The most popular flower grown in home gardens, hands down, is the sunflower. From first-timers to experienced gardeners, these bold, easy-to-grow flowers are top choices. There are so many from which to choose.

Sunflowers originated in the Americas, and domestic seeds dating back to 2100 B.C. were found in Mexico, according to the National Garden Bureau. Native Americans grew sunflowers as a crop, and explorers eventually brought the flowers to Europe in the 1500s.

Over the next few centuries, sunflowers became increasingly popular on the European and Asian continent, with Russian farmers growing over two million acres in the early 19th century, most of which was used to manufacture sunflower oil.

Dutch painter Vincent Van Gogh famously painted a world-renowned still-life series of sunflowers, says the bureau. His sunflower paintings are so famous, the Van Gogh museum has teamed up with the breeder of Sunrich sunflowers to create the “Sunrich-Van Gogh’s Favorite” label of sunflowers.

Sunflowers track the sun; the flower heads turn as the sun moves across the sky. This is called heliotropism.

Sunflowers pair well with many vegetable crops, like the “Three Sisters” combination of sunflowers, climbing beans and squash. The tall sunflowers support the climbing beans which help to shade and fix nitrogen in the soil for the squash. Another vegetable-sunflower combo is cucumbers and sunflowers. Again, the climbing cucumbers can climb the sunflower stalks.

I like to pair ‘Van Gogh’ variety sunflowers which have sturdy, thick stalks that top out around five feet tall that support burly full flowers with saffron-yellow petals.

Sunflower types:

Sunflowers can be annual (Helianthus annuus) or perennial (Helianthus maximiliani), but most modern sunflowers are annuals.

Single stem vs branching sunflowers:

Single stem sunflower varieties are best for high-density plantings and produce consistently beautiful flowers on tall stems. Succession planting will be needed for continuous blooms throughout the season.

Pollen vs pollen-free sunflowers:

Sunflowers that produce pollen are a great option for gardeners focused on supporting pollinators or for those looking for a lower price point.

Pollen-free: ‘Moulin Rouge,’ ProCut Series, ‘Sunbuzz,’ Sunrich Series and Vincent Series.

Pollen: ‘Soraya’ (All America Selections Winner), ‘Ring of Fire’ (AAS Winner) and ‘Valentine.’

How to grow and care for sunflowers:

Sunflower seeds can be directly sown after the risk of frost has passed or started indoors. Seeds should be sown one quarter-inch to one half-inch deep and kept moist.

Taller, larger sunflower varieties have a large taproot to keep them rooted and do not do well when they are transplanted so direct sowing of those varieties is recommended. Choose a site, or a container, in full sun, with average fertility and good drainage.

Reasons to grow sunflowers:

To attract girds, grow your own birdseed.

For the table, try pollenless sunflowers are perfect for cheerful bouquets.

For pollinators, sunflowers in the vegetable garden attract a variety of bees and other pollinators.

For architecture/garden interest, tall sunflowers to short ones are garden focal points.

For containers, try short and container variety sunflowers for a different mix.

For good eating, try roasting sunflower seeds like those of ‘Sunzilla,’ ‘Mammoth Grey Stripe’ or ‘Titan.’

This year has been designated by the bureau as the “Year of the Sunflower,” giving you even one more reason to grow these handsome and cheerful flowers.

Lynette L. Walther is the GardenComm Gold medal winner for writing and a five-time recipient of the GardenComm Silver Medal of Achievement, the National Garden Bureau’s Exemplary Journalism Award. She is a member of GardenComm and the National Garden Bureau. Her gardens are in Camden.