Growing sunflowers is a really fun gardening project to do with kids. These fun, bright flowers are easy to grow and you can even harvest their edible seeds as well. Read on to pick up some tips on how to grow sunflowers successfully.
The best bit about growing sunflowers is that no special equipment is required, and you’ll see seedlings growing quickly. Then it’s just a matter of planting it out in the sunshine (in a flower bed or pot), watering and waiting to see how tall it grows! Kids will love seeing the sunflowers growing taller and taller – they might even end up taller than your child!
How to Grow Sunflowers Successfully
Different Varieties of Sunflowers
We are all familiar with the traditional yellow-faced sunflower, but did you know there are dozens of other varieties?
From giants that stand over 6 feet tall to dwarf varieties that are suited to patio pots, there’s lots to choose from. We planted Teddy Bear sunflowers last year, which are much smaller in height and have a fluffy head, while red and burnt orange flowers are unusual and will add some unique flowers to your garden.
Get a Head Start
Get a head start and plant your sunflower seeds in spring time. Use small pots that are at least a few inches deep (or recycle a yoghurt pot, etc) with some soil and plant your sunflower seeds individually. This gives the seed lots of room to grow and develop into a healthy plant before planting out in a sunny spot in the garden.
You can also sow directly into the soil when the weather warms up. Either way, just a few minutes of planting can results in beautiful blooms from July onwards.
Pick a Sunny Spot
As you would expect from their name, sunflowers like a lot of sun so the place you plant them needs to have as much sun as possible for them to soak up.
They like well-drained soil, so add a bit of compost to your soil before you plant and make sure there’s plenty of depth as the roots go deep.
Allow space between your sunflowers plants so they have room to grow, they need space for their roots to spread out horizontally as well. The best advice is to plant your seeds (or seedlings) at least three feet apart.
Most sunflowers get so tall they will require staking to support them upright. A tall bamboo cane will do nicely, or if you have them planted along a fence, you could tie them in place with twine.
You can grow sunflowers in containers, but it’s best to stick to dwarf varieties in that case.
Watch Out for Slugs!
Unfortunately, slugs love sunflowers. If you do suffer from slug attacks, I heard a nifty trick from organic gardener Jean Perry recently. Try an upturned grapefruit shell, left over night – it will be full of slugs in the morning, that you can move/dispose of as needed.
Alternatively you could try organic slug pellets, which are safe for use around children and pets.
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How to Harvest the Sunflower Seeds
When you are ready to harvest the seeds, let the flower dry on or off the stem until the back of the flower head turns brown and the leaves turn yellow. The seeds should look plump.
Using shears or scissors, cut the head off the plant 6 inches below the flower head. Place in a container or tub so you can catch any loose seeds.
To remove the seeds, you can use a fork or just rub your hand over the seeded area and pull them off.
Rinse the seeds and then lie them out to dry for a few hours or overnight. If you’re saving the seeds to replant, you can store them in an airtight container in a cool, dry place until you are ready to plant.