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Top 5 Annuals for the West


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Sunflowers
Vincent van Gogh isn't the only person to be starry-eyed over sunflowers -- they're a popular annual in gardens throughout the West.
Vincent van Gogh isn't the only person to be starry-eyed over sunflowers -- they're a popular annual in gardens throughout the West.

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­The picture perfect Sunflower enters many daydreams of sunny summer days. This strong plant grows up to 15 feet high and blooms in reds, whites and yellows. A favorite in many western states already, it is sure to fit right in with any other type of sun-loving annual.

Throughout the years, sunflower hybrids have hit the market with lots of bright colors, but for giant ­sunflowers that capture the imagination and spark images of sunny summer ­roads and long days,­ the traditional yellow "sun" of the sunflower is your best bet for big blossoms. Known as "seed heads," these giant blossoms host the seeds that will lead to next year's crop. If you have a particularly large and lovely blossoms saving seeds (just like the pros do) might bring back look-a-likes of this flower next year [source: Formiga].

To give your sunflowers the best chance to grow, make sure they get six to eight hours of sun a day. They're called sunflowers for a reason, you know. Plant in a well-drained area, and if you can add some sort of nutrient and fertilizer to the soil, all the better. Sunflowers will use a lot of nutrients throughout the season, so giving them a healthy dose of it at the beginning will be just as beneficial as adding more nutrients later on.

The sunflower has been documented as a source of dye, oil, medicine and food, among other things. When Native Americans wanted a flavored drink, they boiled the hard, outer shell of the seeds (known as hulls) to brew something resembling coffee. Rope and building materials were made from the plant's woody stalks [source: Caster]. You might not be able to build a house from your stalk, but you can certainly enjoying a handful of tasty and nutritious sunflower seeds. ­