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Sunflower Symbolism and Meaning

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Marie enjoys growing flowers and vegetables in her small backyard. She has many favorite rose bushes which provide color all summer long.

Spiritual and Symbolic Meanings and Myths behind the Beautiful Flower of the Sun

Sunflower symbolism and meaning is a page devoted to the bold, beautiful and bright plant called the sunflower. This flower appears to worship the sun by always facing it as it moves across the sky.

It has a unique history and origin story behind it as well as spiritual and symbolic meanings which you will soon discover from reading this page.

As well as being a totally gorgeous sight to behold, these big blooms are also highly useful in providing both oil and food. They have a winning combination of providing some amazing benefits to our world as well as a natural beauty.

What a delight these gorgeous yellow, orange and red flowers are to view during the dull and dark winter months. So come take a look at this floral symbolism page to banish those winter blues.

Sunflower symbolism and meaning, mythology, history, origins of the flower of the sun

Sunflower symbolism and meaning, mythology, history, origins of the flower of the sun

What Does Sunflower Mean?

Helianthus Annuus / Flower Family: Asteraceae

The sunflower has a wonderful origin story which stems right back in history all the way from Greek mythology. You can read this Greek origin story just below.

Certainly, if there ever was a flower to be named after the sun, it should be this one for its bright butter yellow petals and the fact that the heads always appear to look at and gaze towards the sun.

Wikipedia has a great page giving you the symbolic meaning of flowers in a handy table format. If you're interested in the language and their symbolic meanings in general, not just this particular plant, then this is a great page resource to start with.

NEXT The Historical Greek Origin Story

Greek myth mythological figures characters statues

Greek myth mythological figures characters statues

Sunflower Greek Mythology and Origin Story

The Story of Clytie and Apollo the Sun God

There are lots of variations on the Greek Myth Origin Story about the Sunflower. This is the Greek Myth of Clytie, also known as Clytia, which supposedly tells how the plant came into existence.

In fact, the original story of Clytie, the water nymph, was not actually about this species at all but about a plant named 'Turnsole.' It seems that more modern tellings of the story have substituted the Turnsole.

Some versions of the story name the heliotrope or a marigold as the flower. Nevertheless, the Greek myth is a charming tale and fits the sunflower so beautifully.

Clytie, the water nymph, was in love with Apollo, the Sun God. She would stare up at Apollo, hoping he would glance her way. But Apollo was in love with someone else and never did favor Clytie with his gaze.

When Clytie realized that Apollo was never going to return her love, she sank into a depression and would not eat or drink for nine days but just stare with sorrow at her unrequited love. The other Gods felt sorry for Clytie and they transformed her into a beautiful sunflower which always followed the path of the sun.

Note: In the 3rd century BC, Apollo became known as and referred to as 'Apollo Helios.'

Which Sunflower Story do you Prefer?

Spread a Little Sunshine Today. Sunflower Gifts Symbolize Happiness and Optimism for a Friend

The Greek origin story of the sunflower as is told here is sad. However, from the lovesick Clytie who pined away, the sadness was transformed into the beautiful butter color flower that is still with us today. Show your positive nature by gifting somflower themed items. Or, even better, give them to someone who really needs a little more sunshine in their life.

Scroll to Continue

Do Sunflowers Really Follow the Sun?

Some flowers are heliotropic which means they follow the sun's movement across the sky from east to the west. This plant does belong to the heliotropic species but it's a myth that it always follows the sun.

It's actually only the buds and leaves of the plant which display this wonderful sun turning behavior. Once a head has flowered or come into bloom, it is no longer heliotropic and stays facing the east where the sun rises every day.

Apparently this whole behavioral pattern is scientific and has much to do with some special stem cells which are just beneath the bud of the sunflower. The leaves of this species are phototropic which means they are merely responding with growth in the direction of a light source.

Next: Symbolism

Sunflowers yellow petal flowers and butterfly

Sunflowers yellow petal flowers and butterfly

Pure Symbolism of the Sunflower Plant

What this Flower is a Symbol Of?

1: Symbol of faith, loyalty and adoration:

The idea that this plant follows the path of the sun all day means that it is seen as a symbol of unbending faith, loyalty and devoted love.

2: Symbol of happiness and optimism:

The bright, blooming yellow, orange and red heads are symbolic of the sun itself which represents warmth, happiness and all things positive. So the flowers are perfect for happy events like weddings, christenings, engagement parties and birthday celebrations.

3: Symbol of longevity:

In China it symbolizes longevity, perhaps because of the enduring nature of the sun. Once cut, they can last for 2-3 weeks so they also make hardy bouquets.

4: Symbol of good luck, ambition and wealth:

In dreams, it is seen as being very lucky and symbolizes good fortune, wealth, opportunity and ambition. It would be a lucky charm for someone starting a new job or career path.

Machu Picchu Incas Peru Temple

Machu Picchu Incas Peru Temple

Sunflower Symbolism in America

A little on the history of the sunflower

The sunflower is indigenous or native to America where its history began. Incan priestesses in Peru during the 16th century were reported to worshiped a giant variety of this plant which was representative of a symbol of the Incan sun god.

The priestesses wore clothes adorned with large flower shaped ornaments made from gold. Images recreating the design were also discovered in temples.

Native Americans used this natural species widely as a food source amongst other things and it was thought to be one of the most important crops. Like the Incan priestesses, the Native Americans worshiped the plant through spiritual ceremonies such as the Sun Dance.

The flower was a symbol of strength and endurance and they would place the seeds on top of graves containing the dead.

Now they are a major oil crop for the US (as well as global) market and also the state flower of Kansas.

1: A Vegetable Cooking Oil

We Choose to Use Sunflower Oil for Cooking and Baking

Vegetable Oil: sunflower oil was first mass produced in Russia. Native Americans used this type of oil before this time. It is now widely used as a healthier version of vegetable cooking oil which has a low saturated, or less of the unhealthy, fat content.

You can use sunflower oil for baking, frying and as a butter or margarine replacement in many cakes and puddings and also as a salad oil. It can also be safely used as a massage oil or for homemade beauty preparations because it is light, non-greasy and good for the skin.

This oil is wonderful to cook with and I really enjoy using it. First up, you know it is a light and healthier alternative to many cooking oils which is better for you and your family.

It doesn't have an overpowering flavor like some oils such as olive oil have so your food doesn't end up tasting of oil. Sunflower oil is extremely versatile and can be used to fry foods like bacon and eggs, make sauces and wonderful light salad dressings.

It can even successfully replace higher fat butter in cakes and many home baked goods. I last used it to make a wonderful courgette cake.

2: Sunflower Seeds for a Healthy Treat to Snack On

Edible Seeds: these can be eaten as part of a very healthy snack, sprinkled on top of salads or used in cakes for an excellent source of vitamin E. You can eat these seeds just as they are or roasted for added flavor. The seeds have many health benefits and are a brilliant addition to your diet.

Try them covered in chocolate for treats which are actually good for you! Not only do chocolate covered sunflower seeds look delicious, they taste divine too and that's why there are so many people addicted to these yummy snacks. You can use these as party favors and you'll often find them at weddings - that's if you can resist eating them first!

3: As Bird Food Seed - The Birds in Our Backyard Enjoy These

White-Breasted Nuthatch Bird Feeding

White-Breasted Nuthatch Bird Feeding

Feed the Birds: Black-Oil Sunflower Seed, Hulled Seed or Striped Seed varieties are all types of bird seed which you can use. Out of these seeds, the Black-Oil Sunflower Seed is the premium one which can help to attract more varieties of birds into your garden. These have softer and thinner shells which the birds can open more easily to extract the goodness within. Our backyard birds enjoy them.

We love to feed our backyard birds with some healthy and natural treats. As well as the hanging bird feeders from our homemade wooden stations, we also like to use trays full of seed and I'll often cut up over-ripe fruit that we no longer want and stuff them with sunflower seeds.

Try this with pieces of pear, apple, plums and cherries - but do make sure you remove the stones. One tray goes on a bird table and the other on the floor to suit birds who prefer to feed at height and those who are ground feeders.

4: Just as They Are - Blooming Beautiful!

As Garden Plants: these make for a very bold and striking bouquet. Not just yellow, you can now buy them with orange and red petals. The combination of all these colors is just stunning.

Beautiful as a simple and unfussy wedding bouquet or as celebratory flowers which instantly cheer any home. Sadly I'm not very good at growing plants but last year we managed to get some of these flowers in bloom.

5: Natural Dyes and Colors

As Natural Dyes: sunflower petals can make natural dyes which range in color from yellow to orange or a light tan. The seeds can also be used for natural dye, particularly the Hopi dye variety which can produce grey to dark purple shades.

Sunflowers Help Towards a Nuclear Free World

One of the sunflower's most important symbolic meanings is that of a nuclear-free world. It was selected in 1996 to represent a world free of nuclear weapons. Seeds were scattered and new varieties of this flower were planted at this time on an old Ukrainian missile base by the Defense Ministers of the USA, Russia, and Ukraine. A symbol of peace and hope for the future. I hope you've enjoyed reading my article today, thanks for your visit. If you enjoyed this, do share it along too.

© 2011 Marie

Your Comments

PattiJAdkins on April 01, 2014:

This is a great lens. Very interesting and lovely :

Marie (author) on February 19, 2014:

@GG2Four: That sounds really beautiful - thank you so much for sharing. How gorgeous to have your own special sunflower garden that you've created.

GG2Four on February 17, 2014:

Searched for the meaning of Sunflowers. Found your site. My family has a friend who is in hospice, while praying for Gorman I had a vision /thought of a Sunflower. The meaning fits this dear, sweet man to a "T". My kitchen (very small & no window) is decorated in Sunflowers. Potholders, oven mitt ,dishtowels,etc.What started my theme was a friend gave me a sugar, creamer, serving bowl & platter in sunflowers. Above my sink I have an old window I turned sideways. Covered posterboard that I cut to fit the window frame and covered it with a sunflower material. Now I look at my Sunflower Garden when I'm in my kitchen an can view it at different angles in my apartment. Thank you for the info I received.

anonymous on July 24, 2013:

I am from Kansas, but am now in Corpus Christi Texas. I was actually looking for decorating ideas for a futon set up and I thought that a large sunflower art on the west wall would be nice. To contrast the black would almost be like a Respect and thanks to you for helping me to associate this flower with my faith, wicca, Egyptian. Now I feel more found than lost!!!

Marie (author) on July 18, 2013:

@DrBillSmithWriter: That is interesting. I come from England so I wouldn't be able to watch that but it sounds good. Thank you so much for your visit.

Marie (author) on July 18, 2013:

@mrdata: So do I - such a happy plant. Thank you.

Marie (author) on July 18, 2013:

@Lorelei Cohen: Thanks, Lorelei :) That is really funny. I don't know where I am with Google but I'm glad you found me ha ha.

Lorelei Cohen on July 18, 2013:

Hey sweetie, you are number 6 on the first page of Google. I was just searching for sunflowers and who should I stumble upon but you. Have a wonderful summer.

MarieWilliamsJohnstone on May 24, 2013:

@MJ Martin: Thank you, they truly are very inspirational.

mrdata on April 30, 2013:

Very meaningful lens! Thanks! I love Sunflowers :)

William Leverne Smith from Hollister, MO on April 29, 2013:

Sunflowers have special meaning in the State of Kansas... Sunflower Journeys is the local PBS series all about Kansas... ;-) SquidAngel blessed, as well. ;-)

MJ Martin aka Ruby H Rose from Washington State on February 21, 2013:

I can't wait to share this with my sister, she absolutely adores sunflowers, now I know some reasons why. What a mighty flower full of such wonderful uses, this is a great lens about them.

MarieWilliamsJohnstone on February 13, 2013:

@anonymous: Thank you, Kim. What a brilliant comment. The sunflower is obviously one that truly resonates with you - it must be your special flower. I hope your sunflowers grow nice and tall, they will give you much happiness every time you look at them anyway. Thanks for your visit all the way from Australia :)

anonymous on February 12, 2013:


I could not understand that all of a a sudden the sunflower has entered my life, Every time I watch a program the sunflower shows up. I have become fascinated and the information you have supplied to all who reads is wonderful.

I have just planted two varieties large stem and short stem Yellow sun flowers.

Thank you once again.


askformore lm on January 28, 2013:

Thank you for a sunny lens!

MarieWilliamsJohnstone on October 11, 2012:

@DebMartin: Thank you, Deb :)

DebMartin on September 26, 2012:

What a nice tribute to the sunflower.

anonymous on September 19, 2012:

really informative

Evelyn from Pennsylvania on August 15, 2012:

Love this lens. I enjoyed reading about all the symbolism and meanings.

Marie (author) on July 06, 2012:

@pg maniac: Thank you for visiting my Sunflower page, so glad you liked it :)

pg maniac on July 06, 2012:

I really had no idea that sunflowers have such meanings - thanks you for a lovely read!

Marie (author) on June 20, 2012:

@wecomparebooks: Me too, they are great plants :)

wecomparebooks on June 12, 2012:

I love sunflowers! :ooling at one always gives me a smile

Marie (author) on November 25, 2011:

@yourselfempowered: Thank you so much for your visit and your blessing! That makes me very happy :)

Odille Rault from Gloucester on November 24, 2011:

What a gorgeous lens! I love sunflowers, and you've certainly done them justice! Blessed. :)

Marie (author) on November 21, 2011:

@Lady Lorelei: Thank you Ladymermaid, what a really wonderful comment to leave. I think when we really love something, it does show through with the writing.

Lorelei Cohen from Canada on November 20, 2011:

What a truly amazing tribute to the beautiful sunflower. You have included everything that one might possibly desire to know about the lovely sunflower...great article. Have a wonderful day.

Marie (author) on October 31, 2011:

@peppervel: It makes me happy to know that my Sunflower page was helpful. Thank you so much for stopping by.

Marie (author) on October 31, 2011:

@hysongdesigns: Thank you very much Mary, I really appreciate your visit especially as you love sunflowers so much as well.

peppervel on October 16, 2011:

Learnt so much about sunflower after reading your lens. Am always been fascinated by it's beauty. Thanks for sharing your lens.

hysongdesigns on September 24, 2011:

what fun, a few facts I didn't know about sunflowers. Seems it is that time of year, I just finished a lens about sunflower décor for you home and garden!

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