How to Grow Sunflowers

sunflower© iStockphoto/Thinkstock

Sunflowers are easy and fun flowers to plant, and they’ll bring bees and songbirds to your garden. Plus, you can later harvest and roast the seeds from the heads, or cut the flowers to create beautiful bouquets for your home. Sunflowers thrive best during long, hot summers. Here are some tips for planting and growing sunflowers.

Decide which variation you’d like to plant

The traditional tall, yellow sunflower is a gorgeous addition to any garden. But you can also find several other colors, from pale yellow to bright orange, or red and maroon. There are single and double blooms, and sunflowers with single and multiple heads. You can get miniature sunflowers that grow to 1 to 2 feet tall, or giant sunflowers that can grow to 15 feet tall.

Consider the size and color of the flowers you choose

Plant large sunflower varieties in rows or in mass planting to create a background for your garden. Plant small varieties in edges and in the foreground of your garden bed.

Pick a sunny spot

Sunflowers need 6 to 8 hours of direct sunlight daily.

Prepare the soil

Dig the soil to a depth of 8 to 12 inches and till thoroughly. Mix in organic matter, then rake the area smooth. Remove any rocks and garden debris.

Plant the seeds properly

In general, you should plant sunflower seeds ½-inch deep. Read the instructions on the seed packets to confirm seed depth and spacing for the variety you are planting. Cover the seeds with soil, tamp them down by hand, and water them thoroughly.

Plus: What to Grow in Small Gardens

Secure them properly

If you have tall sunflowers, place strong garden stakes into the ground next to the plants when they’re young. As the plants grow, use pieces of panty hose to secure them to the stakes so they can stay upright in wind and rain.

Protect them

Since squirrels, deer, and other animals are attracted to sunflower seeds, you may want to put a screen or a tall wire barrier around them. As the seed heads mature and the flowers droop, you can cover each one with white polyspun garden fleece.

Give them some TLC

Water the plants daily until they are 8 to 12 inches tall. Once they are 12 inches, mulch the plants heavily to retain moisture and to prevent future weeding. If you notice mildew on the plants, spray them with a garden fungicide.

Harvest the seeds and flowers

You’ll know the seeds are ready for harvest when the bracts begin to dry. Hang the heads upside down until they’re fully dry in a place that’s safe from birds and critters. If you want to use the flowers in indoor bouquets, cut the main stem early in the morning before its flower bud fully opens to encourage side blooms. Arrange the sunflowers in tall containers and water them daily.

Plus: 4 Weekend Garden Projects Anyone Can Do

Sources: DailyPress.com, eHow.com, The Old Farmer’s Almanac

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