Even on the coldest winter day, just hearing the word sunflower can conjure up memories of warm summer days and bring a smile to your face, and the Big Smile Sunflower is no exception. Read on to learn more about this dwarf sunflower that will look great in your garden or a container on your patio.
History of Sunflowers
The Big Smile Sunflower is just one of 70 varieties of sunflowers. While the most common color for sunflowers is yellow, they also come in colors like cream, red, orange, and chocolate cherry. They range in size from dwarves like the Big Smile to the Titan that can grow up to 12′ tall.
Native Americans first began growing sunflowers as a crop 4500 years ago. Sunflower seeds were harvested and pressed for oil. The seeds were eaten, and the petals were used in dyes. They even used the dried stalks as building materials.
Sunflowers symbolize loyalty, happiness, and longevity. When Queen Elizabeth passed away in 2022, people left sunflowers outside Windsor Castle to honor the joy and happiness she brought to the people.
The largest sunflower on record was grown in Germany in 2016 and measured 30’1″ tall!
Characteristics of the Big Smile Sunflower
Even though Big is in the name, the Big Smile Sunflower won’t get anywhere near 30′ tall. Your plants will range from 6-20″ tall, making them perfect for container gardens and border planting.
The bright yellow blooms measure about 5″ across and have black centers. A single stalk can produce multiple flowers.
As with other sunflowers, the head of the Big Smile Sunflower is made up of lots of tiny flowers that grow in a spiraling pattern, with each flower producing a seed.
Before blooming, the plant heads follow the sun. They start their day facing east and will track the sun throughout the day, returning back to east-facing early in the morning to begin a new day. After blooming, the plant will continually face east.
Where to Find Plants
Big Smile Sunflowers can be found in cut bouquets or growing in pots at your local flower shop, garden center, or farmer’s market.
How to Grow Big Smile Sunflowers
Like all sunflowers, Big Smile Sunflowers like to be grown in full sun in zones 4-9. They can be direct sown and prefer moist, well-drained soil.
Garden or Border Planting
Because of their size, Big Smile Sunflowers are perfect to plant as a border, or in rows in your garden to be used later in recipes or cut flower arrangements. They’re very easy to grow, making them perfect for your kids to try.
To plant your Big Smile Sunflowers, pick a sunny spot after the last frost and prepare your soil. Plant your seeds 1/2″ deep and 5-6″ apart. To take the guesswork out of planting your Big Smile seeds, and all of your garden seeds, use a walk-behind garden planter.
After planting your seeds, be sure to water them well. To help keep the ground moist, add 2-3″ of mulch around your plants after they reach 3-4″ in height.
For a burst of sunshine on your patio or deck, try planting Big Smile Sunflowers in containers. Because each plant produces up to five flowers, you only need one seed for a 6″ pot. If you’re using a gallon planter, simply add two to three more seeds.
No matter what you use for a container, make sure it has drainage holes. Add soil designed for container gardens, place your seeds in the soil about 1/2″ deep, and keep them watered. They will germinate in 7-14 days, and you’ll be enjoying your Big Smile Sunflowers in about 50 days.
Harvesting Big Smile Sunflowers
You can cut your Big Smile Sunflowers and bring them indoors for use in flower arrangements, or just place a single stem in a vase for a pop of color. For longer-lasting blooms, cut them before the head is fully open. They’ll continue blooming in water.
Dry your Big Smile Sunflower heads to enjoy them even longer. Wait to harvest your flowers until the small flowers in the center start falling off, and you can see the seeds underneath. You can leave them on the stem to dry naturally, but you take a chance of the birds eating all the seeds before you get a chance to harvest them.
When your sunflowers are ready to harvest, gently brush off any remaining center flowers and expose the seeds. Cut the flower, leaving about 2″ of stem attached. Using jute or wire, hang your flower head upside down in a dry space. You’ll have dried sunflower heads for use in crafts in a few weeks.
How to Use These Sunflowers
Every part of a sunflower is edible! If you plan to use your Big Smile Sunflowers in a recipe, be sure to not use any pesticides while growing them.
Petals and leaves can be used in salads, as a colorful garnish, or dried for tea. You can even eat the stalk of a sunflower!
Even though the heads and seeds of a Big Smile Sunflower will be much smaller than other varieties, they are still edible. Try using them as a side dish like these Grilled Sunflower Heads.
Dried Big Smile Sunflowers can be used in flower arrangements to enjoy all year long.
Try making a wreath that can also feed the birds and squirrels in the winter. Hot glue your dried sunflower heads to a wreath form and add a bow. Hang it outside and enjoy watching the feast.
Where to Buy Big Smile Sunflower Seeds
You can buy Big Smile Sunflower seeds with the click of a button and have them delivered right to your mailbox. It doesn’t get much easier than that!
The Big Smile Sunflower: A Ray of Sunshine
As you can see, Big Smile Sunflowers are more than just a summer icon, they are a ray of sunshine for so many reasons. Sunflowers symbolize life, joy, loyalty, and happiness. They’re great for crafts and edible from their petals to their roots. The Big Smile Sunflower is sure to put a smile on anyone’s face. To learn more about this versatile plant, check out our Sunflower Page.
- About the Author
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Melissa Goins is a wife, mom, grandma to three beautiful grandbabies, and a writer for Minneopa Orchards. She is a lifelong resident of Indiana and currently resides on a 15-acre homestead with her family where she enjoys gardening, canning, and running a produce stand that is known for its many varieties of tomatoes.
Growing up, her parents always had a large garden and Saturdays during the summer were spent preserving the harvest. Now, four generations work in the garden and preserve the harvest together.
Melissa loves trying new methods of growing and preservation, and varieties of fruits and vegetables in the garden — which is why she loves writing for Minneopa Orchards. From growing Cherokee Purple tomatoes to the best way to preserve carrots, there’s so much to learn, enjoy, and share while getting dirt under your fingernails.