There are few flowers more striking than the sunflower.
Big and bold, they evoke the blaze of a mid-summer’s day like nothing else.
They are relatively easy to grow and the result is a stunning garden feature that attracts butterflies and birds.
Here is the ultimate guide to the giant beauties to help budding gardeners grow their own.
- Sunflowers prefer to grow in direct sunlight, and need loose, well-draining soil of good quality. A spot that is sheltered from strong winds is also ideal
- If you’re planting from seed, it’s best to get going after the danger of spring frost has passed
- When temperatures are thoroughly warmer, around mid-April to May, plant the seeds no more than an inch deep directly into the soil and roughly six inches apart
- Stagger plantings over a few weeks so you can enjoy continuous flowering during summer
- Place some fertilizer around planting time to encourage strong root growth and prevent blowing over in the early stages
- You may need to put netting over the area until seedlings appear to stop birds pecking at your seeds
While they’re growing
- When the little plants are established, water infrequently but generously – once a week with several gallons of water
- Fertilise sparingly and don’t get the fertiliser near the stem
- You may need to use bamboo sticks to support taller varieties as they grow to prevent bending or breaking
- If you decide you want to take the impressive flower heads indoors to enjoy, cut them early in the morning to avoid wilting
- Cuttings should last a week in a vase that is replaced with fresh water every day
- The yellow-brown centre of sunflower heads will ripen into masses of black seeds
- These can be used to make cooking oil, margarine, animal feeds and even some cosmetics
- Larger, striped seeds are harvested for snacks or used in bread and health foods
- They are a popular choice for birdseed too so you can always recycle for that purpose
- The ‘Mammoth’ is the traditional giant sunflower that towers up to 15 feet tall
- ‘Autumn Beauty’ has multiple 6-inch flowers in shades of yellow, bronze, and mahogany on stems that branch out and reach up to 7 feet tall
- The adorable ‘Teddy Bear’ variety grows only 2 to 3 feet tall, making it perfect for smaller gardens or containers. The heads are beautifully full and frilly