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Recommendations for Maintaining Postharvest Quality

Michael S. Reid

Department of Plant Sciences, University of California, Davis

Maturity & Quality


Helianthus annuus. In recent years, smaller cultivars of sunflower have become a very popular florist item, and a range of forms and colors are now widely available in the trade. Helianthus is derived from the Greek ‘helios’, the sun, and ‘anthos’, a flower.

Quality Indices

Sunflowers are normally harvested when the ‘petals’ (the outer flowers or ligules) have unfolded and are at least vertical. For local market, flowers are harvested with the ligules fully expanded and horizontal. No yellow or wilted leaves should be present. Length of life often is determined more by leaf yellowing or desiccation than by flower problems.

Grading and Bunching

Quality sunflowers are of uniform maturity, are free from defects, have straight stems, and have good quality foliage. Smaller-flowered cultivars may be bunched in 10’s or 12’s, and large-flowered types are normally packed individually.

Ethylene Sensitivity

Prolonged exposure of sunflowers to low concentrations of ethylene results in abscission of ligules.


The tendency for sunflowers to wilt prematurely in the vase can be avoided by pre-treating the flowers (15 to 30 minutes) with clean water containing 0.02% detergent (Tween-20, Triton X-100, dishwashing detergent).

Storage Conditions

Sunflowers can safely be stored at 0-1ºC. Packing Sunflowers are normally packed in standard horizontal flower boxes.

Special Considerations

Sunflowers are also somewhat sensitive to gravity. If held horizontal at warmer temperatures the flower heads will be permanently bent down, so it is important to maintain cool temperatures during transport and storage.


October 2004

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Except for these specified uses, no part of the textual materials available on the UC Postharvest Technology Center Web site may be copied, downloaded, stored in a retrieval system, further transmitted or otherwise reproduced, stored, disseminated, transferred or used, in any form or by any means, except as permitted herein or with the University of California's prior written agreement. Request permission from UC Postharvest Technology Center. Distribution for commercial purposes is prohibited.

The information in this fact sheet represents our best understanding of the current state of knowledge at the time of the latest update, and does not represent an exhaustive review of all research results. Links to any of these UC Postharvest Technology Center pages are permitted, but no endorsement of the linking site or products mentioned in the linking page is intended or implied by such a link.

How to Cite

Author(s) names. Initial publication or update date (located at the top). Title. Link to the specific Produce Fact Sheet webpage (Accessed date)

Example: Cantwell, M. and T. Suslow. 2002. Lettuce, Crisphead: Recommendations for Maintaining Postharvest Quality. (Accessed January 18, 2014).

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