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Sunflower Leaves: Description, Benefits & Problems

Sunflower leaves 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.

The Sunflower’s goodwill extends from its roots to the entire body with medicinal benefits but is often targeted by various pests and diseases.

Thus, continue reading to leverage all potential benefits of the Sunflower while ensuring problem-free growth.

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 and smaller, with two leaves arranged opposite one another. But, the mature leaves have a heart shape to the triangular structure, placed alternately in pairs.

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.

Sunflower leaves also own several benefits and are edible, so you can eat them raw or roasted or in salads.

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.

 the Sunflower plant.
Sunflower leaves have anti-inflammatory properties helping to treat the wounds to a certain extent.

Besides, Sunflower leaves contain Vitamin E and selenium, which act as antioxidants in fighting against Cancer antigens.

Also, stringent properties present in the leaves help to treat malaria.

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

The Problems of Sunflower Leaves: Causes and Solutions

Sunflowers is an easy-to-grow and are often heat-tolerant with fast-paced growth.

They love bright sunny days with optimum water. But without optimum conditions, they easily get sick.

Common Problems of Sunflower Leaves

Rust, powdery mildew, and verticillium wilt are common problems of the Sunflower.

But we are here to discuss the issues with the leaves served below.

1. Yellowing of  Sunflower Leaves

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

But often overwatering causes the Sunflower leaves to turn yellow due to improper aeration affecting the leaves’ intake of nutrients.

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

Yellow leaves with holes on the leaf of Sunflower grown in a garden.
Moisture stress in the Sunflower should always be checked in order to avoid yellow leaves.

Other than that, Nitrogen deficiency can also contribute to yellow spot formation in the leaf.

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 on the leaves or apply them to the roots.

2. Browning of  Sunflower Leaves

As Sunflowers are annual plants, it is normal for them to turn brown at the brink of ending the growing season.

In such a situation, your only option is to collect their seeds and be ready for the next growing season.

But if your Sunflower has not yet bloomed, the browning might be due to underwater conditions. Dry soil does not facilitate the proper nutrients necessary for them to thrive.

Thus, aim for a flexible watering routine to keep your Sunflower hydrated. Fetch them with 7.1 mm of water per day in scorching summer.

But that is not the hard and fast rule you should always follow, as watering needs vary with other parameters.

As a general rule of thumb, allow the top inches of soil to dry in between consecutive watering routines.

3. Drooping Leaves

If your Sunflower leaves are drooping, it could be because of drought conditions and becomes limpy.

Although drought-tolerant with a deep root system, they can not survive prolonged severe drought.

The Sunflower is growing in a garden along with other plants but are weak and bent towards the ground.
The leaves of Sunflowers 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 the curling of leaves occurs with yellow to green discoloration, it indicates infestation by a fungus named Verticillium.

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 on one or two leaves as an experiment.

Then only proceed to apply them to the entire plant.

Also, remove the affected leaves and discard them somewhere safe, ensuring they won’t spread more from the ground.

5. Black Spots

Black leaf spots occur due to the infestation of the soil-borne fungus Alternaria.

The affected areas are small and circular, with yellow halos on the border of the dots.

Later the infestations spread over to the stems and finally reach the inflorescence. It can affect other plants in the garden if left untreated.

Treat your infected Sunflower leaves with fungicide as soon as possible to avoid further infestation.

Also, prune off damaged parts using a sterilized pruner and carefully burn them away.

6. Wrinkled Leaves 

Another problem your Sunflower leaves may face is 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

  • Allow the topsoil to become dry in between the watering. 
  • Though Sunflowers need lots of water frequently to germinate, an inch of water per week is enough during the growing season.
  • Use a suitable planter with drainage holes to let out excess water.
  • Keep the soil slightly moist and check the moisture level using a meter.
  • Rainwater is always suitable for plants, but you can also use distilled water. 
  • Also, you can use either the 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.

And it is no surprise that the pests also love the taste of those leaves.

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 eggs and aphids on the lower surface.
Keep checking on the status of the seedling twice a week for any infestation and once a week during budding.

In addition, other garden pests like snails, slugs, and big animals like bunnies can also harm young seedlings.

Here are some of the pests that feast 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

Do not worry if your Sunflower is compromised with different pests.

Here are some treatment and preventive measures to eradicate the damage.

  • Apply Diatomaceous Earth, a naturally occurring silica, all over the ground soil to dry out the shells of pests.
  • Spray horticultural or neem 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 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 peas, Mint, and Eucalyptus helps to control the pests’ attacks on Sunflower leaves. 
  • 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 deer and rabbits.

Wrapping Up…

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

The ultimate hack is to follow ideal humidity and watering habit alongside regular inspection to ensure healthy growth.

All The Best!

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