How to grow sunflowers
Sunflowers are lots of fun to grow and shout summer at us like no other flower can! They originate from the Americas and it’s perhaps no surprise that the Incas worshipped them as symbols of the sun god. Native Americans have grown and used sunflowers as food, oil, in bread, medical ointments, dyes and body paints for hundreds of years.
Sunflower plants are now known for their oil, seeds and hedonistically summery feel, sunflowers conjure up images of French fields or expensive Dutch art collections. They’re a child gardener’s “must grow” because they are so easy to grow and they yield such spectacular results! Why not have a go at growing Sunflowers, bring some cheeriness to your garden!
CHOOSING YOUR SUNFLOWER AND YOUR POSITION
Did you know that there are approximately 67 different types of sunflowers, which apart from ranging in height, also range in colour from yellows, oranges, reds and even browns. You can grow the flowers in pots and containers so you don’t have to have masses of room if you fancy growing your own this year. The dwarf varieties are as small as a foot and the biggest can be up to 10 feet tall!
So just choose a variety that will fit nicely onto your balcony, into your courtyard or up against the garden wall. The main priority is to make sure that when they get growing, they have plenty of direct sunshine … at least 6 hours a day!
SOWING AND PLANTING SUNFLOWERS
If sowing your plants in pots indoors, use good quality multipurpose compost and push the seed to about 1 cm depth and only one seed per pot. Ideally place them on a windowsill where they will get plenty of sun and make sure when the young plants are a few centimeters tall, every couple of days to give the pot a half-turn, this will stop the plant leaning to one side and keep the stem straight. If you are going to keep your sunflowers in containers, make sure the container is large enough to support a fully grown plant.
If planting straight out, wait until after the last frost although they can tolerate a light frost. Sunflowers aren’t too fussy about soil but the more fertile and rich the better. If you haven’t already, make sure you dig in some good quality compost because they are hungry feeders. Not surprising really with all that growth!
Choose a sheltered site, preferably against a wall or fence for the taller varieties and be prepared to stake and support the heads if necessary. Sow your seeds about 2 to 2 ½ feet apart and don’t push the seeds in too far, no more than 1 cm should suffice.
As they start to grow just make sure you give them plenty of water to go with the sunshine they love, particularly in dry weather or you’ll see that they wilt very quickly.
However, do make sure you don’t over water them either and of course don’t water them at the height of the day, an evening water is best. Look to use water efficiently when possible in the garden.
Also, make sure you keep on the lookout for birds and other pests!
ENJOYING YOUR SUNFLOWERS
As your sunflower grows, you can almost see its head turn to follow the sun’s course throughout the day and this is great fun for the children. That means an ideal position allows your sunflowers to follow the sun from east in the morning to west at sunset. Your flowers should be in full bloom from mid-summer and can go on flowering through to early autumn.
Of course your sunflower blooms will look fabulous either outside in your garden, on your balcony or as part of a cut flower display. You can also use the seeds for cooking or leave the dead flower heads out for the birds at the end of the summer!
DID YOU KNOW?
There are two types of sunflower seeds namely, the black seeds from which margarine and oil comes from and the stripy seeds which are great for eating and cooking with or feeding to the birds.
In 2012, a sunflower grown in Germany reached a grand size of 27 feet (8.23 metres), which broke the Guinness World Record as the tallest ever recorded. We can only guess at what it had been fed on!
As spring and summer approach, why not help us brighten up things for you by posting your photos of sunflowers on our social media sites. Perhaps it’s a field of sunflowers you captured on your holidays last year, a super sunflower grown by your children or grandchildren or just a stunning display that you love. We love sunflowers and we’d love to see yours! Bring on the sunshine.