How to Grow Sunflowers
Growing Sunflowers in your garden
Sunflowers are hardy annual members of the daisy family that grow primarily in North America. Sunflowers grow large flowers, normally by late summer and autumn.
Since sunflowers grow quickly, they make a fun project for kids also. If you have little ones, you may consider making a sunflower house for their summer enjoyment. Plant the sunflowers in a square formation, leaving a space for a door. Place a rug or mulch down inside as the flooring. Once the plants are reasonably grown, trim out a space for windows. Set a child sized lawn chair inside, and they have a blooming summer playhouse!
Note: you will occasionally hear reference to growing "perennial sunflowers." Those are not the plants that grow the edible sunflower seeds, but instead reference Jerusalem artichokes.
Sunflowers take a lot of space in the garden, but their cheerful blooms are more than worth it. Plus, they're helpful in attracting bees and other pollinating insects to your garden.
Sunflower seeds are good for snacking, for use in bakery, in salads, etc. Sunflowers seeds are processed for their oil, and the seeds are also used in bird and poultry feed.
Note: not all varieties of annual sunflowers produce seeds that are sizeable enough for harvesting.
How to Grow Sunflowers - Climate and Growing Conditions
For growing sunflowers, pick a location in the garden that gets full sunlight. Keep in mind that sunflowers, depending upon the variety you pick, can grow to 10 feet tall. So, select a spot in the garden where they won't shade other sun-loving plants.
How to Grow Sunflowers - Preparing the Garden Soil
Sunflowers are generally tolerant of most soil types. Unless you have an extreme soil type, you should have no need to improve the soil to grow sunflowers.
You can always add a dose of well-rotted manure or compost for good measure.
How to Grow Sunflowers - Planting
Sunflower seeds need warm soil to germinate. Plant sunflower seeds in the ground in late spring or early summer. Plant the seeds 1/2" deep in rows. Keep soil moist (but not soggy).
Once seedlings appear (in about 10 days), thin plants to 2 feet apart.
Note: You can also get an early start by growing sunflower seedlings indoors, a month ahead of your last spring frost. Transplant outside (after hardening the plants),only after the last frost.
How to Grow Sunflowers - Watering
Water regularly so that the soil doesn't dry out excessively.
How to Grow Sunflowers - Fertilizing
Apply a dose of liquid fertilizer (such as compost tea, liquid kelp, fish emulsion, etc.) halfway through the summer.
How to Grow Sunflowers - Challenges
Sunflowers are fairly trouble-free, but you may have trouble with:
- Fungal wilt
- Powdery mildew
How to Grow Sunflowers - Harvesting
Watch for the flower heads to droop and the back of the blooms to yellow. Another indicator is that the yellow covering in the center of the bloom easily rubs off, revealing the seeds beneath.
At this point, you can clip the flower heads from the stalks, and hang in a dry, airy, covered location until they seeds have dried.
Note: You can leave them on the plant until dried, but you may find that the neighboring birds enjoy more of your harvest than you do. Or, consider covering the flowers with netting, to keep the birds at bay.
Note: the advice and information contained herein is based upon our experience and study. As with any advice, please apply at your own discretion.