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The Joker Sunflower: Planting and Growing This Gorgeous Bloom

A flower garden should invoke wonder, joy, and even laughter from people approaching it. Despite a sunflower being called a Joker sunflower, it’s no joke! A pollen-free sunflower with a humorous background is worth growing in your garden!

Keep reading to learn about this cheerful, decorative, and easy-to-grow sunflower!

Joker Sunflower

Characteristics of the Joker Sunflower

The Joker sunflower is an annual, bicolored, and pollen-free sunflower hybrid. It stands around six to eight feet tall with six- to eight-inch blooms.

Its center is light brown, and it sports two rings of spiky petals. The outer petals are red-orange with golden-yellow tips, and the inner petals are yellow and thin, pointing upward. It’s as if the flower starts off dark and becomes brighter as it blooms!

A Flowery Joker’s History

What makes this sunflower a Joker? Don’t worry; Batman’s notorious archnemesis has nothing to do with this.

The Joker sunflower was named after the Harlequinn Joker clowns of Italian theatre tradition from the late 1800s. The sunflower’s contrasting colors and repeating starburst patterns are similar to that of the clowns’ attire, hence its name.

So why is it called a hybrid? It’s one of a variety of male-sterile sunflowers bred by plant hybridizers who were trying to develop new cultivars. The desired trait of the flower was to be pollen-free, making it a popular sought-after variety!

Planting at Home

Growing a Joker sunflower is easy to do whether it’s indoors or outdoors. But because it can grow six to eight feet tall, if you plant it indoors, you’ll have to transport it outdoors.

When to Plant

After the last frost date in spring is when you can plant the sunflower outside. For planting inside, you can start three to four (as late as eight) weeks before the last frost date.

Indoor and Outdoor Planting

When planting indoors, dig a half-inch hole in the soil of a flower pot or biodegradable container. Once the seedling emerges and before the roots are fully developed, you’ll need to transplant it outside.

Sunflower Seedling

If you plant outdoors, plant the seed where it’ll get full sunlight and at the same depth in the soil. Clear any debris and weeds as needed and ensure the soil drains water well before sowing.

Space the seeds four to six inches apart if you want to plant more Joker sunflowers. Rows of seedlings should be two to three feet away. And until the stems reach maturity, place stakes alongside the seedlings for support.


For a sunflower as tall as the Joker, give it about one to two inches of water. This should be done regularly to keep the soil evenly moist, especially if the weather’s hot.

Germination and Growth

Seven to 14 days is how long it takes for the Joker sunflower to germinate. The soil temperature needs to be between 65 and 85 degrees for this to happen. It’ll mature after 60 days, blooming throughout the summer.

The first frost in fall will kill the sunflower. When that happens, remove it to avoid any risks of diseases when you replant it next spring.

Flower Care

A sunflower lives up to its name beautifully if it’s healthy and vigorous as it grows. Here are a few ways you can ensure that for your Joker sunflowers:

Joker Sunflower


Organic matter like compost has a good balance of nutrients for the Joker sunflower. If that’s not available, mulch will do the trick, keeping the soil moist and its temperature even.

Place one to two inches of mulch around the area, but don’t let it touch the stem.


With the Joker sunflower being an annual plant, pruning isn’t really a priority since it only goes through one growing season. But you can still remove dead, discolored leaves to keep the sunflower looking beautiful.

Simply cut off those leaves at the stem until only green leaves remain. If you come across leaves that are partially discolored, trim those parts off.


The stem type of the Joker sunflower is branching, meaning it can produce more than one bloom from one stem. This can be done by pinching the growing tip of the sunflower. You could just plant once and pinch for more blooms!

Pinch off one to two inches of the stem’s tip when it’s 12 to 16 inches tall and before the bloom appears. There also have to be at least four to five leaves on the stem. By doing this, you encourage side stems to grow with additional blooms!

Treating Pests and Diseases

Seed-eating birds, even squirrels, feed on newly planted seeds or germinating seeds. Placing wire cloches over your seed beds or spraying your Joker sunflowers with a hot seed spray should deter those seed-eaters.

Pests like sunflower beetles and moths, cutworms, aphids, and weevils also feed on sunflowers. Dispose of these bugs by weeding to destroy potential shelters, handpicking them, or spraying the flowers with insecticidal soaps.

As for diseases, the Joker sunflower isn’t resistant to the ones that commonly infect sunflowers. These are a couple to name:

  • Powdery mildew: A fungal disease that covers sunflower leaves with mildew and slows down the growth of your sunflower.
  • Leaf blight: A fungal disease that causes sunflower leaves to be blighted with dark brown lesions, defoliating and killing the flower.

To prevent these diseases, ensure the seeds are spaced enough for good air circulation. Should your sunflowers be infected, apply the appropriate fungicides to the sunflowers.

Bouquets and Decorations

Because their blooms are pollen-free, Joker sunflowers make perfect bouquets—by themselves or with other sunflowers. Giving a bouquet to someone out of affection and kindness shouldn’t result in allergic reactions or pollen stains.

Joker Sunflower Bouquet

And if you have a dining table and a flower vase, these sunflowers could be your centerpiece as you eat. Even better, use an empty wine bottle as a vase for a sunflower or two instead!

With sunflowers considered border plants, you could deck your driveway or fence by planting these sunflowers alongside them!

Where to Buy Joker Sunflower Seeds

Online retailers like Hoss Tools are the best places to purchase Joker sunflower seeds. You can also find them at your local brick-and-mortar stores like Walmart and Target.

Bring Joy and Sunshine to Your Garden!

The easy-to-grow bicolored Joker sunflower is just what you need to give your garden a joyful and humorous tone. And with it being pollen-free, it’s easier to enjoy when there’s no pollen to make a mess!

Visit our sunflowers page to learn more about other sunflower species for your home and garden!