Plant Profile: Sunflowers

Sunflowers are an annual flowering plant and are a great garden choice for supporting pollinators and wildlife.

You will need a sunny spot to grow them in. (They don’t call them sunflowers for nothing!) They are not picky about soils, but make sure it is well-draining as they do not like wet feet. Seed them about 6 inches apart either in clumps of 3 or in rows. You can start them indoors and plant them out after the last frost, though they are just as easy to direct-sow.
Keep your seedlings well-watered. They will grow fast and a touch of liquid fertilizer will help give them quick energy. Once established, they do not need much watering unless it has not rained in your area for a few weeks.
Most sunflowers do not need staking. If you plant them where they get constant wind or lean out from shade into the sun, then you might want to tie them with soft cloth strips to a sturdy rod of rebar or metal stake.
Sunflowers make great trellises for edible climbing plants like beans or ornamental annual vines. You can also use tall sunflowers to create an almost instant fence and shade around a portion of your garden.
There are an amazing variety of sunflowers available in seed catalogs. You can choose from knee-high to gargantuan. Some produce huge heads full of nutritious seeds, while others are “teddy bear” style covered in fuzzy petals and are practically sterile. Then there are the color choices – classic yellow is always in fashion, but don’t stop there. Check out the chocolate hues, deep reds, and buttery creams.
Sunflowers make a terrific cut flower. One caution though, you want to put them in a bottom-heavy container, so that when they turn to face the sun, they don’t topple down the vase with them.
Leave up your sunflower heads at the end of the season to allow the wildlife to enjoy the seeds and the extra spilled on the ground will grow for you next year. You can also cut the flowerheads and hang them to dry to harvest them for seeds and to share with other gardeners.

Once you are ready to take down your plants, you may find the stalks to be quite strong and fibrous. Chop them up before adding them to your compost pile.

Sunflowers – you can grow that!

The video was produced by Washington Gardener Magazine.
It was shot and edited by intern Alexandra Marquez.

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