KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Escape city life this holiday weekend and take a trip to a sunflower paradise. The yellow flower emblematic of Kansas typically is at its peak bloom around Labor Day weekend. Some fields got off track due to a difficult weather year with an extra dosage of rain and flooding in spring. A large portion of sunflowers in the Kansas City area will hit peak bloom in September, and some flowers may keep their yellow petals till October.
Fields range from private to public, so make sure to do some research before heading to a farm with a camera. Most public sunflower fields have active Facebook pages. Around the busy season, these pages will have updates about the flowers’ conditions. If you can’t find a Facebook page, look for Google reviews of the field. These will usually give you an indication if it is public, how easy it is to access from the road, and if the field is in good shape.
Learning More about Sunflowers
Before visiting a sunflower patch, there is plenty to learn and appreciate about the native flowers. The Helianthus or sunflower is a genus of plants comprising about 70 species — some are common and others are at risk of extinction. Sunflowers are native to North America and Central America.
The pretty yellow flowers are not recommended for mixed gardens. The flowers grow rapidly and are invasive — it’s best to ask an expert about planting flowers before mixing species in the same yard. Sunflowers can grow up to a height of ten feet (sometimes more) and are primarily found in woodlands, near creeks, and moist, prairie-like areas.
Sunflower fields are found throughout the United States, particularly in North Dakota, South Dakota, Colorado, Nebraska, and Kansas.
Native Americans first domesticated sunflowers in Mexico and in southern parts of the United States. European explorers brought the flowers overseas starting in the 16th century.
The flowers have a unique mechanism that allows them to grow nice and full. Before having any petals, sunflowers tilt slowly during the day to face the sun, and once the flowers bloom, they stop following the sun. This tracking process in young sunflowers is called heliotropism. By the time the sunflowers are mature, they face the east. The rough and hairy stem is branched in the upper part in wild plants, but it is usually without a branch in domesticated flowers.
For those of you wanting to keep sunflowers in the house, it’s important to water the plants within 30 minutes of cutting the stem. A sunflower seals off its stem 30 minutes after it’s cut. Quickly placing the stem into water will allow the flower to keep its yellow petals a few days longer.
Sunflowers in the Age of Social Media
More sunflower fields have opened to the public in recent years thanks to social media pushes to take pictures with the bright-colored plants. The fields have also come into the limelight thanks to a push to conserve and bring awareness to bees, and farms use the flowers as an opportunity to get some foot traffic and sell produce or other items. Kansas sunflower festivals have surged throughout the state over the past few years. Several farms added donation boxes outside their flower fields. The donations help support the farmers who get food on our tables.
Before heading to a sunflower field, check your weather app (download the FOX4kc weather app). Rain or bad weather conditions will likely close the fields off from the public or create an unwanted muddy situation.
- August-September — Sunflower Festival at Kansas Maze
- Late August — Sunflowers bloom near Lindsborg and Coronado Heights
- September — Sunflowers bloom in Buhler and Lawrence
Grinter Sunflower Farm in Lawrence, Kansas is one of the most popular fields in our metro. The huge flowers are worth seeing in person. Admission is free. Visitors can cut some flowers to take home for a dollar a flower. The Sunflower General store has sunflower themed merchandise and local items. The vista makes for the perfect backdrop to a picture. The sunflower photos are appealing for Instagram, Facebook, or even as a dating profile picture.
Sunflowers in Eastern, Kansas usually bloom in late to mid-August and stay into early September. Labor Day weekend is a popular time to go to a field, and some people have made a tradition of going to see the flowers then. However, bad weather earlier this year caused some problems for sunflower production. According to Grinter’s Facebook page, the earliest planted flowers are just starting to develop petals. It should be a couple of days before they open. The weekend after Labor Day and into mid-September might be a better time to view the fields.
For visitors who are okay with seeing less sunflowers but getting the chance to do more activities – Labor Day weekend is still the best time to go. The Sunflower General opens this weekend with Frog Hoppin’s food truck, and Tonganoxie is hosting the Sunflower Stroll and Plein Art Festival. The best place to see the flowers this year will be around the Sunflower General.
Powell Gardens is also a great place to find sunflowers, of both the yellow and red variety. The gardens will soon transform for its fall season — think trees in bright yellows, burnt oranges, auburn reds, and subdued purples along with apples, pumpkins, and squash. There is a cost to get into the gardens, but the grounds are huge and include several stops great for photographers looking to take eye-catching pictures. Powell Gardens includes several waterfalls, bridges, walking trails, fountains, the Marjorie Powell Allen Chapel, fruits and veggies, succulents, flowers, butterflies, bees, and other critters. The botanical gardens features 6,000 varieties of plants, with 225,000 plants in seasonal displays. The garden dates back to 1948.
Another hot spot to see sunflowers is Berry Hill UPick Farm in Berryton, Kansas. It’s a longer drive west out of Kansas City than the Grinter farm. Farmers at Berry Hill plant sunflowers in two different fields. The flowers are usually ready for viewing before schools starts in mid August. On the farm’s Facebook page, there is a post that says this year’s flowers are at peak bloom. One field is in bloom now and the other field will turn bright yellow in a couple of weeks. Flowers at this farm get fairly large. The strawberry farm hopes to add blueberries and blackberries to its services in the near future.
Eleanor’s in Scranton, Kansas boasts 20 acres of sunflowers. Scranton is about a 30 minute drive south of Topeka. Visitors are allowed to come see the flowers from seven in the morning until sunset, when the farm will close the gates. The Sunflower Festival is this weekend from Friday to Monday. A General Store will be filled with local unique items, including refreshments. The festival will include a hay bale maze and other attractions for children. Eleanor’s will also be selling sunflower bird seed at the festival.
Eleanor’s began its operations earlier this year. The Shoup family purchased a neighboring homestead to become part of their existing 5th generation farm. The new farm is a venue space to host events and embrace farm life.
Sunflower Fields near Knoxville and Richmond is easy to access from the road, has plenty of parking, and it has props readily available for photos. The field is free and open to the public. Blooms were at peak from August 13th to the 24th. The hidden gem isn’t very crowded. It’s about an hour drive northeast of Kansas City. Country roads, bright blue sky, and wide open spaces surround the sunflower field.
Gieringers Family Orchard & Berry Farm in Johnson County, Kansas offers a variety of treats alongside spectacular views of sunflowers. The flowers bloomed earlier in August. The farm has seasonal fruits: strawberries in May, blueberries in June, blackberries in June and July, peaches in June and August, sweet corn in August, and pumpkins in September and October. It is a family owned orchard. The last day for peach season is August 31. The farm’s Facebook page is full of charming pictures of peaches at this time.
Johnson Farms Plants and Pumpkins in Belton has a variety of activities for families, especially this fall. The property does include a sunflower field. During the fall season, visitors may pick apples, view the mums, and select a pumpkin or two. The greenhouse is closed during the summer months. The farms rest on 140 acres of land. For those wanting to harvest a pumpkin, the staff suggests bringing a pair of gloves and cutters. As for pets, the farms only allow medically necessary guide dogs with current vaccination records on the premises. The fall season includes some special perks: like a giant tunnel maze, apple cider slushies, and hot sandwiches.
Russell Sunflower Patch in Richmond updates its Facebook page frequently. Blooms hit their peak around August 13th to the 24th this year. Weather this year blessed the farm with some beautiful and healthy looking flowers this season. The field is free and open to the public and isn’t overly crowded. The Facebook page regularly has new videos of the flowers. The field is about a 50 minute drive east of Kansas City.
Sunflower Festival at Kansas Maze
Last year the Kansas Maze at Gaeddert Farms celebrated its 20th season by launching a Sunflower Festival. This year the festival will be held from August 24th to September 14th. Kansas Maze includes 20 acres of sunflowers for viewing and pictures. It’s located in Buhler, Kansas — which is about a 3 hour drive southwest of Kansas City. It’s about 50 miles north of Wichita and 15 miles northeast of Hutchinson. Attending the festival might be more of a weekend adventure than a quick drive.
Admission to the festival costs $7 per person. Visitors may purchase sunflowers singly or in half-dozen or one-dozen bunches.
On Saturday, runners will participate in either the 5k or 1-mile Sunflower Trail Run at Kansas Maze. Register here to enter either race. Weather permitting, runners and joggers will follow dirt trails through the sunflower fields for a bright and nature-filled experience.