Teddy Bear sunflower

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Teddy Bear sunflowers are just as cute and fluffy as their name implies. But what are Teddy Bear sunflowers, and more importantly, is it worth growing these beauties in your garden?

Teddy Bear sunflowers are multi-branching “fluffy” sunflowers. They are so fluffy don’t even have a center brown disc floret, and they’re also much shorter than most sunflowers. Some sunflowers can grow to be fourteen feet tall, but Teddy Bear sunflowers are a dwarf variety that grow to be 3-5 feet tall in full sun. While they don’t make excellent cut flowers, this variety is perfect for kids and for small space gardens and flower beds. Lastly, these open-pollinated heirloom sunflowers attract beneficial pollinators like bees and butterflies.

Keep reading, and we’ll tell you all the basics of teddy bear sunflower care, why you should have them, how to plant them, and how to grow them.

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Teddy Bear sunflower basics

Teddy Bear sunflower is an American heirloom sunflower variety known for its small stature and fluffy, pom-pom-like flowers. These cheery golden yellow blooms have so many petals that they look like puff-balls! And the plants are small enough for children to enjoy. Due to the fluffy nature of the flowers, they don’t make good cut flowers and fall apart in bouquets. And they are quite easy to grow!

Most sunflowers are on the taller side, but not Teddy Bear sunflowers. They’re on the short side – but still pretty tall when compared to other flowers. They can grow to be around four to five feet tall. This variety of sunflowers is also called “dwarf” sunflowers since they can also grow to be around three feet tall, which is still three times taller than other flowers like tulips.

The diameter of these flowers is usually five inches (around twelve centimeters), which is a little over the size of your fist. These flowers are practically perfect–they’re tall, but not too tall, and they’re big without being absolutely enormous.

Teddy bear sunflowers
Teddy bear sunflowers

They’re bright yellow, and they have so many petals that (instead of having a flat shape like your average sunflower), they are almost completely round. All the tiny, soft petals cluster together, making the flower poof out like a big, fluffy teddy bear–hence the name.

Many people assume that one sunflower seed equals one sunflower, but that isn’t always the case. The Teddy Bear Sunflower doesn’t just sprout one flower. They’re branching sunflowers, meaning that when one stalk shoots up, it can produce more than one flower. In some cases, they can grow up to five flowers on one stalk. So, if you plan on growing teddy bear sunflowers yourself, expect to have at least three to five little fluffy flowers per stalk.

Unfortunately, Teddy Bear sunflowers are not perennials–meaning, they don’t come back again next year from their roots. Teddy Bear Sunflowers are annual flowers. They bloom for one year, die, and don’t grow back on their own. If you want to keep these around every year, you’ll have to plant more yourself every year. That said, sometimes a few seeds fall out of the flower heads and sprout all on their own the next spring.

Teddy bear sunflower seeds

How to plant Teddy Bear sunflowers

Teddy Bear Sunflower variety seeds are usually easy to find in garden centers and online. You can buy them year-round, but they typically ship in the winter or early spring, in time for spring planting.

Sunflowers don’t survive colder temperatures, so when you get the seeds, make sure you plant sunflowers after the last frost of the spring. And since you can’t really know exactly when the last frost is, planting them mid-spring is the best way to avoid that issue.

Teddy Bear fluffy mini sunflower seeds

Introducing Teddy Bear Sunflower, a charming addition to your garden. With bright yellow puffball blossoms on a multi-branching plant, it's perfect as a short hedge or cut flower. Easy for kids to grow, this drought-tolerant sunflower attracts pollinators, blooming until fall.

Before you plant the seeds, it’s a good idea to prepare the well drained soil. You can use store-bought fertilizer or compost on the soil with organic matter consistently for a few weeks before planting seeds. If you do this, then you won’t have to worry about adding fertilizer to the flowers after they’ve sprouted.

You should plant them in mid-spring and make sure to plant more than one sunflower seed in each spot (usually two to four). They also like sunny spots (hence the name sunflower), so plan accordingly. They won’t do nearly as well if planted in the shade.

Each direct seed cluster for one plant should be planted at least eighteen to twenty-four inches apart. If more than one seed sprouts at one spot, you can prune the ones that are smaller or too close to the other plants.

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How to grow Teddy Bear sunflowers

These sunflowers need a lot of water to thrive, especially since they should be planted in direct sunlight. But don’t drench them in water. Try to water them until the soil is nice and moist, but don’t waterlog the soil. Waterlogged soil occurs when there is enough water to fully saturate the dirt, making it look more like a small pond than a damp spot. Sunflowers like Teddy Bear are drought-tolerant, but won’t bloom at their best if they don’t have enough water. As such while they can grow in full sun, it is important to not overheat or dry them out.

These flowers grow fairly quickly as well. They usually flower within eight weeks, and they sprout (germinate) at seven to fourteen days (and usually within a couple days). In order to keep them happy, water them every week.

They usually don’t need fertilizer, so if they look like they’re growing healthy, then you don’t have to add anything extra to keep them going.

Teddy bear sunflower petals
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Reasons to grow Teddy Bear sunflowers

We know teddy bear sunflowers aren’t perennials, but there is an upside to the fact that they’re annual and they only bloom during one season.

Perennial flowers do regrow and bloom again every year, but it takes them much longer to bloom for the first time. A perennial sunflower will take at least two years to bloom for the first time. But Teddy Bear Sunflowers (and other annual sunflowers) bloom in their first (and only) year. So, if you need to have flowers that are blooming ASAP for decoration or a competition, Teddy Bear Sunflowers are a perfect choice.

Teddy Bear Sunflowers also only take eight weeks to start producing flowers. Most flowers take around thirteen weeks to start producing flowers, so Teddy Bear Sunflowers are extra fast in that regard as well. And while they don’t produce a million seeds like other sunflowers, they attract loads of butterflies and bees all summer long.

Teddy bear sunflower

Teddy Bear Sunflowers are open-pollinated heirlooms that are very attractive to pollinators. Bees and butterflies are attracted to the fluffy yellow flowers. Teddy Bear Sunflowers are a great addition to a pollinator garden.

Most sunflowers might be a little bit too big to put into a bouquet. But Teddy Bear Sunflowers are just small enough to fit in one with other flowers. All flowers have meanings, and when you put a sunflower into a bouquet, it represents positivity, strength, adoration, and loyalty.

While not everyone lives in Columbia County, you can still check your local county for fairs. Chances are, they’ll have a sunflower competition of their own that you can easily win with your trusty teddy bear.

Not only that, but their petals are also edible. If you grow these, you can pick off a few petals during the summer to add to any salad for a garnish and a bit of extra flavor.

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Mary Jane Duford
Mary Jane Duford

Mary Jane Duford is a Master Gardener and founder of the gardening website Home for the Harvest. She has been featured by Better Homes & Gardens, Real Simple, Good Housekeeping, Mother Earth News, and the National Garden Bureau. Mary Jane lives with her family in the Okanagan Valley.