Sunflowers: How to grow
Wherever sunflowers are they bring a sign of summer and seem to create happiness. They are a very popular plant among children and adults. For children, growing sunflowers as a competition to raise the biggest one brings great fun, while for adults they make a stunning cut flower. Sunflowers can look beautiful in the garden too, particularly in large clusters.
When to sow
Sunflower seeds can be sown in early March, but they will need to start indoors. The seeds can be sown directly into the garden soil from April to May.
Tips for sowing and growing
If you are growing the sunflower seeds in pots before planting out, fill a seed tray with some multi-purpose compost and sow the seeds into this. Once the seedlings have germinated and reached a height of 5cm (2 inches), they can be planted into individual pots about 3 inches in diameter. Keep these pots in a warm place and with lots of light inside, such as a windowsill. Once the plants have reached 30cm (12 inches) in height, they need to be planted into the garden or into a bigger pot. If you are keeping your sunflower in a pot, then be sure to re-pot often. If not, then the growth will be limited.
When sowing directly into the ground, the first thing you need to do is ensure that the soil on where you are sowing the seeds is a fine crumbly texture and weed free. Also ensure that you are planting in an area with full sun and in well-drained soil. It will be good practice to dig in some organic matter such as Gro-Sure Farmyard Manure before planting too. Make some drills for the seeds to go into with a 10cm gap between each drill. The drills should be about 12mm deep. Carefully place the seed into the drill and cover with soil. As the seedlings grow thin the plants out so that they are 45cm (18 inches) apart. Once the sunflower becomes taller, use a cane to support the stems by loosely tying the stem to the cane with some string. This will help keep your stem strong, and the plant to grow straight.
Dependent on where you want to use your sunflowers, there are different views on pinching out. If you are growing a sunflower for a competition and want to maximise the height of the plant then do not pinch out the growing tip. This is because the growing tip is what makes the plant grow up. However, if you are growing sunflowers to pick, then pinch out the growing tip to stunt the plants so that they produce more flowers. Pinching out involves removing the growing tip once the plant has reached 20cm to 25cm (8 to 10 inches) in height with your thumb and forefinger. The sunflowers should grow to only 1.8m to 2.2m tall, but quadruple the amount of blooms they would normally have, meaning more blooms are available for cutting.
Following our top tips will help you create a happy and cheery atmosphere with these brightly coloured flowers, in your garden and in your home. Remember to give them plenty of sun and water and the sunflowers will grow into tall with beautiful flowers.