Updated: Feb 6, 2023
I am sure as kids most of you would have grown sunflowers, usually amongst your friends or siblings to see who gets the biggest or tallest one in a fun, friendly and environmental competition. Sunflowers are easy to grow plants that can easily dwarf most people by growing on average 6 to 10 feet. Here I will go into facts about sunflower, how to grow them, why you should grow them and my experience with growing them. So whether you want an interesting and unique plant to grow, an environment friendly hobby or just a healthy competition, then please read on.
What is a Sunflower?
Sunflowers botanical name is Helianthus, which has nearly 70 species within it, the most common of which is called Helianthus Annuus that is grown for edible oil and seeds. However, for the back garden as you are probably growing them for their enormous size you might want to pick up sunflowers with the names ‘American Giant’ or ‘Skyscraper’. Getting your hands on sunflower seed is easy and you can obtain some at most garden centre and many other stores also sell them in the spring. As I mentioned above there is a variety of different types, so get one that you like the look of.
Reason to grow sunflowers:
There are many reason why you should grow sunflowers but if you need a little inspiration, here are the most common reasons:
Bees – Sunflowers are a hot spot of nectar and pollen, both crucial in helping the bees.
Ease of growing – They are incredibly easy to get them to sprout and grow making you feel like a successful gardener.
Looks – I think everyone agrees that sunflowers look magnificent & spectacular.
Seeds – Sunflower seeds are a healthy tasty snack, very nutritious and many of your local animals and wildlife will eat them too.
Environmental – Alongside all other plants, sunflower help to reduce the carbon dioxide we omit.
Competition – It can be an incredibly fun competition!
How to grow sunflowers?
Here are the key things you need to know to grow your sunflowers:
When should you plant sunflowers? You should always check your sunflower packet but most are often sown mid-April to end of May. However, this can be started earlier in a green house.
How often should you water your sunflower? These are watered more often than other plants. The soil should be constantly moist. In the height of summer they should be watered daily. However, you may be able to get away with less than this if it rains and remains cool.
How long do sunflowers take to sprout? Usually, they will sprout in 7 to 10 days.
When do you plant sunflowers in the ground? You should plant your sunflower when the first true leaves appear (these are the second set of leaves).
How long do sunflowers take to reach maturity? They can reach maturity in 80 to 120 days.
What conditions do sunflowers need? They need to be put in full sun and well-draining soil, which can be Improved through manure and compost to ensure good growth. As mentioned above ensure they are watered regularly.
Here is my sunflower experience!
I decided to plant some sunflower for a bit of healthy competition with my partner and to see how easy it is to grow them (spoiler: It is incredibly easy) by following the key guide above. Here is my timeline from planting the seeds to a whopping 7 foot sunflower.
25th May: I planted the seeds into small pots with a small amount of stones at the bottom to help with drainage and your standard multi-purpose compost.
1st June: In just 7 days they had already begun to Sprout.
17th June: Even though they are small the sunflower true leaves (Second set) had emerged. This meant they could be repotted but I decided to wait until they were slightly bigger and better established.
23rd June: The sunflowers continued to grow at a rapid rate and their true leaves had fully come in. I then re-potted them into individual larger pots.
2nd July: I dug a large trench at the back of my garden, which was in full sun and put the sunflowers in. Whilst digging up the soil I got rid of as many foreign object as I could and mixed in a bit of multi-purpose compose. Although it is recommended to plant them two feet apart I was a little short of this, due to space and only separated them about a foot apart (Don’t worry they still grew). I then staked them in place with bamboo and twine.
20th July: As the sunflower continued to grow and summer fully came in I de-weeded the area and twined higher up the sunflower and bamboo to ensure they would not collapse.
28th July: The spectacular heads of the sunflowers had started to emerge with one completely flowering. I also continued to de-weeded the area to ensure maximum growth.
10th August: All the sunflowers were flowering.
20th August: All the sunflowers had completely flowered and seemed to reach the end of their life. I decided to leave them for another week to let the bees collect the pollen and nectar.
28th August: The beautiful sunflowers lasted for a little bit longer but today I harvested their heads. I picked of the seed and laid them on the bird table for the birds of course. However, I have seen many people just leave out the whole sunflowers heads or pin it to a wall or post for the birds to peck at. Alternatively, you can dry them out to make a snack for yourself.
Overall, as you can see the sunflowers from seed to harvest was around 90 days, which isn’t that long at all. The reasons you should grow sunflowers are to help the environment, because it is a beautiful plant and provides a fun competition. They grow at considerable speed for plants making growing them visually exciting. The benefits to the bees are tremendous and the seeds are an added bonus for a healthy snack or to feed your local birds. I hope my recommendation and method for growing my sunflowers worked for you and you decide to grow a few of your own. Anyway, I would love to see how tall your sunflowers got, so make sure to send me a picture on my social medias with #growthesun or #sunflowercompetition and tag me in it.