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This sunflower is a giant strain. Reaches 3 metres in height very easily. Ideal for competitions. One of the children's favourite flower.
A North American native, this tall, bright, fun flower has traveled to gardens all over the world. The sunflower's huge yellow flower heads, turned to face the sun and looking very much like the sun themselves, attract all manner of beneficial garden insects and birds, as well as the marvel of all people who see them. Growing sunflowers is easy to do and adds a brilliant element to any garden.
Because of it's simplicity of growing, sunflowers make a great 'first plant' for kids to get them interested in gardening. That ease, combined with the stunning plant size and beautiful flower that follows, makes sunflowers a winner with kids of all ages.
What is a Sunflower?
he head of a sunflower is actually a cluster of hundreds of tiny flowers. The center is the flowers and they have both female and male components. When they are pollinated, they produce seeds. The bright yellow petals around the sunflower's head are called ray leaves.
If you've ever passed a field or group of sunflowers, you may have noticed they are all turned towards the sun. This is called solar tracking. Growing sunflowers turn to follow the path of the sun throughout the day. When they mature, their stems stiffen and they face eastwards permanently.
Sunflower seeds are popular with humans and animals alike. Native Americans cultivated sunflowers for thousands of years for their seeds. While yellow is the original and by far the most popular colour choice, sunflowers actually come in a variety of shades and sizes.
The types of sunflowers available to grow is really quite diverse. There are varieties that grow to 16 feet tall, others that are dwarfs, and just about all sizes in-between. If you are looking for the classic big yellow head and tall stalk, 'Giant Single' and 'Titan' are good choices.
If you'd like an even taller sunflower, one that make the original sunflower look like a child's toy plant, try the single stem giant variety. These grow to an average of 15-16 feet!
For dwarf varieties, Teddy Bear is an unusual type and stunning choice. The head turns straight upwards instead of towards the sun and the center is bright yellow coloured with bright yellow petals completely filling it.
If you'd like an array of colours for your garden, some great mid-size choices are 'Buttercream', which has creamy lemon petals, 'Moulin Rouge', which has a rich burgundy head, and 'Black Magic', which has a deep maroon head.
Most sunflowers produce abundant pollen which will then decorate any surface you place a vase of them on. Recently, several pollen-less varieties have been developed. If are planning on using the sunflowers in flower arrangements and are worried about pollen messes, be sure to look for those.
Sow sunflower seeds in your garden after the last chance of frost. They need to be planted indoorsfirst or in the grennhouse when there is no risk of frost in there. They need a space where they will get full sun during the season, so the plants can develop beautiful flowers.
Plant the flower seeds 6” apart in rows 3-4 feet apart. Larger seeds should be covered with 1” of soil while smaller seeds only need to be covered with 1/2” of soil. In 5-10 days, the seeds will germinate. If you are planting a large type of sunflower, thin sunflower seedlings so that one plant left every 2-3 feet. For smaller varieties, one foot apart is good. The seedlings can be spaced closer to form a tight row or hedge, however the flowers will be smaller when they don't have as much space to spread out.
Watering & Care
Sunflowers need about an inch of water per week, from either rain or watering. Other than that and full sun, they don't need much else. When they are still small you can weed around them so they don't have to fight for resources. Once they get bigger, they will overshadow any weeds below them.
When the sunflowers are in full bloom, they can be cut for flower arrangements. They make gorgeous centerpieces. Take a container or bucket of water with you to the garden when you are ready to cut the flowers. With a sharp knife or scissors, cut the stem off at the desired length. Strip the foliage from the stem and then put them in the water straight away.
If you are planning on harvesting the seeds for your own enjoyment or as bird seed, only cut the heads when the green backside of the flower has started to become brown. Keep the sunflower heads in the greenhouse, or in the airing cabinet to let them dry out very well, good ventilation is important too. When the disk on the backside of the flower has become dark brown, the seeds are mature and ready to be harvested. You can make the seeds fall out from the head by rubbing the heads with your hands or with a rough brush. They will release quite easily.