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Sunflower Leaves: Description, Benefits & Problems

Did you know that the Incas worship Sunflowers as the symbol of the God Sun? Sunflowers are known to have a large flower head or petal ranging from yellow to red.

Besides flowers, Sunflowers own leaves that can be tedious to identify in the seedling stage as they look similar to the leaves of daisies and zinnias. 

Generally, Sunflower leaves are simple, triangular to heart-shaped in outline with serrated margins, and can range from 4 to 12 inches in length having hairs on both surfaces. These leaves are edible and used as a poultice on swellings, sores, spider bites, and snakebites.

There are around 70 varieties of Sunflower, which can grow up to 14 feet in height. 

The Sunflower’s goodwill extends from its roots to the entire body with medicinal benefits like reducing fever and treating snake and spider bites with diuretic and expectorant quality. 

Along with benefits,  there are some problems with the Sunflower leaves, including pests and diseases.

So, if you want to leverage the potential of Sunflower benefits, you need to remove future problems, and this article can be a lifesaver for you!

How Do You Identify Sunflower Leaves?

Sunflower (Helianthus annuus) is one of the best choices for your garden to attract pollinators like hummingbirds and butterflies.

The young Sunflower leaves are oval, smaller in size, with two of the leaves arranged opposite one another. In contrast, the mature leaves have a heart shape to the triangular structure, placed alternately in pairs.  

Shiny leaves of dwarf Sunflower in a pot.
Sunflower’s new leaves are at the base, opposite to one another, while mature at the top with an alternate arrangement.

The information you need to identify the leaves is in the table below. Let us jump into it!

Leaf FactorDescription
Leaf Size 3-12 inches long
Leaf ColorLight green to dark green
Leaf StructureTriangular to heart shaped in mature stage with oval and small leaves at young stage.
Leaf VenationPinnate
Leaf MarginSerrated margin
Leaf ArrangementSpirally arranged with no leaflets
Leaf HairPresent on both sides of the mature leaves along with stems.

What are Sunflower Leaves Good For?

It is no news that Sunflower seeds are harvested for high oleic, mid oleic, and linoleic oil, which is helpful in cooking and other purposes. 

Besides flowers, the Sunflower also owns several benefits in terms of leaves. 

Sunflower leaves are edible, so you can consume them either raw or roasted, or sauteed in salads, but remember that they should be organic and free from insecticides and fertilizers.

Similarly, the leaves are suitable as a snack and for making teas, and many gardeners prefer to have them steamed as spinach. 

According to Brandeis University, leaves of Helianthus annuus are a diuretic, and expectorant, as Sunflower seeds.

They possess astringent properties and help reduce high fevers. Also, leaf poultice can be an antidote to snakebites and insect bites.

Yellow pollens are in t he leaf of the Sunflower.
Sunflower leaves have anti-inflammatory properties helping to treat wounds to a certain extent.

Besides, Sunflower leaves contain Vitamin E and selenium, which act as an antioxidant in fighting against cancer antigens. Also, stringent properties present in the leaves help to treat malaria.

Though pollen of Sunflower may cause allergic reactions, flower tea helps treat lung ailments and malaria.

The Problems of Sunflower Leaves: Causes and Solutions

Proper care is what the Sunflower demands since its germination, to bless us with beautiful blooms and healthy leaves. They love bright sunny days with optimum water.

But in the absence of optimum conditions, they easily get hurt and invite problems.

Common Problems of Sunflower Leaves

Rust, powdery mildew, and verticillium wilt are some of the common problems of the entire Sunflower. But we are here to discuss the issues with the leaves which as served below. 

1. Yellowing of  Sunflower Leaves

You might get confused as the yellowing of leaves occur even when your plant is getting old.

But the Sunflower leaves yellowing is because of overwatering as the roots might not be able to get proper aeration due to stagnant water affecting the intake of nutrients and water to the leaves.

Yellow leaves with holes on the leaf of Sunflower grown in a garden.
Check the moisture stress in the Sunflower to avoid yellow leaves.

If not, the other cause might be Nitrogen deficiency, which might further lead to spots in the leaf.

The cure for the stagnant conditions is to manage the plant’s drainage by adding coco peat, coir, or sand. 

For Nitrogen deficiency, you can treat the Sunflower with a mix of 2 cups of coffee ground into 5 gallons of water and kept overnight. Filter the coffee grounds and spray them directly to the leaves or apply them to the roots.

2. Browning of  Sunflower Leaves

Browning may or may not be a problem only when you know the primary cause behind it.

Sunflower leaves turn brown once they have completed their growing season as they are annuals and are normal. Your only option is to collect their seeds and be ready for the next growing season.

A white pot with the foliage of Sunflower.
Sun scorching can be a significant issue for the Sunflower as they cannot tolerate high heat with dry soil. So try to fulfill the irrigation requirement of the plant.

But if your Sunflower has not yet bloomed, the browning might be due to underwater conditions since lack of water will deprive the plant of the required nutrients.

So fulfill the water requirement of Sunflower, which is 7.1 mm/day during summer, and see the greenish leaves revive.

3. Drooping Leaves

The Sunflower can survive in poor soils with tolerance to heat, but when it comes to the water, the plant cannot ignore it.

Drooping in Sunflower leaves occurs when they suffer from drought conditions and bends limply towards the ground, demanding to water them.

The Sunflower is growing in a garden along with other plants but are weak and bent towards the ground.
The leaves of Sunflower start wilting if not treated on time. Provide water to reach the deep root of the plant.

So remember to water Sunflowers regularly in their growing stage and once in 5-10 days during the dry season.

4. Sunflower Leaves Curling

Curling of leaves is either due to underwatering causing upward curl or overwatering causing downward curl.

However, when curling of leaves occurs with yellow to green discoloration, it indicates infestation by a fungus named Verticillium.

Curled up leaves of Sunflower in a pot
Leaf curling can be either due to overwatering or underwatering. But if not, the Sunflower suffers from a disease and should be treated with fungicide.

To treat the curling, you can check the drainage for overwatering and fulfill the water requirement for underwatering.

As for the Verticillium infection, spray homemade fungicide but firstly experiment with the fungicide over one to two leaves and then only to the entire plant. 

Also, you can remove the affected leaves from the plant and throw them somewhere far as the infection might spread more if fallen over the growing ground.  

5. Black Spots

Black leaf spots occur due to the infestation of soil-borne fungus Alternaria. The affected areas are small and circular, with yellow halos on the border of dots.

Later the infestations spread over to the stems and finally reach the inflorescence, which is ready to affect other plants in the garden if untreated. 

You can treat your Sunflower leaves with fungicide as soon as possible to avoid the infestation of the entire garden, or remove the infected part and bury it somewhere far to stop the spread. 

6. Wrinkled Leaves 

Another problem your Sunflower leaves face is the wrinkling where the leaves appear wavy from the edges.  

Wrinkling significantly occurs when the plant suffers from underwater conditions creating stress on the leaves and affecting the plant’s nutrient intake.

The treatment for wrinkling is no other than providing your plant with enough water, or you might have to deal with curling.

Proven Tips To Prevent Leaves’ Problems

  • You must inspect the soil and let the topsoil dry between the watering.  
  • Though Sunflowers need lots of water frequently to germinate, providing these plants an inch of water per week is enough during the growing season.
  • Ensure that you have invested in a suitable planter with drainage holes from where water can release if there is excess water.  
  • Instead of soggy soil, allow it to have some moisture only. You can check moisture level by inserting two fingers or installing a moisture meter.
  • Rainwater is always suitable for plants, but you can also use distilled and room temperature water. 
  • Also, you can use either bottom-watering or top-watering method. 

What is Eating My Sunflower Leaves?

Sunflower leaves have that herbaceous bitter-sweet taste and are healthy to eat. Surprisingly, the pests also love the taste of leaves. 

You cannot keep an eye on your plant day to night since you have other work to tend to, which is when pests attack your plant. 

The cut in the edges of leaves or unhealthy look of the leaves mainly occurs because cutworms feed on the Sunflower seedlings at night and hide in the soil during the daytime.

The leaves of Sunflower with ants and aphids on the lower surface.
Check the seedling status twice a week for any infestation and once a week during budding.

Not only cutworms, the young seedling easily gets attacked by other garden pests like snails, slugs, and big animals like bunnies.

Let us know more about pests and animals feeding on Sunflower leaves.

Common PestsSigns of Infestation
Cut wormsDroppings of leaves on the ground
Spider MitesTiny black spots on plant leaves
White Flies
Tiny nymphs on the underside of leaves
AphidsSticky residue called “honeydew" on leaves
BeetlesDiscolored or covered in dark droppings of leaves
CaterpillarSkeletonized or mostly consumed leaves
Snails and SlugsLarge, ragged holes are seen on leaves

Treatment and Preventive Measures

Even if the pest has invaded your Sunflower garden, keep your calm as I will be providing some cure that might help eradicate damage.

  • Apply Diatomaceous Earth, a naturally occurring silica, all over the ground soil to dry out the shells of pests.
  • Spray horticultural oil or insecticidal soap to repel them from the pungent smell. 
  • Rearing chickens can also work as a traditional pest control method since they feed on the pests.

Use DIY repellent! To prepare the garlic solution, make puree about two bulbs of Garlic and mix it with half a cup of water. 

  • Mixed cropping with crops like cotton, groundnut, pigeon pea, mint, and eucalyptus helps to control the pests’ attacks on Sunflower leaves. 
  • Neem oil can be a favorable option for treating beetles and aphids.
  • Put on fencing to surround your garden to prevent the entry of deer and groundhogs.
  • Sprinkle chili or pepper to avoid the rabbit invasion.
  • Blood meal or bone meal may help to deter the deers and rabbits.


Sunflowers add aesthetic value to the garden and rooms when used as cut flowers kept in a vase or as a kitchen decoration.

So, don’t let your Sunflower leaves get sick.

If any of the problems mentioned above enter your garden, let this article help you to solve them.

If you want to add another variety of Sunflowers to your home, read Red Sunflowers. 

Enjoy reading and gardening!

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