<— Back to Flower Varieties
Except for three species in South America, all Helianthus species are native to North America. The common name, “sunflower,” typically refers to the popular annual species Helianthus annuus, the common sunflower
Sunflowers provide a myriad of benefits to every garden.
Growing sunflowers is easy.
Space seeds about 6 inches apart in a shallow trench between 1 and 2 inches deep. In sandy soil, 2 inches deep is better.
Cover and keep watered until seeds sprout in 7 to 10 days.
When first true leaves appear (the second set of leaves); thin plants to about 2 feet apart.
Depending on the variety, sunflowers will mature and develop seeds in 80 to 120 days.
Sow a new row every 2 to 3 weeks to enjoy continuous blooms until the first frost.
For maximum seed production space rows 2 to 3 feet apart. Use traditional, tall, seed-producing varieties such as ‘Mammoth’ or ‘Paul Bunyan Hybrid’, ‘Aztec Gold Hybrid’, or ‘Super Snack Hybrid’.
To grow smaller flowers for bouquets, space plants much closer together?about 6 inches apart in Maine, or as close as 2 inches in dry places like Arizona. Skip fertilizing. The plants will be much smaller, with fewer branches, but the stems will be longer and flower heads a good size for arrangements.
Growing Tips For Sunflowers
Sunflower roots spread widely and can withstand some drought. However, it is best to water them regularly during their most important growth period which is about 20 days before and after flowering. Deep, regular watering helps encourage root growth, which is especially helpful with taller sunflower varieties bearing top-heavy blooms.
Sunflowers do not require fertilizing. However, because they grow vigorously (they can easily grow 6 feet in just 3 months), it’s a good idea to add some slow-acting granular fertilizer to especially poor, thin soil. The better their diet, the larger the flowers. Do not overdo the nitrogen because that will delay flowering. Spreading a 2- or 3-inch mulch layer of some kind of organic material on the soil will reduce moisture loss through evaporation and discourage weeds.
Birds and squirrels can be a problem when seeds ripen and harvest time approaches.
Deer will readily eliminate a sunflower patch. As they favor the new, tender leaves at the top of the plants, a 36-inch chicken wire barrier supported by 6-foot bamboo stakes should keep them at bay. Simply raise the wire as the plants grow.
Sunflower Seed Snack Preparation
Toast the seeds to enhance their flavor. Lightly brown them in a skillet over medium-low heat for about 10 minutes, or on a cookie sheet in the oven at 350 degrees F for about 10 minutes.