Two heads are better than one so the old saying goes, but can a sunflower grow two heads?
I am sure I am not the only person to have seen sunflowers growing with multiple heads, but is this normal?
Is it limited to specific varieties or specific growing conditions?
Why exactly does it happen?
We look at all of that and more here. So let’s get started.
Can A Sunflower Grow Two Heads?
Yes, there are a number of varieties of sunflower that will grow multiple heads and the wild sunflower commonly has up to 20 heads. If you replant the seeds from a single-head sunflower each year it will eventually revert back to the multi-headed variety found in the wild.
Why Does My Sunflower Have Multiple Heads?
Sunflowers can grow single flower heads or multiple flower heads, it all depends on the species, environment and a number of other factors.
But the bottom line is there are a number of varieties that have more than one head.
Reason #1: It is a Wild Sunflower
If you spot a sunflower growing in the wild, the likelihood is it will have multiple heads. Often as many as 20 heads per plant.
Wild sunflowers produce branches from the leaf axils and each of these is usually tipped with heads.
Over time, as sunflowers have been cultivated domestically, they have lost this trait.
However, if you have a sunflower with two heads or more, it could also have originated by cross-pollination from nearby wild sunflowers.
Reason #2: Your Sunflower Has Evolved
Most sunflower seeds you can get are F1 variety and have been bred to have a single bloom.
But that doesn’t mean that you can’t get multi-headed sunflowers from them eventually.
So what happens is, you grow a single bloom sunflower and then when the head turns to seed, you save them and plant them again the following year.
Then you do the same the year after.
Eventually, they will revert back to their native multi-head variety and you will get sunflowers blooming with two heads or even more.
Reason #3: Your Sunflower Has Been Targeted by Pests
If your sunflower suffers some kind of trauma it could lead to it developing a second head.
Sunflowers are a target for pests and vermin, which feed on their seeds and head.
Usually the result is just damage to the sunflower, but sometimes, if the plant survives, it can cause multiple heads to start growing.
Likewise, if you remove a flower head, you are removing the seeds before they have set and the sunflower may grow more in order to reproduce.
Reason #4: You Are Giving Your Sunflower Too Much Fertilizer
An overfeed of fertilizer could lead to your sunflower having excessive nutrients, which it may use to grow multiple heads, giving it a better chance of reproduction.
Reasons #5: It Could Be As A Result of Herbicide Drift
It could be some chemical residue has been leftover from a previous year, or that herbicides have drifted in from outside of your garden or even across your garden.
This can cause flowers to mutate and malform, and lead to the growth of multiple heads on your sunflowers.
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Reason #6: It Could Be Down To the Growing Conditions
Occasionally a series of factors combine to produce optimum growing conditions that give sunflowers enough nutrients to grow more than one head.
Usually, this is a combination of lots of water (verging on the point of excess), very high-quality soil with mycelium, and at least eight hours of sunlight a day.
If everything falls just right, you might see your sunflower flowering multiple heads
Reason #7: Some Varieties Have More Than One Head
As we touched on above when we talked about wild sunflowers, it isn’t as rare as we might think for a sunflower to have more than one head.
There are a number of varieties that grow multiple heads.
Which Sunflower Varieties Have Multiple Heads?
So as we have established there are many varieties of sunflower that can establish multiple heads.
- Irish Eyes Sunflowers
- Wild Sunflowers
- Suntastic Yellow Sunflowers
- Maximillian Prairie Sunflowers
- Alchemy Sunflowers
- King Kong Sunflowers
- Solar Flash Sunflowers
- Choco Sun Sunflowers
So if you have planted a sunflower and are wondering if it will grow another head, then there is every chance it might if it is one of the above varieties…
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Which Sunflower Varieties Have One Head?
Typically the domestic variety of sunflower such as the Russian Mammoth, the Skyscraper and the American Giant have just one head.
Other varieties that typically have one head include:
- Pikes Peaks
- Giant Single
- Mongolian Giant
- Giant Sungold
I say this tentatively though because as we have noted above there are occasions that even single-head sunflowers can grow multiple heads.
What is the Record for Heads on One Sunflower?
Whilst researching this article I stumbled across the news story above about a sunflower with 104 heads.
It tells how Gordon Davis of Gloucestershire in England, grew a sunflower that went on to bloom 104 heads. Something he put down to his secret ingredient of chicken manure.
Now I was pretty impressed by that, and it got me thinking “what is the record number of heads on one sunflower?”.
I mean surely it couldn’t be much more than 104.
Oh yes it could, a lot more.
The Guinness World Record for most heads on one sunflower plant is an incredible 837!
It was grown by Melvin Hemker of St. Charles, Michigan in 2001.
Considering the record prior to that was 61, then 837 will take a lot of beating!
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As you can see, it really isn’t that uncommon for a sunflower to grow two, or even more, heads.
However, that doesn’t mean it isn’t something to cherish with these gorgeous plants.
Wild sunflowers, native to North America, grow numerous heads as do a number of other varieties.
And you can even grow a sunflower with multiple heads from a normal F1 variety of sunflower if you sow the seeds it produces each year.
Eventually, it will revert back to its multi-headed variety.
So if your sunflowers have multiple heads it isn’t that unusual, but if it gets to 838 then you really should think about contacting the Guinness Book of Records!