Grow one of the oldest American cultivated plants and join the Incas and Aztecs who grew…and revered…sunflowers 4,600 years ago.
While there wasn’t much variety in the sunflowers back then, there certainly is now. ‘Russian Giant’ quickly grows to 12′ tall with a huge medium brown “face” surrounded by bright yellow petals. On the other hand, ‘Choco Sun’ looks similar but only grows to 15″ tall and with a 5″ face.
Don’t think all sunflowers are vertically growing brown and yellow either. ‘Cherry Rose’ has the familiar brown face, however deep red petals with tips of bright yellow-gold surround it. ‘Pastiche’ glows in reds, oranges and buffs. ‘Black Magic’ is completely dark. And now, ‘Inca Gold’ trails downward!
Kids love planting and watching their sunflower grow, grow and grow. Later, eating the seeds is a healthy snack. After all, it sustained Incas and Aztecs.
The folks in Kansas chose the sunflower as their state flower. As an American native plant, its diverse uses make it one of the economic forces in the agricultural world. As a crop, its seeds are in human and bird snacks, the oil is used for cooking and the remaining pulp is a popular livestock feed.
No matter what your reason is for growing sunflowers, carry on…it’s a sun-glorious tradition!
Many varieties are available as seeds. Many garden centers offer a selection of well-rooted seedlings or small plants. Tall or short, yellow or red, upright or trailing, the growing requirements are the same.
Start seeds indoors six weeks before the last frost date or plant outside. Cover seed with 1/2″ of soil. Improve growth and bloom by working compost into the outdoor bed or pot. If you are growing the giant sunflowers, provide a support such as a trellis or stake. Otherwise, they may fall over as they grow.
Chose an outdoor location in full sun. As they develop, the flower heads will “track” the sun. However, contrary to popular myth, after the face develops, it stops and puts energy into seed production. To see the plant’s face, choose a location where you will see the flower facing eastwardly. At least six hours of sunlight produces beautiful flowers. Provide regular water or plant in a moist location. They bloom from midsummer into autumn,
Birds love sunflower seeds. Therefore, cover the heads with netting if you plan to harvest. When harvesting, cut 12″ of stem with the head, hang upside down and allow to dry. The seeds will rub off. Alternatively, you may leave the flower on the plant to provide bird food through the fall and winter. They’ll thank you for it.