The big, friendly, sun seeking faces of sunflowers make them a cheerful part of the summer garden. They appeal to people and to wildlife and can bring interest, colour and drama to a sunny space. They are a good annual flower to grow with children and can even provide a yield in the form of seeds – if you can get to them before the birds do.

Growing sunflowers:

Sunflowers can be planted in full sun as soon as the risk of frost has passed in your area. They like to soak up the rays and as they can grow to a great height, it is best to place them in a fairly sheltered spot. Up against a south facing wall is an ideal place. Tall varieties must be supported – bamboo canes are ideal for the purpose.

Sunflowers are extremely tolerant of drought and heat. They tend to thrive in almost any type of soil except a very heavy clay. The only conditions in which they will not do so well are waterlogged ones, so try to make sure that the site you pick for your sunflowers has adequate drainage.

There are a variety of different sunflowers available today, from the giant sunflowers which can grow to around 16 ft, to multi-headed or smaller varieties for little spaces and pots. Sunflowers enjoy a nutrient rich soil fed with a compost or well-rotted manure and will do best if you have dug the soil well before planting, whether they are in a pot or in the ground. Fertile soil will encourage strong root growth and prevent the sunflowers falling over in the wind.

If you want you can get a head start on your sunflowers and avoid problems with birds eating your seeds by starting sunflowers off in pots on a sunny windowsill, though you should not start them too early or they will outgrow their pots. Sunflowers have a deep tap root.

Water sunflowers deeply and well around once a week unless the weather is particularly wet or dry. Sunflowers will suffer more with over-watering than drought.

If you wish to keep the seeds for your own use then you may need to cover the seed heads to prevent them all being eaten by birds or other wildlife. Cover mature flower heads with a mesh bag or horticultural fleece.

Why grow sunflowers in your garden?

Sunflowers are very pretty and cheerful and easy to grow. They can create height in a garden border.

The seeds can be eaten raw or baked into breads and other baked items. They are a good addition to a healthy diet or can be used as part of the diet of chickens kept in the garden.

Sunflowers are a good companion plant to maize. They can also act as a trap crop for thrips and can prevent aphid damage to edible crops as ants will heard aphids onto sunflowers.

Quick Facts

Latin Name
Helianthus annuus