Growing and Caring Sunflower Plant- Beginner’s Guide

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Sunflower plant 1

We all love sunflowers, and most of us would like to grow sunflower plants. Sunflower’s bright blooms go all summer. There are very few plants besides the sunflower plant that is resistant to pests, heat-tolerant, and attractive to birds and other pollinators.

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They make beautiful cut flowers, and their oil and plant seeds are a source of food for birds and people.

What is Sunflower Plant

The sunflower or Helianthus annuus is an annual plant with a sizeable daisy-like flower face. The scientific name of sunflower is derived from the Greek words helios (“sun”) and anthos (“flower”). Sunflowers come in several colors: yellow, red, orange, maroon, and brown. However, they are commonly bright yellow with brown centers having heavy heads filled with seeds when they become ripe. 

Sunflowers are heliotropic, which effectively means that their flowers turn to follow the movement of the Sun across the sky east to west. They return at night to face the east, ready again for the morning sun. Heliotropism happens during the early stages before the flower UAE becomes heavy with seeds.

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There are several varieties of sunflowers available today. You can choose between single stems or those with branching stems, those that produce a lot of pollen for pollinators or are pollen-free, those that stay small or tower above the rest of the garden or stay small, or those that produce edible seeds.

How Long Do Sunflowers Take to Bloom?

A reasonably fast-growing flower for their size, most sunflower varieties mature in only 80 to 95 days. The largest sunflower varieties can grow over 16 feet, while smaller types have been developed for small spaces and containers and rarely grow more significantly than a foot tall. The flower heads can reach more than 12 inches in diameter within the large-seeded varieties.

When to Sow Sunflower Plant

The best time to sow sunflower seeds directly into the garden or even outdoor containers past the danger of spring frost and the soils have warmed to at least 10°C.

Generally, this will fall between April and mid-July. However, this will probably occur in mid-March or early April in the south. 

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Sunflowers dislike having their roots disturbed, so it is recommended that You must sow the sunflower plant direct instead of transplanting them.

Choosing and Preparing a Planting Site for Sunflower Plant

  • Look out for a sunny area. Sunflowers grow best in locations which have direct sunlight(can thrive also in UV light), roughly 6 to 8 hours per day. Sunflowers require long and hot summers to flower well.
  • Choose a location with well-drainage soil. Water should not become a pool after it rains.
  • Sunflowers aren’t picky, but the soil should not be too compact. The sunflower plant has long tap roots that need to stretch out. So when you are preparing the bed, dig down 2 feet in depth and about 3 feet across.
  • Sunflowers thrive in slightly acidic to somewhat alkaline soil with pH in range of 6.0 to 7.5.
  • Sunflowers are heavy feeders, so the soil must be nutrient-rich with organic matter or composted (aged) manure. Or, work in a slow-release granular fertilizer 8 inches deep into your soil.
  • Plant sunflowers in a spot sheltered from strong winds, perhaps along a fence or near a building. Larger varieties may become top-heavy, and strong winds can be devastating.
  • Before planting, you need to decide whether you want to grow a fun sunflower tower.

Planting Sunflower Seeds

Sunflower plants must be planted 1 to 1.5 inches deep and 6 inches apart after the soil has thoroughly warmed. You can plant multiple seeds and thin them to the strongest ones when the plants are six inches tall. 

Give plants sufficient space for low-growing varieties that will branch out. Make rows about 30 inches apart. A light fertilizer application at the time of planting will encourage strong root growth. This would protect them from blowing over in the wind.

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To keep enjoying continuous blooms, you can experiment with plantings staggered over 5 to 6 weeks. If you notice birds scratching around for the seeds, spread netting over the planted area until seeds germinate. 

Caring for Sunflowers

While the plant is small, water around the root zone is about 3 to 4 inches from the plant. It may help put snail or slug bait around the stem to protect the plant.

Once you have planted that sunflower sapling, water deeply infrequently to encourage deep rooting. You should water once a week with several gallons unless the weather is dried.

Sunflower plant 3

 

Feed plants only sparingly. Overfertilization can lead stems to break in the winters. You can add diluted fertilizer to the water. However, you must avoid getting the fertilizer near the plant’s base. 

Tall species and cultivars require support. Bamboo stakes can be a good choice for any plant with a strong, single stem and need help for a short period.

Protection of Sunflower Plant from Pests and Diseases

  • Birds and squirrels are interested in the seeds. If you plan to use the seeds, you can deter pests with barrier devices. As seed heads become mature and flowers droop, you will have to cover each with white poly-spun garden fleece.
  • Keep them at bay with a tall wire barrier if you have deer. Curious deer can bite the heads off of young sunflowers.
  • Sunflowers are relatively insect-free. A small grey moth may lay its eggs in the blossoms. Pick the worms from the plants.
  • Rust, Downy mildew, and powdery mildew can also affect the Sunflower plant. If fungal diseases are spotted early, spray with a general garden fungicide.

Cutting Sunflowers for Bouquets

  • For indoor bouquets, you need to cut the main stem just before its flower bud has a chance to open to encourage side blooms.
  • You must cut stems early in the morning. Harvesting flowers during the middle of the day may lead to flower wilting.
  • Handle the sunflowers gently. The flowers should last at least a week in water at room temperature.
  • Arrange sunflowers in tall containers that provide good support for their heavy heads, and change the water every day to keep them fresh.

Harvesting of Sunflower Seeds

You need to harvest sunflower seeds for a tasty snack and replant or feed the birds in the winter at the end of the season.

  • Let the flower dry off or dry on the stem until the back of the head turns brown, the petals die down, the foliage turns yellow, and the seeds look plump and somewhat loose.
  • Chop the head off the plant about 6 inches below the flower head. Place in a container to catch open seeds.
  • Lay the sunflower head on a flat, clean surface and grab a bowl to hold the seeds.
  • You need to rub your hand over the seeded area and pull them off the plant to remove the seeds. Another way to remove them is to rub the head of the sunflower across an old washboard. Just grip the head and rub it across the board like washing clothes.
  • If you plan to harvest the seeds for roasting, you can cover the flowers with a light fabric like cheesecloth and a rubber band to protect them from the birds.
  • Alternatively, you can chop off the flower head early and hang the heads upside down until the seeds become dry; hang indoors or in a safe place from mice and birds.

Sunflower plant 5

  • Rinse sunflower seeds before laying them out to dry for several hours or overnight.
  • If you need to save seeds for replanting, you must store them in airtight containers in a cool, dry place until you are ready to plant them. 

Facts About Wit and Wisdom of Sunflower Plant

  • Some people call sunflowers the “fourth sister” about the Three Sisters: squash, corn, and beans.
  • Many cultures consider sunflowers as a symbol of courage.
  • Sunflowers were used for cooking and healing by Native Americans. Native Americans used the oil to cure skin ailments. They made a yellow dye from the flower petals and black or blue paint from the seeds.
  • You can save whole, dry sunflower heads and set them out in winter. Birds would gladly pick at the delicious seeds.
  • You can save thick sunflower stems and dry them for winter kindling.
  • The tallest sunflower recorded was grown in Germany in 2014. which measured in at a stunning 30 feet and 1 inch tall!

Cooking Tips Related to Sunflower Plant

One ounce of sunflower seeds contains roughly 6 grams of protein and 14 grams of oils. It has 9g of polyunsaturated and 3g of monounsaturated fats per ounce as per the NSA. The fats are almost entirely unsaturated. The sunflower oil is high in linoleic acid and is a good source of vitamin E.

  • Some sunflower plant varieties produce tiny black seeds used in margarine, cooking oil, animal feed, and cosmetics. They are regarded as the best sunflower seeds for attracting the most incredible array of songbirds.
  • The bigger, striped seeds are grown for snacks. It is also an ingredient in bread and healthy foods. They are used for feeding birds, significantly larger species, such as jays and mourning doves.

How to Roast Sunflower Seeds

Re-soak seeds overnight in salted water. Run through a filter and dry them on a layer of paper towels. Bake them for 25 to 30 minutes at 325 degrees on a baking sheet. It will help if you spread seeds in a single layer. Stir them frequently during the baking and remove seeds when they look slightly browned. Don’t burn!  You can add salt, olive oil, spices to your roasted seeds.

Bottom Line

Sunflower large blooms and bright yellow color sit on top of tall, hardy stalks accented by large, vibrant green leaves that look beautiful in a garden. They make lovely cut flowers, too.
Sunflowers are pretty easy to grow. Sunflower plant can easily adjust to pretty much any soil. However, like all plants, they have specific requirements that must be met to ensure success.

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