From floral facts to plant care hacks, Inspired by Sunshine brings you the freshest in everything flowers and plants. With advice from our internal experts, this series also honors our Flower and Plant of the Year. From sunflowers to the Red Maranta Prayer Plant, we explore the symbolism and history of each, with a behind-the-scenes look at what makes these top picks stand out from the crowd.

2020 has been a difficult year, and many of us are looking forward to a new beginning in 2021. With this long-awaited fresh start, we anticipate health, happiness, and making the most of life’s special moments. Welcome all that positivity and more with the Flower of the Year, the sunflower, and the Plant of the Year, the Red Maranta Prayer Plant. Chosen for their positive symbolism and peaceful nature, both will bring these traits into your home.

Radiate happiness with the sunflower 

Bright, cheery, and standing tall, everybody knows the sunflower! This flower’s name comes from its tendency to reposition itself to face the sun. Its genus, “Helianthus,” is rooted in the Greek words “helios,” meaning “sun” and “anthos,” meaning “flower.” Often topping 12 feet, their yellow heads attract bees, provide food for birds, and their seeds are something both children and adults enjoy, too.

Radiating joy, the sunflower symbolizes optimism of all kinds. “The sunflower most commonly means adoration and loyalty,” said Alfred Palomares, VP of Merchandising at 1-800-FLOWERS.COM, Inc. and Resident Plant Dad. This spirited beauty also represents vitality, creativity, and happiness – something we can always use more of! 

As we look forward to a promising future, there’s no flower like the sunflower to help brighten our days throughout the year.

The sunflower most commonly means adoration and loyalty.

Alfred Palomares

VP of Merchandising and Resident Plant Dad

at 1-800-FLOWERS.COM, Inc.

Say hello to optimism with the Red Maranta Prayer Plant

The Red Maranta Prayer Plant was named for the sixteenth century Italian botanist, Bartolomeo Maranta, and is native to the American tropics. This plant got its nickname because it keeps its leaves flat during the day and folds them up like praying hands at night. 

“Red Maranta Prayer Plants are a powerful reminder of just how far gratitude can go,” said Alfred.

Symbolizing gratitude and respect, the Red Maranta Prater Plant gives us hope for a healthy, successful new year.  

How to keep your sunflowers in tiptop shape

There are two main types of sunflower varieties: the oil seed type, which has small black seeds, and the non-oil type, which has larger seeds and a thicker hull. Both are grown year-round and prefer full sun.

Fortunately, caring for sunflowers is simple. If any bottom leaves are present, remove them, recut the stems, and place them into fresh water.

According to Alfred, you should change the water every two days. “Stem blocking bacteria builds up quickly and an odor will present itself if the water is not changed regularly,” he said. To improve longevity, flower food is recommended.

An ad for a fall flower-arranging workshop at Alice's Table

A well-grown Red Maranta Prayer Plant should have full, six-inch-long leaves.

Alfred Palomares

VP of Merchandising and Resident Plant Dad

at 1-800-FLOWERS.COM, Inc.

Maranta Prayer Plant

Tips for maintaining your Red Maranta Prayer Plant 

Red Maranta Prayer Plants enjoy bright, indirect light, so avoid full sun exposure. They also prefer high humidity, so make sure to mist the foliage frequently, especially during the winter months.  

When watering, use lukewarm water and make sure to water the soil, not the leaves. Water these plants only when the soil is dry to the touch. 

When cared for properly, the Red Maranta Prayer Plant is said to have some of the most strikingly beautiful leaves in the plant kingdom. 

Between the sunflower’s cheeriness and the Red Maranta Prayer Plant’s hopefulness, 2021 is set to be a year of gratitude, delight, and positive change. 

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Nicole DiGiose is a lifestyle writer who serves as an editor and writer for 1-800-Flowers. Previously, she's been published in Electronic Products, EE Times, Chilled Magazine, and local newspapers based in her hometown.

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