A symbol of summer and a favorite of kids, sunflowers can grow to impressive heights or be just knee-high depending on the variety.
Sunlight: Full sun
Maturity: 60-95 days from seed to flower
Height: 2 to 10 feet
Spacing: 4 to 12 inches apart in all directions
Home gardeners are growing sunflowers for their rich colors and large blooms. Easy to plant from seed, they are available in sizes ranging from miniatures at 1 to 2 feet tall — good for edging — to over 10 feet tall with 2 foot diameter blooms.
Sunflowers germinate quickly and are fascinating and rewarding to grow. Best of all, they provide plenty of seeds to harvest at the end of the summer, making them the ideal plant for children. Hardy annual.
Plant sunflowers in full sun and in rich soil on the north side of the garden so they won’t shade other plants (see Springtime Garden Soil Preparation). It is not recommended to plant sunflowers in sandy soil as they need a strong base to support their tall, top-heavy plants.
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How to Plant:
Sunflowers are very easy to direct-seed. Sow after all danger of frost has passed, about 4 to 12 inches apart with 1/2 inch of soil covering them. After seeding outdoors, watch for squirrels and birds – they like to steal the freshly planted seeds to supplement their diet. If starting seeds indoors, use CowPots or pots made of newspaper that can be planted directly into the garden.
Once established and healthy, sunflowers will continue growing easily even if left unattended (watch Flower Gardening from the Ground Up – video). Water to keep the soil slightly moist and provide support when plants begin to get top heavy. Leave mature flower heads on the plants to attract birds to your garden.
Insects and Disease:
Insects and disease are not typically a problem for sunflowers.
Seed Saving Instructions:
Separate sunflowers by 1/2 mile to ensure pure seed. Harvest the heads when they have completely filled out, have lost all of their petals, and the backs begin to turn brown. Allow to dry in a protected area and then shell by hand.