Rising sunflowers: completely satisfied gigantic flowers

Helianthus annuus is a playful addition to the garden. Growing sunflowers can reach heights of over 12 feet and add biodiversity to your garden by incorporating pollinators and wildlife. I love planting sunflowers in my garden – it's easy to care for and you can take advantage of giant bright yellow flowers!

Historically, sunflowers have been grown by indigenous peoples for generations. Since then, hybridization has produced a variety of sunflowers that vary in size, shape, and colors. Some varieties are small, only a foot tall, while mammoth varieties grow up to 15 feet! This adorable flower not only looks like the sun, it tracks the sun with the subtle movement of the flower head!

This flower inspires many as a symbol of hope, charisma and light. To quote Helen Keller: “Keep your face exposed to the sunshine and you cannot see the shadows. That's what the sunflowers do. "Let's examine how you can grow sunflowers in your garden!

Good products for growing sunflower:

Brief instructions for care

These growing sunflowers are huge show stoppers. Source: Dovima-2010

Common Name (s) Common Sunflower, Kansas Sunflower, Mirasol, Combflower, Golden Flower of Peru, St. Bartholomew's Star
Scientific name Helianthus annuus
Days to harvest 68-180 days
light Full sun, 6-8 hours of sunlight
Water: Low to average, drought tolerant after the seedling stage
ground Rich, well-drained loamy sand soils that grow well in poor, disturbed soils.
fertilizer Low need, use when planting seeds and during the seedling phase
Pests Gray sunflower moth, cut worm, miners, aphids and birds
Diseases Powdery mildew, rust, and other mushroom leaf spots

Everything about sunflowers

Sunflower close-upColorful sunflowers can have multi-colored petals, as seen in this close-up. Source: foxtail_1

The common sunflower, Helianthus annuus, is the state flower of Kansas. It is also known as the Golden Flower of Peru or the Star of St. Bartholomew. This flower is native to North America and grows easily across Canada, the United States, and northern Mexico.

Let's explore the parts of this beautiful plant. The stem is sturdy with broad heart-shaped leaves. They are covered with small coarse hairs. The flowers are 3 to 12 inches in diameter. The center of the flower head is a rich chocolate color surrounded by golden yellow petals. In the head you will find mini flowers or florets. Each of these florets ripens into delicious sunflower seeds. They contain an outer shell that you have to break open to find the nutritious core.

The life cycle of the sunflower from seed to harvest averages 125 days. Once you've planted the seeds, germination will begin. A seedling will emerge within 10-15 days, and the next phase of growth will focus on the development of stems and leaves. A month after planting, the sunflower begins to focus its growth on bud development. The flowering period begins in summer, around 2 months after planting. The flowers focus on pollination, which promotes seed production. In the third month, seed heads should appear. In early fall, the yellow petals will fade, indicating that the sunflower seeds are ripe and ready to be harvested.

The sunflower seeds are highly valued for culinary purposes. The seeds can be eaten raw or roasted, extracted for cooking oil, or even used as a coffee substitute. The sunflower petals were used in salads and can be boiled or baked. The petals are edible and colorful with your dish. You can even cook and eat the whole flower heads! A personal favorite is the sunflower sprouts, which are ready 2 weeks after the seed is planted.

Beyond edible purposes, the sunflower can be extracted for yellow, purple and black coloring agents. The stalks are used as fuel and can feed livestock. Or you can enjoy the cut flower in a vase!

Depending on the strain, you can grow the tall Mammoth Gray Stripe. For colorful dwarf varieties, try the Ring of Fire. Some varieties of sunflower have amusing names like the teddy bear, which appears fluffy and full of yellow petals.

Planting sunflowers

The best time to plant sunflower seeds is in mid-spring, when the threat of frost has passed. The seeds can be planted outdoors, in pots, or indoors in seedling trays. Sunflowers need a lot of light to grow. You want to find a sunny location. The great thing about sunflowers is that they can grow in any well-drained soil.


Sunflower budThe sunflower bud looks almost like an artichoke before opening. Source: Larry Lamsa

Sunflowers are easy to grow and require little maintenance. Let's cover some key growing tips so you can plant sunflowers in the upcoming growing season!

Sun and temperature

Sunflowers thrive in full sun for a minimum of 6 hours. USDA hardiness zones range from 2-11. The ideal soil temperature for planting is 50-60 degrees Fahrenheit, and the optimal growing temperature is between 70-78 degrees Fahrenheit. A sunflower is heat resistant but not as cold tolerant and should be planted at the beginning of the growing season after the last frost date.

Water and moisture

The best time of the day to go to the water is in the morning or in the evening. Frequent watering is required from the sunflower seeds germinating to a height of 2 feet. Focus on the bottom 3-4 inches from the stem.

Since it is a drought tolerant plant, it does not require uniform watering after the roots have formed. The most important time to get your sunflower watered is 20 days before and after it blooms.

To maximize growth, pour deeply with 2-3 gallons of water 1-2 times a week. Check the top inch of the soil around the sunflower and when it is dry it is ready to be watered.

When watering your plants, your focus should be on the root zone, which is 6 to 12 inches from the stem, and provide a gentle source of water. You can use a rose attachment on your watering can, waterer hose, or the sprinkler setting on your hose. Additional humidity is not required. Potted sunflower plants require more water as they are more prone to dehydration.


Sunflowers are incredibly resilient plants and can tolerate most types of soil. The ideal soil conditions are rich, well-drained sandy soils, but these grow in silt, clay, chalk, and poor, depleted soils. Modify the soil with mulch, compost, or an alternative soil type to encourage proper drainage. Sunflowers are tolerant of alkaline and slightly acidic soils with an optimal growth range of pH 6.0-6.8.


Sunflowers need little to no fertilizer. Poor soils can benefit from the application of compost, manure, or a 5-10-10 slow-release granular fertilizer. Apply when sowing the sunflower seeds and weekly during the seedling phase. Pour thoroughly.


Annual sunflowers will not multiply another flower head if it is removed. Pruning is only necessary if you want to cut off diseased leaves or old buds.


Sunflowers only grow from their seeds. Sow the sunflower seeds an inch deep and carefully cover them with soil.

To sow seeds directly in a garden or raised bed, break up compacted soil. Send the seeds and cover. Alternatively, you can dig shallow holes 6 inches apart, put 2-3 seeds in the hole, and cover them. You should water the area gently and keep the soil moist as seedlings emerge.

For seedlings indoors, start 4-6 weeks before the last frost date. Transplant to a larger pot in 3 weeks once the true leaves have developed. About a week after transplanting, if the seedlings are 6 inches tall, you can begin curing the seedlings for 1-2 weeks. To harden the seedlings, place them outdoors in a sunny, sheltered spot every day and bring them back inside at night.

Use well-drained potting soil for potted sunflowers. Smaller varieties can be put in 12-inch pots, while large sunflowers require a large 3 to 5 gallon pot. Be sure to water frequently.

Harvesting and storing

Sunflower flowers in full bloomThe many small flowers in the sunflower head all bloom. Source: fdecomite

Many grow the sunflower in their garden for ornamental purposes because the seeds provide food for the birds. If you are interested in harvesting the seeds, you need to protect your seeds from birds. Let's explore some of the ways you can enjoy your fresh harvest!


By early fall, when the flowers have faded and dried up, the seeds are fully ripened and ready to be harvested. You can cut the single stem 2 inches below the flower. Another option is to harvest the heads when the seeds are partially ripened. Leave about 6 inches of the stem attached to the flower.


When harvesting fully mature sunflowers, you can rub out the seeds with the palm of your hand. The seeds will pop out and you can leave them out to dry before storing them.

Flowers with partially ripened seeds can be wrapped in a paper bag and hung upside down in a well-ventilated place to dry. You can harvest the seeds in a few weeks.

Once your seeds have dried, you can store them in an airtight container in a cool, dark place. Now the seeds are ready to eat or for your garden!


Seeds begin to formSeeds begin to form in this flower. Source: nicksarebi

Some problems can arise when growing sunflowers. This can be a climate problem, e.g. B. Too much water or too little sunlight. Other problems include pests or diseases that stunt your plants from growing. Let's examine some common problems and how to treat them.

Growing problems

Cold temperatures and frost can slow down or damage your sunflowers. If the seedlings started appearing leggy and limp indoors, they may have been planted too early in the season. Provide stable support, e.g. B. a popsicle. Once the weather warms up, move the plants to a sheltered, sunny spot to cure.

Problems with tall stems can occur. When the plant is overwateredThe stems begin to rot and turn brown. Reduce watering and allow the topsoil to dry out. Stems can bend or break from rapid growth or windy conditions. Support the stem with a tall stake to stabilize the plant.

Problems with the flowers can arise from underwatering. not enough sunlight, or too much fertilizer. Wilting flower heads indicate that the plant needs watering. If flower heads do not develop, there may be too much fertilizer or too little sunlight. Try to plant in a sunny spot and water frequently.


Common animals that you can see around sunflowers are Birds and squirrel. To protect your seed crop, you should cover the heads with a net. You can cut off the leaves closest to the flower heads to restrict bird access to the perch.

Insect pests include the gray sunflower moth, Cutworm, Miners, and Aphids. The gray sunflower moths feed on the flowers. You will see small holes in the seeds and possibly a webbing strap over the flowers. Cutworms are about 2 inches long when mature and curl into a C-shape. They occur in the ground and eat the stem of the sunflower underground. Miners eat a tunnel in the leaves and form a small shaky path.

Aphids can be found on your sunflower. They can produce a sticky sap that attracts ants and can spread other diseases. Overfertilizing your plant so that it produces a lot of leaf growth can attract aphids. A quick fix is ​​to gently spray your sunflower with water and brush off the aphids.

If you're like me, you may want to manually exterminate the insects and remove damaged plant parts with garden sanitary tools. If the infestation persists, BT (Bacillus thuringiensis) can be used on sunflower moths, cut worms and miners. Neem oil can slow down egg production by miners and aphids. Plant-based insecticides such as pyrethrins can be used in the case of aggressive infestation by sunflower moths or aphids.

Apply insecticides in the early morning or late evening. This will minimize the harmful effects on helpful pollinators like bees.


The sunflower can be prone to powdery mildew, leaf rust and fungal diseases. mildew occurs in humid conditions and changes the leaf surface. The leaves may turn pale and have mold growing on the underside. Cut off damaged leaves with sanitary garden tools and allow the topsoil to dry out between waterings. If the disease persists, you can use neem oil or a copper fungicide.

Other diseases that can infect your plants are rust and Mushroom leaf spots. This will appear as light yellow or white spots that darken, and rust may contain small bubbles on the underside of the leaf. The plants need adequate air circulation for treatment. Make sure your plants aren't close together and cut off any overcrowded leaves. You need to cut off infected leaves with garden sanitary tools. If the disease is severe, you can use a sulfur-based or copper-based fungicide.

frequently asked Questions

Field of sunflowersCommercial sunflower fields look like a sea of ​​bright colors. Source: Jabberwock

Q: How long does it take for sunflowers to grow?

A: 125 days on average.

Q: Can you grow sunflowers in pots?

A: Yes you can! Smaller varieties will require a 12-inch pot, and larger varieties will require a large 3-5 gallon pot.

Q: Where do sunflowers grow best?

A: Sunflowers can grow virtually anywhere that they have full sunlight. They are a great low maintenance plant and can thrive in poor soils and be neglected.

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