Imagine yourself immersed in a field of beautiful yellow sunflowers. Besides their sheer beauty, sunflowers have many practical uses. They can be used as amazing gifts: you can put them in flower bouquets, harvest their tasty sunflower seeds as part of your afternoon snack, and they are perfect for attracting pollinators for your other plants. This article provides you the essential tips to help you grow your very own sunflowers.
Pick Your Sunflower
There are various sunflowers available for you to grow. Some of the more popular ones are as follows:
- Giant Sungold
- Strawberry Blonde
- Mammoth Russian
- Italian White
- Moulin Rouge
Preparations for Growing Sunflowers
Growing sunflowers require a bit of preparation to ensure it starts out on the right foot. As implied from its name, sunflowers do require lots of direct sunlight. You should aim for around six to eight hours of direct light to your sunflowers daily.
Having the correct soil conditions is also another important factor for your plants. Make sure to loosen the soil at an area of two by three feet to allow the roots to spread out. Choose decayed organic materials or chemical fertilizer and mix it at a minimum of eight inches deep in the soil. It is also a good idea to plant your sunflowers beside a large structure or near a fence line so they have wind protection. The soil temperature should be around 50 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit.
Directly sow your sunflower seeds six inches apart and 30 inches between each row. Make sure you only plant the seeds one inch deep. You should sow it once the last frost is over. Once you’ve planted your seeds, put in fertilizer to strengthen your roots. This is crucial to strengthen your roots to prevent your sunflowers from being knocked over.
For dwarf varieties, you can consider planting the sunflowers in pots. Remember to add a sufficient amount of fertilizer and keep the soil well-drained and loose.
Sometimes, birds and squirrels may steal your sunflower seeds. If they become a problem, buy some netting to shield your sunflower seeds until they sprout.
If you wish to make use of the opportunity to have continuous growth, plant more sunflower seeds every week after the final frost. Try to spread out the timing of your plantings such that when one set of plants is done, it will just be in time for the next set of plants to show its stuff.
Caring Goes A Long Way
Besides the initial preparation, you will also need to regularly care for your plants so that you can ensure maximum growth.
Firstly, stake the taller sunflowers to prevent the stems from collapsing. When the plant has grown half its height, anchor a sturdy stake into the soil and attach it to the stem of your sunflower using some bailing twine. Don’t worry too much about your choice of stake as simple bamboo sticks can easily fulfill its purpose.
Like any other plant, sunflowers need water. Depending on their growth stage, the amount of water required may differ. When your sunflowers are relatively young, water the roots in a four-inch circumference when the surrounding soil around the plant is dry. Avoid overwatering the soil when it is damp. As your sunflowers mature and begin to hold on their own, water about three to four gallons weekly unless the environment is unusually humid or dry. In that case, adjust your watering to suit the weather.
Thirdly, fertilize your sunflowers in moderation. Most of the fertilization work was done prior to sowing your seeds. You will still need to fertilize your sunflowers one or two times monthly, but ensure that the fertilizer doesn’t come into contact with the bottom of the plant. Circle and remove part of the soil around the plant. Fill the circle with fertilizer and water it. It is very important not to over-fertilize it as you may risk causing the stem to weaken and your sunflowers to collapse.
Lastly, you can help your sunflowers hold the moisture in by mulching around the bottom of the plant. This also helps to keep the weeds down. While sunflowers generally can withstand drought, mulch helps to sustain the moisture necessary to stay healthy. To do the job well, use a hefty layer of mulch for your sunflowers.
Final Step: Harvesting and Storing
Planning to gift a bouquet of sunflowers for a special occasion? Start by scooping your sunflower out. You will need to keep a lookout for any of the flower heads blooming. Next, snip the main sunflower stem before the flower blooms. This will encourage an additional side bloom. To discourage your sunflowers from wilting, try cutting your flowers in the morning. You should also use tall vases to place your sunflowers to give them support. Lastly, water them with fresh water daily. This can aid them in lasting longer, for about a week or so.
Besides growing them for their bouquets, you can also harvest their sunflower seeds for a tasty snack. For this, wait until the sunflower has bloomed completely. When the base of the head turns brown, the sunflower heads will slowly droop downwards. At this point, place a cheesecloth over the head to prevent birds from coming by. Finally, snip at the stem four inches below the end of the sunflower head and use either your fingers or a fork to remove the sunflower seeds.
You can choose to eat them right then as they are good for immediate consumption. If you plan to store them, dry them first before storing them in an airtight container. By keeping them in a cool and dark location, these sunflower seeds will be able to last for up till two to three months. Alternatively, you can also utilize a freezer bag and store them in a freezer. This prolongs the lifespan of your sunflower seeds, allowing you to keep them for up to a year.
Sunflowers aren’t just beautiful and charismatic flowers. They have quite a variety of uses, and if you are interested in harvesting sunflower seeds or you grow other flowers, they can be a great addition to your garden.