Publication Date


Degree Program

Department of Agriculture

Degree Type

Master of Science


Sunflower, Helianthus annus L., native of North America, is widely grown for oil, bird feed, and human snacks. More recently, sunflower is gaining acceptance as an ornamental potted plant and as a cut flower in the florist industry. The objectives of the present study were: 1. To evaluate diverse cultivars of sunflower for their performance under field and greenhouse conditions. 2. To explore the potential of sunflower in the local florist industry. 3. To exhibit the diversity of sunflower characteristics to the public. In 2004, studies were conducted during the spring and summer in the field and during fall and winter in the greenhouse. Commercial seed catalogs were used to obtain diverse cultivars. In the field study seeds were sown according to the prescribed spacing and depth in a randomized complete block design. Severe soil crusting necessitated replanting. Plants were observed from emergence to maturity for horticultural traits such as days to first leaf emergence, height of the plant, days to bloom, number of heads, and branching characters. When observed performance was compared with the catalog description, similarities were found for flower color and head diameter; however, differences were found for plant height and days to bloom. Aesthetic characteristics were evaluated in the field and in the laboratory as cut flowers. Preliminary results indicated that ornamental sunflower cultivars performed well in Kentucky even in an unusually wet, cool growing season. Inconsistency between catalog descriptions and observed performance indicates the need for growers to test promising varieties on a small scale before making large investments. In the greenhouse study cultivars produced fewer branches and heads compared to their field performance. Some cultivars failed to produce flowers under greenhouse conditions. Sunflower heads were found to be attractive and pleasing to a wide range of individuals. These preliminary results indicate that ornamental sunflower could become a niche crop in Kentucky agriculture. Sunflower as an ornamental crop could be productive and profitable, provided that market infrastructures are developed.


Agriculture | Horticulture | Plant Sciences