Sunflowers (Helianthus annus) Information
By Ronnie Dauber, Garden Guides Contributor
About SunflowersSunflowers are easy-to-grow, hardy annuals that can be the huge, towering blooms in the garden background, beautiful cut flowers with a long vase life or the harvest plant that produces delicious edible seeds.
Site PreparationSunflowers require little maintenance and can flourish in a well-drained soil that employs full sunlight.
Special FeaturesOver the years, they have been most commonly known for their heights of 5 to 6 feet and dense yellow petals surrounding a large brown center. The flowers add color and background to our gardens and give us delicious tasting seeds to eat. In the garden, they attract butterflies and small rare birds such as hummingbirds. Newer varieties produce the same beautiful flower on shorter stems with a choice of orange, rustic, red or lime-green petals and a different colored center. Some of these newer varieties are pollen-free.
Choosing a VarietySunflowers come in several varieties, including: the Double Dandy, which is the world's first double red petal sunflower on 2-foot stems; the Sundance Kid, which produces semi-double flowers in shades of bronze to pure yellow on 4- to 6-foot stems; and the Dwarf Pacino Series (Pacino Cola) which grow to a height of 12 to16 inches and produce 5- to 6-inch yellow blooms.
PlantingIn the spring, after the last frost has passed, plant the seeds 18 to 24 inches apart (depending on the variety) and place in 1-inch holes in light, well-drained soil set in a full-sun location. Water regularly but do not over fertilize until the seeds germinate in 10 to 14 days. To prevent the birds from eating the seeds, cover them with mesh or with brown paper bags.
CareSunflowers require little to no care.
Harvest and StorageTo harvest the sunflower seeds, cut the heads off when the flowers are in full bloom, leaving about 1 foot of stem. Hang upside down in an airy location to dry, away from the birds and rodents as they will quickly devour the seeds. The heads should dry in 2 to 3 weeks. To remove the seeds, rub two heads together or leave the seeds on the head until you are ready for them. As far as cut flowers go, the blooms can be cut when they are fully matured, to a stem length to match the vase. They will continue to look healthy and beautiful for 10 to 14 days.