Sunflowers are just about the epitome of sunshine and summertime. Bright and sunny, they seem to be smiling as they track the sun with their tall heads. Sunflowers are so easy to grow. Their is so much about Sunflowers to them, from creating privacy in the garden to enticing birds or providing a beautiful bouquet of cut flowers. Anyone can plant sunflower seeds and enjoy the benefits of this wonderful plant. We’ll tell you everything you need to know.
How To Plant Sunflower Seeds
Sunflower seeds will sprout best if you plant them with the narrow pointed seed-end facing down. While it isn’t strictly necessary to do this, it does give the sunflowers the best possible start in life. And why wouldn’t we want to give them that? They’re going to repay us with beautiful blooms and nutritious seeds after all. The narrow end of the seed is where roots will emerge, so putting this end down saves the plant from having to right itself in the ground.
Place the sunflowers 1 to 2 inches deep, point-down, every 6 inches or so, and then cover them up. Make sure to keep them moist until they sprout. This should only take about a week. Once they have grown into handsome little seedlings, thin them out so that each plant is about 2 feet from its neighbor if you have planted giant sunflowers. If you are growing dwarf sunflowers, you can grow them closer, sometimes as close as 6 inches.
Pro Tip: Thinning Plants
Thinning can be emotionally difficult to do, especially for beginner gardeners. You’re so excited to see these seedlings coming up! And hey, the more flowers the better, right? Here’s the thing: When you thin plants out, you are ensuring that the remaining plants will get all the water and nutrients they need to really flourish. Otherwise, they might become stunted and sickly. Again, you really want to give these flowers a good start in life! So steal your heart and thin them!
Put Them in a Sunny Spot
This kind of goes without saying, but sunflowers love to be in the sun! Make sure wherever you are planting them will get at least 6 hours of direct sunlight a day and they will be happy campers.
Plant In Early Summer
It’s important to let the soil reach at least 55 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit before planting. You also want to make sure there is no chance of a hard frost in the future. Sunflowers can take a little chill once they get started, but a frost may kill them. If you’re really itching to get going in the springtime but you aren’t quite out of the frost danger zone yet, feel free to start them indoors no more than two weeks before you plan to put them outside.
How To Keep Sunflowers Happy
Sunflowers Aren’t Too Fussy About Soil
Sunflowers are fairly easy-going plants, making them a great choice for beginner gardeners and children to plant. They have a very high germination rate, easily sprouting from seed. They also aren’t too fussy about what type of soil they are planted into, though they will do best in rich, well-drained soil. They also don’t mind a range of acidity levels that would make a lot of other plants cranky. They will do best in a range of pH 6.0 to 7.5.
Water, But Not Too Much
The one thing that sunflowers won’t tolerate is getting too much water. Yes, you should water them, but only sparingly. Once they are established, sunflowers are very drought-hardy and shouldn’t need much attention. It is definitely better to err on the side of less water for these flowers. This is also why well-drained soil is a big bonus for these plants. Waterlogged soil is one of the few things that will kill them.
Sunflowers are pollinator favorites, and when pollinators come to visit the bright heads, they may also stop at other nearby flowers. This makes sunflowers a good companion plant for vegetables that need a little help with pollination. Squash and zucchini, for example, are large leaves that can hide their flowers from pollinators. Using a pollinator magnet nearby raises their chances of getting noticed. These plants also shade the ground and reduce the evaporation of water, keeping the soil from drying out too much around the sunflower roots.
Sunflowers are also good at attracting aphids away from other plants. Some vegetables that can really suffer from aphid damage are tomatoes and peppers. When planted near sunflowers, these veggies are less enticing to the aphids. Thankfully, the sunflowers are robust enough to handle the aphids! Other veggies that grow well with sunflowers include onions and other alliums, sweetcorn, kale, and lettuce. Many herbs also make good companions.
There are plenty of flowers that are compatible with sunflowers, but it can be a good idea to give them a little bit of space all the same. Try planting 6 inches from dwarf sunflowers and closer to two feet for giant sunflowers.
Some flowers that grow well around sunflowers include:
- Purple coneflower (Echinacea spp.)
- Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia spp.)
Plants To Avoid Planting Next to Sunflowers
Potatoes and Pole Beans
Some gardeners try to use sunflowers instead of corn in the classic ‘Three Sisters’ planting guild. If you’re unfamiliar with this traditional companion planting trio, it consists of squash at the base layer shading the soil, corn growing vertically, and pole beans using the corn as a structure to climb on, as well as replenishing the soil with nutrients. It is logical to assume that sunflowers will provide as good a structure for the pole beans as corn, but unfortunately, this idea can backfire.
Sunflower plants are mildly allelopathic, meaning they contain chemicals that can stunt or harm other plants. This keeps sunflowers from having to compete with lots of weeds but can cause problems if you are putting them in a garden bed or veggie patch. Sunflowers are particularly harmful to potatoes, but can also be problematic for a variety of other plants, including pole beans. Therefore, it isn’t a good idea to plant sunflowers with either of these.
A Beautiful Privacy Fence
If you’re looking to grow a temporary privacy fence, sunflowers are a fantastic option. The largest sunflowers grow from 6 to 15 feet. There are plenty of beautiful varieties of all shapes, sizes, and colors to choose from. Some fantastic heirloom varieties that are tall enough to create a privacy screen include the Arikara and Titan sunflowers. Just harvest some seeds in autumn, if the birds leave you any, and you can plant again the next year!
Bring in the Birds and the Bees
We aren’t the only ones who love sunflowers. Birds and pollinators will be very appreciative when you put these beauties in your garden. You’ll find that birds will hang around for weeks, checking each day to see if the seeds are developed enough to eat. Sunflower seeds are a favorite snack for lots of beautiful birds, including goldfinches, red cardinals, grosbeaks, and woodpeckers.
There are so many reasons to plant sunflower seeds and grow sunflowers in your own garden. They are easy, fuss-free flowers that will give you, your neighbors, and your local wildlife tons of enjoyment. Check out some of our other blog posts for more advice on flower and vegetable planting.