Few plants are easier or more gratifying to grow than sunflowers, making these vibrant, fast-growing beauties the perfect choice for anyone who wants to add a splash of color to their backyard or patio.
Small, Medium or Large – It’s Up to You
There’s a huge assortment of sunflower seeds on the market today including fast-growing dwarf varieties that reach about 18″ high and seeds that yield plants measuring over 14′ tall!
If you’re brand new to sunflower growing, consider planting a few different varieties and colors. Today’s sunflowers come in a range of colors including the classic yellow along with oranges, reds, and bi-colored.
Choosing the Perfect Location
One of the things that make sunflowers fascinating to grow is the fact that sunflower buds will literally follow the sun while growing. The brilliant yellow buds turn to track the sun as it moves across the sky daily, and as they reach maturity, sunflowers gradually stop moving, settling in an east-facing position.
It should come as no surprise that true to their name, sunflowers love bright locations where they are exposed to direct sunlight throughout the day. And because they have long tap roots, these plants need a bed that’s about two feet deep and three feet wide.
Preparing Your Soil
Sunflowers thrive in fertile, airy soil that is rich in nutrients and well-drained — that’s why it’s a good idea to mix some high-quality organic compost into your garden beds before planting your seeds. The compost will add essential nutrients that your sunflowers need to thrive while helping with both water management and weed control. Remember to aerate the soil well to make room for the deep root system.
Planting Your Sunflower Seeds
While it’s possible to start your sunflower seeds inside, most experts recommend sowing directly into your garden due to the rapid growth rate and long roots on sunflowers.
If you live in an area that’s susceptible to frost, wait until the soil has warmed up before sowing your sunflowers to improve germination and survival rates. Most varieties will need to be planted about 1″ deep and spaced anywhere from 6″ or more inches apart, depending on the type you’re growing.
Consider staggering your planting over a month or so to enjoy a steady supply of blooms throughout the growing season.
Caring for Sunflower Plants
Once your plants have sprouted, keep the root zone moist but not wet. Once the stalk begins to form, cut back on your watering schedule to once or twice a week to promote the development of a strong root system. Avoid the urge to over-water, as this can lead to fungus, mildew and shallow roots.
Tall sunflowers will need to be staked about 2/3 of the way up the plant, leaving room for the head to move with the sun during development.
Sunflowers are the perfect addition to an indoor bouquet. Simply choose a plant that is just about to fully flower, and be sure to cut the stem early in the morning to prevent premature wilting. When kept in fresh water, sunflowers should last a week or more.
And if you’d like to harvest the seeds for use in your bird feeder, cut off the flower heads at the end of the season, hang them upside down, and shake the seeds out.
As you can see, with the right location, some occasional watering and a dose of quality organic compost, you can enjoy bright, cheery sunflowers in your garden this season!