Sunflowers are one of the most important annual oil-seed crops in Texas. The cultivated types are descendants of the common, wild sunflower, which is a Texas native.
Sunflowers tolerate cool temperatures and drought, a wide range of soil and climate conditions, even hail, wind and sand abrasion. They also have low water and nutrient requirements, which is all the more reason for growing sunflowers for profit and beautification.
Sunflowers are a good source of food. The plants are high in oleic oil, which is used for cooking. Sunflower meal is a high-quality protein source. Sunflower seeds are a good source of protein and fiber in the diet. And the tuberosus sunflower relative (Jerusalem artichoke) has a potato-like tuber that is edible.
Dwarf sunflowers are quite adaptable for a garden, flowering in later summer and early autumn. The dwarf varieties are much smaller than the plants grown commercially for seed. A quite spectacular combination is the Swamp Sunflower (Helianthus angustifolius), Flora Pleno, and London Gold varieties growing together in a garden.
Jenell Kaminsky, former Smith County Master Gardener
Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service