sunflower meaning

Sunflower Meaning and Symbolism

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As the summer fades into fall, you’re likely to see hundreds of towering sunflowers as you drive out into the country. These beautiful blooms can grow to several feet tall, appearing for just one season before they go to seed. 

Sunflowers are prized for their commercial and ornamental use, but did you know that these gorgeous, prolific growers have some deep symbolism as well? We will tell you everything you need to know about the symbolism of sunflowers in this article. 

What Does Sunflower Mean?

Sunflowers are frequently grown in gardens, and while you may only be familiar with a few varieties, the plant is part of a genus named Helianthus that actually comprises roughly 70 different species. Almost all are native to Central and North America. 

“Sunflower” usually refers to the annual species, Helianthus annuus, named as such because this round flower heads not only look like the sun, but also turn toward the sun. The meaning of the scientific name for the plant is a bit less opaque, with the name coming from the Greek word helios, which means “sun” and “anthos” which means flower. 

What Do Sunflowers Symbolize? 

sunflower symbolism

If you’ve ever grown sunflowers before, you probably already know how well these flowers can boost your spirits! The yellow petals are known as rays since they look just like the rays of the sun. They’re a favorite during the summer months, but they also have some deep symbolism. 

Usually, sunflowers are taken to symbolize loyalty, longevity, and adoration. Most of this symbolic meaning comes from the namesake of the plant, the sun itself. The flowers are unique because they can provide energy in the form of their vibrant colors and their seeds, a common food source both for humans as well as other animals.

Sunflowers are happy flowers, so their joyous symbolism can’t be overlooked.

It’s important to note that sunflowers can be found in other shades besides just a buttery yellow, too. In fact, there are red, orange, purple, and even black-looking sunflowers you can grow! However, all offer the beholder the same happy, complex symbolism. 

What is the Cultural Significance of a Sunflower?

sunflower plant

Sunflowers first were cultivated in Central and North America in around 1,000 B.C., grown as a source of food. The popularity of the flower only spread as exploration to the New World continued, and the flower began to be grown for its beauty and ornamental value in addition to its use as a commercial crop.

The sunflower has been prized in artwork for many centuries, too, often used as a religious symbol in native societies. It is frequently photographed and also appears as a motif in many ancient works. Sunflowers are highly recognized flowers by many cultures. 

What is the Symbolism of a Sunflower Tattoo?

Sunflowers are popular choices for tattoos, particularly because they are so lovely to look at. Sunflowers, of course, represent the sun, and have strong historical ties to ancient cultures. Sunflowers follow the sun with their heads opening to the sun as it comes up.

Therefore, if you choose one of these tattoos, you will be reflecting longevity, warmth, growth, and happiness – making for a tattoo that is not only meaningful, but also beautiful. 

velvet queen sunflower

When Should You Give Someone a Sunflower?

The sunflower is an appropriate choice as a gift for many occasions. More often than not, the sunflower is given to show a desire for longevity and happiness. This summer flower is perfect for any occasion, but is most often given during the summer months, when the bloom is in season. 

Related: Sunflower Types, How to Grow and Care

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