The Key to Sunflowers: Easy Does It
With so many amazing sunflower varieties to choose from, it can be hard to decide which ones to grow. At least growing sunflowers is easy as long as you keep these essentials in mind:
- Sunflowers perform best in full sun. That's not to say they can't grow in partial shade, but if you want vibrant color, stronger stems and more flowers, choose a location that gets at least 6 hours of daily summer sun.
- Sunflowers will grow in any type of soil as long as it drains well, but they produce stronger stems, more flowers and meatier seeds when grown in a rich, moderately moist soil enriched with organic matter. Prior to planting, dig in a shovelful of well-aged compost or manure, or 1 cup of complete organic fertilizer for every four to six plants.
- To encourage more flowers on multistemmed varieties, cut the mature central flower head. This will promote side-shoot flower production.
- Remember that sunflowers are known as nature's sundial for a reason: Flower heads turn their faces from east to west to follow the path of the sun. Most flowers eventually face east as they mature and their seeds start to develop.
- Leave seedheads on the plants for birds to enjoy through fall and winter. Or, cut and dry seedheads indoors, then decorate with dried cranberries, millet sprays and other bird treats, and hang outdoors in a tree, on the deck or front door as edible winter wreaths for birds.
Here are a few seed sources to get you started:
- Johnny's Selected Seeds; 1-877/564-6697, www.johnnyseeds.com.
- Pinetree Garden Seeds; 1-207/926-3400, www.superseeds.com.
- Territorial Seed Company; 1-800/626-0866, www.territorialseed.com.