According to the Home and Garden Association it is the year of the Sunflower, so we thought we would give you some more key information about this wonderful plant, how to grow it and how to get the best results when caring for it. Sunflowers are a fantastic plant for beginners which makes it a great gardening activity to get the kids involved in.
|Image credit: Flowers-Kid|
The sunflower, or sometimes known as Helianthus (which is Greek for sunflower) originates from North America. It was only adopted in Western Europe in the late 16th century when it was imported by Spanish explorers and made iconic by famous paintings by Van Gogh. Since then it has gone from being a popular ornamental plant in the UK to a useful plant with essential ingredients to our commercial products as well as still being loved for its attractive properties.
Sunflowers typically grow in the Spring through to the Summer so it is best to plant in the Spring time. We would suggest planting in mid April through to the end of May. This will produce a grown plant that is liklely to flower during August.
Firstly, as with any planting, you will need to make sure that the soil where you are growing the sunflower is in the right condition to grow a healthy plant. Of course, if you are using a vegetable bed/ pre made garden then you need not worry about this step. If however you are planting straight into the garden, you will need to clear the area in question of weeds and condition the soil so that it is fine and crumbly. Keep in mind that sunflowers need diect sunlight for 6-8 hours a day, when picking the right place to plant your seeds.
Once the soil is in the right condition for planting it is time to drill holes for the sunflower seeds to be sown, we would recommend between 10-12mm deep. Sunflowers grow best when they are not crowded, so you must plant your seeds about 50cm apart, especially to cater for the low-growing varities which will branch out more. If you are planting very small varieties then you can plant the seeds a little closer together (around 40cm).
|Image Credit: Love the Garden|
Sunflowers are a versatile plant which will thrive in many soil types, so you have a wide choice of soil and compost which will all get the job done. Of course, it will always be best to make sure the soil is as nutrient rich as possible. Once the seeds have been planted they may attract some garden pests and birds may try and eat the seeds. You can prevent this by either using a barrier, some wire or container to cover the seeds.We recommend using a cut bottle top as it is transparent so light can get to it, and there top allows for oxygen to circulate whilst being small enough to prevent intrusion.
Once your sunflowers start to grow to an established height the stem will sometimes need support. It is good practices to use some cane or bamboo alongside the stem with some string lightly tied to the plant to ensure it grows as tall as it can.
You would be surprised by how many things that sunflowers are used for, more specifically the oil that is extracted from sunflowers. The obvious and most common use is sunflower oil which is very popular for cooking, but there are some which you may not have heard of too. For example sunflower oil can be used for fuel for automotive vehicles, as an ingredient in some types of glue and an ingredient in some types of soap.
As well as the oil, the seeds of sunflowers are very popular which can be eaten fresh. They are very popular for bird seeds, which you might want to keep in mind if you are looking to create a good environment for bird wildlife in your garden.
Aside from practical uses, sunflowers make a very attractive house ornament because of it's large sun-like flower, which will brighten up any room and add something special to your home.