head.
This can be a common occurrence when a rogue seed stows itself away in your regular packet of sunflower seeds.
We usually assume that pest damage to our plants is more often than not fatal, and while this is sometimes true when our sunflowers experience pest damage, rather than their heads becoming damaged or malformed, the damage can actually cause your sunflower to grow multiple heads.
Chemical Drift / Herbicide Residue
If herbicides are leftover from your previous years’ growing or chemicals, drift into your garden from other properties or fields, they can affect your sunflowers’ growth in many peculiar ways.
Growing multiple heads is a common cause of multiple head growth on your sunflower.
What Kind Of Sunflower Has Multiple Heads?
There are many different species of sunflowers that are supposed to grow multiple heads, even if there aren’t any outside influences. These species are usually dwarf, bush, or even wild varieties.
However, there are a select few tall species that grow multiple stems from one root system.
Some wild sunflowers can grow up to 20 heads per plant, but many recorded sunflower plants have far exceeded this number.
So if you are looking for a sunflower that packs a little more punch, perhaps you should start considering less common varieties that can be very happy in pots or containers.
Some sunflowers that will grow multiple heads are:
Maximillian Prairie Sunflowers
Native prairie perennial, this sunflower species grows on several tall and leafy stems that won’t branch out.
It’s a great variety for the eco-conscious as it’s a great food source for many birds and bees.
An unusual medium height bush variety that grows sunshine yellow blooms with a dark brown to black center.
A North American native species, the wild sunflower is a bush species that can grow up to 2m tall on average.
It’s an important pollinator flower and has beautiful sunshine yellow blooms.
Teddy Bear Sunflower
Teddy Bear sunflowers really live up to their name with their fluffy, multi-petalled heads.
They are compact and bushy, which means they are perfect for smaller gardens and container growing.
Total Eclipse Sunflower
Total Eclipse sunflower varieties are another bush-growing species.
They can grow either deep orange petals with almost black centers or cream petals with light yellow centers.
You can also find them in mixed seed packages to provide a little more color interest.
Jade Green Sunflowers
Unlike the sunshine colors of many sunflower species, this branching variety features a lime green surrounded by petals with cream and light green hues.
The moonshine sunflower is for the garden that wants the best of both worlds—the tall towering sunflower and also multiple heads.
Featuring long, thing yellow petals and a dark brown center, this sunflower is a dramatic plant.
This tall annual sunflower can grow up 1m tall and 1.5m wide.
It has a stunning deep brown center that is surrounded by petals ombre petals that are deep orange in the center and blend out to a burst of sunshine yellow.
These are just to name a few.
The fantastic thing about multiple head-growing sunflower species is, not only do they come in a wide variety of colors, but you are getting far more bang for your buck.
What Do You Do When A Sunflower Has Multiple Heads?
If you are growing a sunflower species for a single large head, you can snip off any extra heads it may grow, or you can leave it to nature’s magical ways.
You will need to figure out why your sunflower is growing multiple heads.
If your plant is affected by a pest infestation that is causing unexpected growth, you will need to treat it accordingly.
Infestations, when left too long, can result in the death of your sunflower plant.
Most pest species feed on the sap inside your sunflowers’ foliage, and this can cause the stems and leaves of your plant to wither and die.
Without their leaves, sunflowers will have no means to photosynthesize, which is the main process that causes your sunflower to grow and bloom.
If the cause of your sunflowers’ multiple head growth is due to chemical drift or herbicide residue, it can be a harder problem to correct.
With the herbicide residue, the leftover herbicide in the soil can affect more than just your sunflowers, and you may need to remove the tainted soil and replace it with fresh earth.
If chemical drift from other gardens or fields is occurring unless you can convince your neighbors to halt their chemical use, this issue may continue to arise year after year.
Not only will this affect your sunflowers’ growth but other plants too. If you are growing vegetables or fruits to eat, it could render them unsafe to consume.
Should You Cut Off Sunflower Heads?
It isn’t necessary to cut off your sunflower heads, but it can extend your sunflower’s blooming period.
If you are growing sunflowers to collect their seeds for future planting or to eat, then you want to allow your sunflower head to mature fully.
Cutting them off before they have started to whither will render the sunflower seeds tasteless for eating and completely useless for replanting the following year.
However, if you aren’t growing your sunflowers for either of these reasons, deadheading your sunflowers can new flower shoots to grow.
Meaning that your sunflowers will continue to bloom new flowers until their growth season ends. This is usually once it gets too cold to support healthy growth.
Deadheading your sunflowers can have many benefits, such as encouraging new flower growth, extending the flowering season, allowing the plants’ energy to be directed towards other sunflowers, and to also deter birds or squirrels from foraging for seeds.
Your sunflower growing multiple flower heads can be a little confusing, especially if you’re only expecting a single bloom per stalk, but sometimes this can be a beautiful surprise if no negative causes are at play and should be enjoyed.
Nature is a magical thing, and very rarely does it follow the rules we have created around it.
So enjoy those majestic blooms all summer long and feel lucky if your sunflower has decided to work overtime to produce more heads for your enjoyment.
Hey there – I’m Jesse, a professional florist, and gardening enthusiast. I created MyGardenFlowers to share all that I can about the flowers that I have planted and managed to grow in my garden.