Sunflowers are one of the most cheerful flowers you can grow in your garden. Their large blooms and happy yellow color will brighten up any space, and they're surprisingly easy to care for. Whether you're a gardening novice or a seasoned pro, here's everything you need to know about growing sunflowers at home.
Before you start, it's essential to understand a few basics about sunflowers. First, there are two main types of sunflowers: annuals and perennials. Annual sunflowers only last one growing season, while perennials will come back year after year. Both types are easy to grow from seed, but if you want a head start on the season, you can also purchase young plants from a nursery or garden center.
Sunflowers are native to North America and part of the Asteraceae family, including daisies and chrysanthemums. They're annual plants, which means they only live for one growing season. The common name "sunflower" comes from the flower's habit of turning towards the sun as it grows.
The sunflower is best known for its seeds, which are high in protein and oil. In addition, sunflower seeds are a popular snack and can also be used to make sunflower butter. Though they are often considered carefree plants, sunflowers require some maintenance, especially if you want to harvest the seeds. However, with a little effort, you can enjoy these beautiful flowers in your garden for many years to come.
Choosing a Sunflower Variety
Many different sunflowers are available, so choosing the right one for your garden is essential. Below are some of the most popular sunflower varieties:
- American Gold Rush: This variety grows to be about 10 feet tall and produces yellow flowers with a brown center.
- Mammoth Russian: As the name suggests, this is a large sunflower, often reaching heights of 15 feet or more. The flowers are typically light yellow.
- Teddy Bear: This sunflower is a good choice for kids or anyone who wants a smaller plant. It only grows about 3 feet tall and produces yellow flowers with a brown center.
- Sunspot: This variety is unique because it produces orange or red flowers instead of the more typical yellow. It's a compact plant that only grows about 2 feet tall.
- Autumn Beauty: As the name suggests, this sunflower is known for its beautiful fall blooms. The flowers are yellow with a red or brown center, and the plant grows about 6 feet tall.
- Valentine: This sunflower is perfect for anyone who wants to add a touch of romance to their garden. It produces red or pink flowers and only grows about 4 feet tall.
Once you've chosen a sunflower variety, it's time to start growing!
Planting Your Sunflower Seeds
Once you've chosen your variety, it's time to plant your seeds. If you're starting with seedlings from a nursery, plant them in an area with plenty of sunlight and well-drained soil. If you're growing your own seeds, wait until after the last frost date in your area before getting started.
To plant the seeds:
- Create a small hole in the soil with your finger and drop one seed inside.
- Gently cover the seed with soil and water it well.
- Space the holes about 6 inches apart so that the plants have room to grow. If you are starting your sunflowers indoors, fill a pot with sterile potting mix and drop one seed into each pot.
- Gently cover the seed with potting mix and water it well.
- Place the pots near a sunny window and keep them moist until it is time to transplant them outside.
When transplanting seedlings outdoors, be careful not to damage their roots. Gently loosen the soil around the roots before carefully lifting the seedling out of its pot. Place it in a hole at the same depth previously growing and gently firm the soil around it—water well.
Once your sunflowers have been planted, they will need about 1 inch of water per week. Be sure to water them deeply so that the water reaches down to their roots. Avoid getting water on their leaves, as this can encourage fungal diseases.
As your sunflowers grow, you will need to provide support for their stems if they start leaning over from the weight of their blooms. You can do this by staking them with bamboo poles or tying them loosely to a fence or trellis with soft twine or yarn. To encourage more blooms, deadhead spent flowers by cutting them off at the stem just below where the petals meet using sharp shears or scissors.
You can also harvest sunflower seeds from spent blooms to save for planting next year or snacking on! Just wait until the back of the flower head turns brown before cutting it off at its stem. Remove any remaining petals and allow the head to dry completely before storing them in an airtight container in a cool, dark place until next spring.
Brighten Up Your Garden and Home With Sunflowers
Sunflowers are a beautiful and easy-to-grow addition to any garden. Their bright colors and cheery faces are sure to bring a smile to your face every time you see them. So why not give them a try? You might find that they are your new favorite flower!