Like sun rays peeping their cheery faces from the garden, dwarf sunflowers add a splash of joy to your summer flower garden.
With bright yellow petals and dark brown centers, these versatile flowers can be grown in containers, window boxes and flower beds.
Learn how to grow dwarf sunflowers in this complete guide!
Native to North America, sunflowers (Helianthus annuus) have been used by American Indian tribes for thousands of years. Coveted for their rich seeds, beautiful pigments, and ability to attract pollinators, sunflowers are still popular today.
Read our article about the anatomy of sunflowers here.
Blooming from July through fall, dwarf sunflowers are one of the easiest and most agreeable sun flowers to grow. These small flowers are perfect for cut-flower arrangements.
Unlike their taller counterparts (regular size sunflowers), miniature sunflowers are petite and easy to tuck into small patches of the home garden. They typical grow less than 3 feet tall and won’t cast a shadow on other sun loving flowers. They make wonderful flowers for pots and containers.
And instead of rows of drooping heavy flower heads, dwarf sunflowers provide cute pops of color that make wonderful cut flowers.
Today, we’ll be dishing all about how to care for dwarf sunflowers. These flowers couldn’t be easier to grow, so grab a spade and let’s dig in!
- Scientific Name: Helianthus annuus
- Geographic Origin: North America
- Hardiness: Annual
- Plant Zone: Zones 2-11
- Plant Dimensions: 2-3 ft tall, 24-48 inches wide
- Exposure: Full Sun
- Soil Type: Fertile soil, can also tolerate sandy or loamy soil
- pH: Slightly alkaline
Are dwarf sunflowers perennials?
Dwarf sunflowers are commonly grown as annuals, not perennials.
This means that they will not come back every year on their own, but will need to be planted again each spring.
Anytime you purchase a sunflower or sunflower seed packet and the name has the word Annus in it, the sunflower is an annual. The name will look like this: Helianthus annuus. “Annuus”, means annual in Latin.
How To Grow Dwarf Sunflowers (Care Guide)
Dwarf sunflowers are easy to grow, but you need to give the the right growing conditions in order to thrive. Dwarf varieties can be planted directly into the ground after the last frost date and when soil temperatures have warmed (early spring is often too early!).
Mini sunflowers need a spot with lots of sun (at least 6 hours, but preferably 8). They also need a fertile well-draining soil that is slightly alkaline. Dwarf sunflowers prefer a moderate amount of water throughout the growing season.
Keep reading to learn how to care for and plant these cheery small sunflowers!
Dwarf sunflowers need at least 6-8 hours of direct sunlight. Sunflowers love warmth and need lots of light in order to grow strong root systems and vibrant flowers. Morning sun and late afternoon shade can work, as long as the sunflower gets 6 hours of light.
If sunflowers do not receive enough light, they will grow sickly and weak. The stems of the plant will start to stretch for light, making the plant leggy. And without enough bright sunlight the dwarf sunflower may struggle to produce flower blooms.
When planting outdoors, make sure to sow seeds in a location that receives ample light: at least 6-8 hours.
The best soil for dwarf sunflowers is light and fertile with good drainage. The soil should not be compact, and if a pot is being used drainage holes are a must.
Fertile soil simply means that the soil is full of organic matter that has decayed and added nutrients to the soil. When planting in pots and containers, use a well balanced potting soil such as Miracle Grow.
Do not use regular garden soil when growing dwarf sunflowers in pots and containers: it is too compact and will not drain well.
Well-drained soil will protect the plant from root rot, which can occur when water sits on the roots, creating mold and rot.
While dwarf sunflowers prefer nutrient rich soil, they can also be grown in sandy/loamy soil successfully. It is a good idea to amend soil that is sandy with organic matter. Clay soil can benefit from organic matter and peat moss for drainage.
Watering Dwarf Sunflowers
Dwarf sunflowers need consistent water when they are seedlings. Once established, they develop a deep root zone and need watered less frequently.
Sunflowers have deep root systems featuring a tap root that extends smaller roots into the soil. This makes them fairly drought tolerant. On average, water established sunflowers about once a week.
Follow these watering tips for best results:
- Water seedlings regularly to encourage germination. Use a watering can with a gentle flow to avoid displacing the sunflower seeds
- Once established, water dwarf sunflowers when the top inch of soil is dry. Sticking your finger into the soil is a great way to determine the moisture content.
- During hot weather water more regularly
- In overcast or rainy weather, you can lay off the watering. This includes days that are cloudy but not raining. If the soil appears damp, do not water
- Dwarf sunflowers grown in pots and containers will need more frequent watering as the roots do not have deep access to water, and the soil drains faster
- Always water with a gentle hose at the base of the sunflower plant to prevent damage and deter mold
- Water in the mornings when possible to prevent mold and mildew from forming in the evenings
Dwarf sunflowers do not need a lot of fertilizer, especially when they are being grown in a quality nutrient dense soil.
Give the sunflowers a one time feeding at the beginning of the growing season using a slow release, balanced fertilizer. We recommend using a gentle fertilizer such as Burpee’s Natural Organic Food.
When grown in pots and containers, dwarf sunflowers can benefit from a monthly feeding.
Don’t worry if you don’t have time to fertilize your sunflowers, however. These plants are one of the easiest to grow and as long as they are given a nutrient dense soil they will thrive.
Where To Grow
Sow sunflower seeds in an area that is out of strong winds. Fast, strong wind can knock over dwarf sunflowers in pots and damage the stems and leaves of the sunflower plant.
Make sure that the location is still full of sun: at least 6-8 hours of full sun is important for these little guys.
Learn All About Mini Sunflowers
Dwarf sunflowers grow just a few feet tall and feature vibrant yellow blooms.
Dwarf sunflowers are available in a rainbow of colors including bright to light yellow, orange, and red. Many varieties are the color of a sunset: yellow with orange red fading towards the ends.
Dwarf sunflowers feature a dark brown center disc that can sometimes be yellow or green in color, eventually bursting with sunflower seeds.
These wonderful flowers grow in zones 2-11, making them adaptable to many climates.
Dwarf sunflowers are a sun loving annual, known for being easy to grow and adaptive to containers and beds. They look beautiful grown en masse for an impressive display of cheerfulness and beauty.
Mini suns are available in branching varieties which yield many blooms from one plant, or plants with just one bloom. They are an inexpensive and easy flower to grow in a cottage garden.
How To Plant Dwarf Sunflower Seeds
Dwarf sunflower seeds can be planted when the weather has warmed up and all risk of frost is gone. They can be directly planted into the soil and covered with a half inch of soil.
Planting time will vary based off of your local climate, so be sure to check out your USDA hardiness zone before planting.
The soil temperature needs to be over 55 degrees in order for the sunflower to germinate (in cooler temperatures sunflowers may not germinate, or may rot). Instead of planting a single seed, plant several, then thin to your strongest plant.
Seeds can be sown directly into soil or grown in pots or containers. A seed packet will usually have specific growing instructions on the back, but these general instructions will also work.
Simple steps to planting dwarf sunflower seeds:
- Choose a sunny spot that gets at lest 6 hours of sunlight
- Soak the soil so that it is pre moistened before sowing sunflower seeds, gently rake the soil to create a fine tilth to plant in
- Plant 2-3 sunflower seeds 1/2 inch in well draining soil. Pat down firmly
- Space mass plantings about 12 to 18 inches apart
- Water regularly, keeping soil consistently wet until seeds germinate
- Dwarf sunflowers take approximately 10 days to sprout
- Once seedlings are a few inches tall, thin to your strongest sunflower start by cutting the weak starts (do not pull them out as this can disturb soil from other sunflowers)
- Water young plants regularly until well established
Warning! Cold temperatures and dry soil are two of the most common problems preventing dwarf sunflowers from germinating. Wait until late spring to make sure soil is warm, and keep the seeds consistently moist during the germination period.
If you do not want to plant a direct seed, you can sometimes purchase miniature sunflower starts from garden centers. They are so easy to grow though that most people start them from seeds!
How Long Do Dwarf Sunflowers Take To Grow?
Dwarf sunflowers take about 7-10 days to germinate. So in about a week the sunflower seed should sprout with several green leaves above the soil. Timing is depending on warmth of the soil and how moist the soil is.
It takes about 80 days for the sunflower head to form and bloom.
Notes On Planting Dwarf Sunflowers:
Even if your soil is not nutrient dense, you can try planting sunflowers.
Water your sunflower seeds regularly during the first two weeks, letting the ground dry out in between.
Wait until after heavy spring rains have passed to plant in order to prevent rot. Dwarf sunflowers take 7 to 14 days to germinate, depending on climate and weather.
Dwarf Sunflower Varieties
There are many dwarf sunflower varieties with a wide variety of different height, color and bloom styles. We are sharing a few favorites here… but the best dwarf sunflower variety is one that you love!
A seed packet will usually have specific growing instructions on the back.
Distino mix is the seed to buy if you want lots of color. This non branching variety boasts petals with light yellow, orange, darker yellow and red. They are a petite dwarf sunflower, measuring less than 24 inches high.
With yellow flower petals and dark centers, yellow pygmy sunflowers are a summer classic. They feature bright yellow blooms, and grow to just 18 inches! These minis mimic tall sunflowers perfectly and look beautiful in vases.
Mardi Gras Dwarf Sunflower
Mardi Gras is a colorful variety branching variety that boasts hues of orange, yellow and maroon, and reaches 2 to 3 feet tall with blooms that measure 5 inches in diameter.
Teddy Bear Sunflowers
Growing less than 3 feet tall, Teddy Bear sunflowers boast fuzzy yellow flower heads. Each plant produces lots of unique fluffy round flowers. Purchase Dwarf teddies here.
A few other fun varities of mini sunflowers to check out:
- Elf Sunflowers
- Sunny Smile
- Sundance Kid
- Double Dandy
There are many different sunflower varieties, so take some time to research and experiment. The beautiful thing about gardening is that you can try new flowers each season@
For a longer sunflower growing season, plant early-maturing sunflowers alongside later bloomers. And sew seeds throughout May, June and July for flowers that bloom well into fall.
Grow, experiment, and enjoy!
Did you know? The famous painter Vincent Van Gogh painted 7 pictures of dwarf sunflowers growing in a vase. He made several copies of the vibrant sunflower paintings for friends and family. This is a great book to read with kids on Van Gogh!
Where To Buy
You can purchase dwarf sunflower seeds at local nurseries, box stores, and online from nurseries and through Amazon.
Sometimes dwarf seeds can be a challenge to find locally.
Growing Dwarf Sunflowers In Pots + Containers
Miniature sunflowers are incredibly easy to grow in pots! Just remember that each plant needs about 12-18 inches between other plants to thrive, so space accordingly.
Your container size will need to reflect the variety of dwarf sunflower you are planting. The bigger the variety, the larger a container needed.
Dwarf sunflowers can be the star of a beautiful flower container. Use lobelia, million bells, or calibrachoa to spill over the edges of your pot, then have your dwarf sunflower be the star of the show in the middle!
Blue and purple cascading flowers such as lobelia or petunias look especially lovely paired with miniature sunflowers.
Best Containers For Dwarf Sunflowers
Dwarf sunflowers can be grown in almost any kind of container. Cement, wood, terracotta or plastic pots all work well.
Cement containers last a long time but are often heavy and hard to move. Plastic pots are durable and light weight, making them a popular choice. Wood containers or raised beds can be a good option: cedar lasts a long time before breaking down.
Terracotta is our favorite option for growing dwarf sunflowers. The porous material in terracotta lets water and air in and out of the pot, preventing root rot. These pots are prone to breaking in cold temperatures, so bring them in during winter.
To prevent disease, make sure that all the containers you use have drainage holes drilled in the bottom of the container.
How To Deadhead Sunflowers
Will dwarf sunflowers produce more sunflowers when deadheaded?
Most sunflowers have a set number of flowers and will not produce new blooms when deadheaded. (Not like other flowers such as prolific blooming zinnia).
However, deadheading your sunflowers can encourage the energy of the plant to go into the other blooms on branching varieties, resulting in fuller and healthier blooms.
To deadhead dwarf sunflowers, simply follow the head back to the first set of leaves and remove the flower head with a sharp pair of pruners.
Make sure to use a set of clean, sanitized clippers or scissors when deadheading.
You can also simply let the sunflower head go to seed and then eat them yourself or feed them to the birds!
Do Dwarf Sunflowers Come Back?
Dwarf sunflowers are an annual, meaning that the plant will freeze and die at the end of the season. Before dying, the plant may drop seeds and you may see “volunteer” sunflowers the following year!
But more often than not, seeds will either rot, blow away in the wind, or be eaten.
You can try collecting seeds and replanting the following year, but often seeds will go back to the traditional sunflower. Investing in a few packs of seeds each season is a wise idea.
How To Extend Your Sunflower Harvest
To extend your dwarf sunflower harvest and enjoy blooms all summer long, simply plant additional seeds at two week intervals.
As soon as the ground warms up, plant your first set of dwarf sunflowers. From there, continue to plant seeds every few weeks as space and time allows.
“Ah Sunflower, weary of time… Who countest the steps of the sun; Seeking after that sweet golden clime… Where the traveler journey is done.” – William Blake
Dwarf sunflowers go well with many other flowers and plants! They encourage pollinators, such as bees and butterflies, so be sure to plant some near or in the garden beds.
Yellow and blue compliment each other, so use your dwarf sunflowers to accent delphinium, blue sage, and lavender.
As an annual, dwarf sunflowers do not come back each year. Sometimes their seeds can survive to the following season, but usually harsh frost, animals and wind destroy them.
Dwarf sunflowers are versatile and can be grown in pots, containers, and in the ground. They need full sun and shelter from wind. Give them a sunny spot with well-drained soil and they will be very happy!
Deadhead dwarf sunflowers so that the energy of the plant is put into newer blooms. Most sunflowers have a set number of flowers per season, but deadheading will allow those blooms to thrive.
There are many varieties of dwarf sunflowers and they range in size from 14 to 36 inches tall.
Featuring bright yellow flowers and the ability to grow in small spaces, dwarf variety sunflowers are perfect for flower beds or back patios.
Dwarf sunflowers are an excellent cut flower and can be grown and harvested until early fall. After all danger of frost has passed, you can sew sunflower seeds directly into fertile soil (often in late spring to early summer).
Make sure to give your young plant plenty of water, good soil and water well until established. Once the plant is mature, you need to water just once a week!
We hope you enjoyed this dwarf sunflower guide. We’d love to hear about your favorite variety, feel free to comment below!