Tall and bright yellow, sunflowers are distinct garden additions, but some lookalikes mimic the flower's appearance. The entire Asteraceae family of flowers is colloquially called the "sunflower family," though sunflowers actually belong to the Helianthus genus of flowers. Common sunflower look-alikes are easy to find and simple to grow, and they make an attractive complement to, or substitute for, garden sunflowers.
Sunflowers are native to North America, and they have been cultivated for thousands of years. Native Americans used the flowers to make flour and oil, and the edible seeds have been eaten for centuries. Sunflowers have thick, central stems covered with a fine fuzz of hair and alternating leaves with serrated edges, but the flowers are largely recognized by their bright yellow blossoms. The blossoms grow very large, up to 1 foot in diameter. The brown flower heads are surrounded by a ring of vivid yellow petals. True to their name, sunflower blossoms turn toward the sun as they grow.
False sunflower (Heliopsis scabra) is tall like sunflower, reaching up to 5 feet in height. The blossoms grow as large as 3 1/2 inches across, appearing at the end of the flowering stems. The golden-yellow petals grow around a dark yellow central disk in a sunflower-like pattern. Flowers bloom in early summer, and have no scent. False sunflower should be grown in full to partial sun, and tolerate a variety of soil types. False sunflower is a wildflower in some parts of the United States, making it a low-maintenance garden plant. The nectar of the flowers attracts butterflies and bees, among other insects.
Coneflowers, particularly yellow coneflowers, look like miniature sunflowers. Yellow coneflower (Echinacea paradoxa) is another US native plant. Like sunflowers, the yellow petals of the blossom grow around a dark brown center disk. Stems grow 2 to 3 feet in height in an erect growth pattern. The petals droop downward, creating the cone-like look that gives the flowers their name. Yellow coneflower grows in the wild throughout the US, commonly along roadsides. The flowers grow in loam, sand and clay soil types. Plant yellow coneflowers in well-drained soil where it receives full sunlight in spring or fall.
Grallah Gold yellow daisies begin blooming in June and continue to flower throughout the summer with small, sunflower-like blooms. Bright yellow flowers grow at the end of erect stems. The central disk of the flower is yellow-green in color, each bwith a 2- to 3-inch-wide blossom. Plant yellow daisies in well-drained soil and full sunlight. The plants are sun-loving and tolerant of dry soils.