Tips on how to grow sunflowers from seed

SunflowerHelianthus annuus) is a fascinating plant to grow, especially for children. Whether you are growing for competition or for pleasure, following the tips below will help you provide your sunflowers with the best conditions for good growth and health.

Select a species of sunflower to grow

The first step in growing sunflowers is deciding what species you want to grow. There are 67 species of sunflower worldwide with single or multiple stems, growth heights, head sizes, and colors. Read the details of each popular species below to help make an informed decision about the sunflower you plan to grow.

Music Box It is what is known as a dwarf variety, growing to a maximum height of 28 inches, making it suitable for growing in pots.  


Teddy bear Sunflower species smaller than Music Box, growing about 12 to 18 inches.

Italian white sunflowers, also a small variety but with an attractive cream-colored flower.

Fall mix Unlike the above, it typically grows over 6 feet tall with a rust-yellow flower head, 5 to 6 inches in diameter.

Largest sunflower species As the Russian giant it grows in excess of 15 feet tall with a large head diameter of up to 20 inches. Obviously, the larger sunflower species will demand more space than the other species mentioned above. Great fun if you have room to grow them.

What is the best location to grow sunflowers?

Grow sunflowers in soil exposed to direct sunlight and protected from the wind. Protect your sunflowers by holding the stem with a bamboo stake as soon as the sunflower reaches 1 foot in height. This will help the stem grow straight and protect the sunflower from wind damage.

When the sunflower matures, the heavy weight of the head on the tall stem leaves the sunflower vulnerable to wind damage. Because the wild sunflower only grows between 2 and 6 feet tall, the risk of wind damage is much lower than that of the domestic sunflower.

What is the best soil to grow sunflowers?

Plant your seedlings in good quality soil, like my personal favorite: Miracle Grow potting mix that has good water retention, enriched with plant food. Always make sure the soil is kept moist and prevent it from drying out completely. Consider adding manure to the garden soil where you intend to plant your seeds or seedlings.

Tips for germinating sunflower seeds

If you prefer to germinate your sunflower seeds before planting them in the ground, place a layer of at least 10 sheets of absorbent kitchen paper on a plate and then soak them with water. Sprinkle the seeds evenly on the damp paper towel before placing them in a warm place, such as a closet for airing. The more sheets of paper towels you use, the better the water holding capacity, which means less frequent watering will be necessary.

Checking the seeds with regular watering will prevent the paper towel from drying out, especially common in hot environments or direct sunlight. When the sunflower seeds begin to germinate, plant in the potting compost mixed with manure in your garden at a depth of 2 inches, spaced 1 to 2 feet apart.

Sowing sunflower seeds in pots

If you are germinating your potted sunflower seeds, plant a single seed in each pot to a depth of 1 inch in 3-inch diameter pots. Use good quality potting compost, such as Miracle Grow Potting Mix, before covering the top of the pot with a clear film.

When the green leaves appear above the ground after germinating, remove the film and place the pot near a window that receives as much sunlight during the day if possible. Rotate the pot 180 degrees in the morning and again at night, checking that the soil remains moist.

If the pot was too small or the sunflower has been left in the pot too long, there is likely a large accumulation of roots around the walls of the pot. Because sunflowers have long taproots capable of growing 4 feet deep, allowing the plant to reach this stage in pots will severely hamper growth.

Overcrowded roots can be safely removed by cutting no more than 1/3 with a sharp knife. Separate and discard the dead soil surrounding the sunflower roots before planting in the garden. Remember to be careful not to damage the remaining healthy roots in the process.

Sowing sunflower seeds in the garden (Recommended)

Sowing seeds directly into the garden is my preferred method where I have been most successful. Sow your sunflower seeds after the last winter frost has passed and nighttime temperatures have risen above 5 or 10 Celsius. Sow in loose soil to a depth of about 50 mm (2 inches) spaced 1 to 2 feet apart. Water the seeds regularly up to 2 feet tall when the second set of leaves appears. Liquid fertilizer should be added to the water to feed from this point.

Sunflower facts

  1. SunflowerHelianthus annuus) is a fascinating plant to grow, especially for children. Sunflowers can grow up to 12 feet tall with a head diameter of up to 1 foot.
  2. The sunflower head, often mistakenly referred to as a flower, consists of 1000-2000 individual flowers. The petals that surround the head are striped flowers.
  3. Sunflowers are one of the fastest growing plants in the world, growing up to 30 cm (1 foot) per day.
  4. A fascinating feature of the sunflower is its ability to follow the direction of sunlight by pointing the sunflower’s head towards the sun. This behavior is known as heliotropism..
  5. Wild sunflowers have smaller seeds, grow several branches and / or stems with more than one head. Only through hundreds of years of careful selection of hand-picked seeds is the domestic sunflower much larger with a single stem and flower head.
  6. The sunflower is the state flower of Kansas, USA and the nationally recognized flower in Russia.
  7. According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the tallest sunflower ever grown was in 1986 by M Heijms in Oirschot, the Netherlands, at a height of 25 feet 5.5 inches (776 cm).
  8. The largest sunflower head ever recorded by the Guinness Book of World Records measured 32 1/4 inches (82 cm) in diameter, grown by Emily Martin of Maple Ridge, Canada in the hot summer of 1983.
  9. Although it is native to America, 60% of the world’s sunflower population is grown in Europe and Russia. Popular species with sunflower growers starting with the tallest: Moonwalker, Pastiche, Velvet Queen, Russian Giant, and the smaller species Teddy Bear and Big Smile.
  10. Sunflowers are very effective at attracting butterflies, bees, and birds.
  11. Sunflowers are used to produce sunflower oil. As a seed, they are used for bird feeding and as a healthy snack for children and adults.
  12. Sunflower seeds have a polyunsaturated fat content of 50% and are rich in Omega-6, which has been shown to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. Sunflower seeds are rich in calcium along with other vitamins and minerals.
  13. The scientific name for sunflowers; Helianthus is derived from two Greek words, Helios which means sun and Anthos which means flower.
  14. Sunflowers are perennials that grow every year.
  15. Sunflower seeds are toxic to lawns, so keep them off your lawn, as they could die from falling seeds.

Sunflowers – an excellent option for children

Sunflowers are a great plant choice for children to grow. They are visually appealing, attracting a variety of insects such as butterflies, bees, and birds, as well as being easy to grow.

You may be able to encourage your friends or neighbors to compete with them to see who can grow the tallest sunflower. Personally, I have fond memories of being a 9 year old, competing with my next door neighbor. If my memory serves, I managed to grow three sunflowers to a height of about 6 feet. Even though I’m so young, everything seems bigger at that age, so I may be wrong. I know, I shouldn’t brag, but naturally, I won … naturally, of course. 🙂 Sorry !!

The BBSRC (Biotechnology and Biological SSciences Rsearch for VSoncil… phew) have put together a sunflower growing activity e-book for young children to grow their own sunflower while learning how plants grow.

Sunflower plant care

Sunflowers need plenty of watering and sunlight, and it takes about two weeks to appear and 90 days to fully grow. If you use a chemical herbicide, make sure it is suitable for use on sunflowers or weed out by hand. Overwatering sunflowers is likely to damage flower heads, especially 20 days before or 20 days after full bloom.

Pour about 2 gallons of liquid fertilizer solution each week around the roots of the sunflower, being careful not to pour the solution onto the stem, as this has been found to cause the sunflower stems to rot.

Try to place your sunflowers so they spend as much time in the sun as possible, preferably 6 to 8 hours or more. If strong winds are forecast, postpone watering until the wind has passed to prevent the sunflower from falling.

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