A field of blooming sunflowers against a cloudy sky

The sunflower (Helianthus annuus) is a fascinating plant to grow, particularly for kids. Whether growing for pleasure or competition, exercising the following guidance will help provide your sunflowers with the best conditions for good growth and health.

Sunflower Species To Grow

The first step in developing sunflowers is deciding about the species you would like to grow. There are 67 species of sunflower throughout the world with multiple or single stems, growing heights, head sizes and colors. Read the details of every popular species below to make an educated decision on the sunflower you intend to grow.

      • Music Box is what is know as a dwarf variety, growing to a maximum height of 28 inches, which makes it suitable for container growing.
      • Teddy Bear species of sunflower smaller than Music Box, growing to approximately 12 – 18 inches.
      • Italian White sunflowers, also a little selection but with an attractive cream colored flower.
      • Autumn Mix unlike the aforementioned, generally develops over 6ft in height with yellow and rust colored flower head, 5 – 6 inches in diameter.
      • Largest Sunflower Species like the Russian Giant grows in excess of 15 feet tall with a huge head diameter around 20 inches. Obviously, bigger sunflower species will require more space than the other species mentioned before. Great fun when you have space to grow though.

The Best Location

Grow sunflowers in soil exposed to direct sun and sheltered from wind. Protect your sunflowers by encouraging the stem using a bamboo stake whenever the sunflower reaches 1ft in height. This will aid the stem grow straight and protect the sunflower from wind damage.

When the sunflower matures, the heavy weight of the mind on the tall stem leaves the sunflower vulnerable to wind damage. Because wild sunflower only develops between two and 6ft in height, the risk of wind damage is much less than that of the national sunflower.

The Best Soil

Plant your seedlings in good excellent soil such as my favorite – potting mix that has good water retention, enriched with plant food. Always ensure soil is kept moist and keep it from drying out completely. Consider adding mulch to the garden soil in which you would like to plant your seeds or seedlings.

Germinating Sunflower Seeds

If you choose to germinate your sunflower seeds prior to planting in soil, layer 10 or more sheets of absorbent kitchen roll paper towel placed on a plate then soak with water. Sprinkle seeds evenly over the wet paper towel before putting them in a warm area like an airing cupboard. The sheets of paper towel you use, the greater the water holding capability, meaning less frequent watering will be required.

Checking seeds with frequent watering will prevent the paper towel from drying up, particularly common in warm surroundings or direct sunlight. When your sunflower seeds start to germinate, plant to potting compost mixed with manure in your garden in a depth of two inches, spaced 1 – 2ft apart.

Seeds In Pots

If you are germinating your sunflower seeds in pots, sow one seed in each pot in a depth of 1 inch in 3 inch diameter pots. Use good quality potting compost such as Miracle Grow potting mix, before covering the surface of the pot with clear cling film.

When green leaves appear above the soil after germinating, eliminate film and put pot near a window that gets the maximum sun throughout the day if at all possible. Turn the plant pot 180 degrees in the morning and again in the evening, checking to be sure the soil is kept moist.

If the pot was too small or the sunflower was left in the pot too long, there’ll probably be a heavy build up of roots around the walls of the pot. Because sunflowers have long taproots capable of developing 4ft deep, allowing the plant to reach this point in pots will severely hamper growth.

Overcrowded roots can be safely eliminated by cutting no more than 1/3 using a sharp knife. Break away and discard dead soil surrounding the roots of this sunflower before planting in the garden. Remember to take care to not damage the remaining healthy roots in the procedure.

Seeds In The Garden

Sowing seeds directly into the backyard is my preferred method where I’ve had the most success. Sow your sunflower seeds following the previous winter frost has passed and nighttime temperatures have increased to over 5º or 10º Celsius. Sow in loose soil at a depth of approximately 50mm (2 inch) spaced 1 – 2ft apart. Water seeds often until 2ft high when the next pair of leaves appear. Liquid fertiliser ought to be added to the water for feeding from this point forward.

Sunflower Facts

      • The sunflower (Helianthus annuus) is a fascinating plant to grow, particularly for kids. Sunflowers can grow up to 12ft high with a head diameter of up to 30cm (1ft).
      • The head of the sunflower, often erroneously known as a flower, is composed of 1000 – 2000 individual blossoms. The petals surrounding the mind are ray flowers.
        3. Sunflowers are one of the fastest growing plants on the planet, growing up to 30cm (1ft) daily.
      • An intriguing feature of the sunflower is its ability to monitor the direction of sunlight by pointing the sunflower head to sunlight. This behavior is called heliotropism.
      • Wild sunflowers have smaller seeds, developing several branches and/or stalks with more than 1 head. It’s only through countless years of careful, hand-picked seed choice is the national sunflower much larger with one stem and flower head.
      • The sunflower is the state flower for Kansas, USA and the federal recognised blossom for Russia.
      • According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the tallest sunflower ever grown was in 1986 by M Heijms in Oirschot, Netherlandsat a height of 25ft 5.5 inches (776 cm).
      • The biggest citrus head recorded by the Guinness Book of World Records quantified 32 1/4 inches (82 cm) in diameter, grown by Emily Martin from Maple Ridge, Canada at the hot summer of 1983.
      • Although native to America, 60 percent of the world population of sunflowers are grown in Europe and Russia. Popular species with sunflower growers beginning with the tallest: Moonwalker, Pastiche, Velvet Queen, Russian Giant and the smaller Teddy Bear and Big Smile species.
      • Sunflowers are extremely powerful for attracting butterflies, birds and bees.
      • Sunflowers are utilised to create sunflower oil. As a seed, they’re used for bird feed and as a nutritious snack for kids and adults.
      • Sunflower seeds have a 50% polyunsaturated fat content and are full of Omega-6 which has been demonstrated to decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease. Sunflower seeds are full of calcium together with a number of different vitamins and minerals.
      • The scientific name for sunflowers; Helianthus derives from two Greek words, Helios meaning sunlight and Anthos meaning flower.
      • Sunflowers are perennial plants that grow annually.
      • Sunflower seeds are toxic to grass so space them from the yard which would be killed by falling seeds.

An Excellent Choice For Kids

Sunflowers are an superb selection of plant for kids to grow. They are visually attractive, attract a range of insects such as butterflies, birds and bees along with being easy to grow.

You may have the ability to encourage friends or acquaintances to contend with, seeing who can grow the tallest sunflower. Personally, I have fond memories of being a 9 year old kid, competing with my next door neighbor. If my memory serves me correctly, I was able to grow three sunflowers in a height of approximately 6ft. Although being so young, everything seems bigger at that age, so I might well be wrong. I know, I should not boast, but obviously I did win

Sunflower Plant Care

Sunflowers need loads of sunlight and watering, taking about two weeks to look and 90 days to fully grow. Over-watering sunflowers will probably damage flower heads, especially 20 days before or 20 days after full bloom.

Pour around 2 gallons of liquid fertiliser solution each week around the roots of the sunflower, taking care not to pour the solution over the stem because this has been proven to cause sunflower stems to rot.

Try to place your sunflowers so that they spend too much time in the sun as you can, rather 6-8 hours or longer. If heavy winds are forecast, put off watering before the end has passed to stop the sunflower from getting ignored.