Everything You Need to Know About Growing Sunflowers
There’s something about the showy yellow blooms of a sunflower that instantly makes us feel happy. With 2021 deemed the “Year of the Sunflower” it’s interesting to consider the symbolic meaning of this large, daisy-like flower.
In some cultures, sunflowers signify positivity, luck, and lasting happiness. Considering the world is slowly healing from the upheaval of a global pandemic, it makes sense why the National Garden Bureau chose such an appropriate symbol. Read on to learn about growing and caring for these serotonin-inducing beauties yourself.
When to Plant Sunflowers
The first order of business is determining when to sow your sunflower seeds during the growing season in your region. Here in southern California, you can plant seeds as early as April or anytime the soil has reached a temperature of 50°F. When choosing where to plant, consider a location that’s protected from the wind and receives plenty of sunlight.
How to Plant Sunflowers
Sow the seeds between 1 and 1 ½ inches deep in the soil and at least 6 inches apart to give them ample room to grow. If you’re growing your sunflowers in rows, be sure to space the rows about 30 inches apart.
Fortunately, sunflowers are not overly fussy about the type of soil they grow in as long as it’s well-draining; however, they will thrive in an organic garden soil with a pH between 6.0 and 7.5. To guarantee a robust and healthy root system, add a slow-release organic granular fertilizer to the soil to yield tremendous growing results. Water your sunflower 3 to 4 inches away from the plant to soak the entire root zone. Once plants are established, water deeply once a week to encourage deep rooting.
How Fast do Sunflowers Grow?
Despite how large sunflowers get, most varieties only take between 85 and 90 days to fully mature. Large growing varieties such as the ‘Skyscraper Sunflower’ grow 12-14 feet tall, with their yellow flower petals reaching 14 inches in length. The popular ‘American Giant’ sunflower grows 15 feet tall, and the face of its sunny yellow blooms span 1 foot wide! However, tall sunflower varieties will require staking to keep upright, especially when their heads become heavily laden with seeds.
If height isn’t what you’re looking for, there are lovely dwarf sunflower varieties as well, such as ‘Little Becka,’ which produces beautiful orange-yellow petals and grows a modest 1-2 feet tall. ‘Little Becka’ is an ideal choice for small gardens and plant containers. Another small growing variety is the ‘Moulin Rouge’ sunflower, which grows to about 4 feet and produces maroon-colored petals known to resist fading in the sun.
Popular Sunflower Varieties
Some of the most popular sunflower varieties are different from the traditional seed-bearing kinds. Varieties like ‘SunBelievable’ and ‘Sunfinity’ are bushy, compact growers that don’t produce seeds, but make up for it with their longer and more abundant bloom cycles.
‘SunBelievable’ features yellow blooms with a reddish tinge around the center. This sunflower blooms from spring to first frost, yielding its small, cheery flowers all season long! You can see as many as 1000 flowers in a single season, making this variety a must-have in your garden.
‘Sunfinity’ is a small, single-stem sunflower that offers vibrant yellow blooms with a dark brown center. This variety grows well in containers and makes excellent long-lasting cut flowers.
If you love sunflowers but don’t have room for traditional varieties, then either of these make excellent choices! They sell out fast though, so pop into our garden center and grab them while you can.
Benefits of Growing Sunflowers
Aside from their evident charm, there are many benefits to growing sunflowers. First and foremost are the seeds; sunflower seeds are delicious and nutritious, being high in protein and a source of Vitamin E. Roasting sunflower seeds for a snack is quick and easy, too! All you need to do is soak the seeds overnight in salted water and then pop them into the oven for 25-30 minutes at 325 degrees. Remove the seeds once they look slightly brown, then toss them in olive oil, sea salt, and any additional spices of your choosing.
Even if you’re not particularly fond of the seeds yourself, birdwatchers will delight in the increased number of birds in the garden as they flock to harvest the treats themselves. Many pollinators love sunflowers as well, so you’re sure to see increased bee and butterfly activity in your garden. Finally, sunflowers bloom all summer and well into the fall, ensuring your garden is filled with bright, cheery color throughout the entire growing season. In fact, their yellow blooms are a must-have addition for all your fall decor! Visit Roger’s Gardens to see all our fall offerings!