The sunflowers are popping open. These bright blooms add whimsy and color to bouquets. Getting them planted each spring is a priority for our farm so we can enjoy them in the summer.
Sunflowers are one of the first flowers that I grew on the farm. I grew up loving sunflowers and their cheery faces, and I knew that I wanted to plant a forest of sunflowers in my garden. I have grown them every year since establishing flower beds. Incorporating sunflowers into bouquets and arrangements is a great way to use the cheerful blooms.
Care & Maintenance
Sunflowers are an annual flower and need to be replanted every year. However, sunflowers do a really good job of reseeding themselves, if you leave them to go to seed. Keep in mind, if you are growing a variety that has been hybridized, the seed will not grow back true to the plant it came from.
We grow branching sunflowers and single stemmed sunflowers. Branching sunflowers give many different stems with blooms off a single stalk. Single sunflowers give one bloom. I plant single stemmed sunflowers close together (6") so that they do not get too big. Branching sunflowers should be spaced out about 12-18" to give them room to grow and branch.
You can plant seeds directly into the ground for easy sprouting once the soil is warm enough in the spring. Alternatively, you can start seeds indoors and transplant seedlings into the field. I prefer to start seeds indoors as I have found that birds like to devour the seeds that I plant out. After hardening off seedlings, I plant them on an overcast day before rain is expected.
Branching sunflowers can be pinched when they are small to produce side shoots, which will produce more blooms. Do not pinch single-stemmed sunflowers!
Make sure to plant sunflowers in an area that gets a lot of sun. A layer of compost and mulch around the sunflowers helps feed the sunflowers and keeps weeds from sprouting or growing. Make sure to water the sunflowers regularly. They do well with a regular application of foliar feed until they begin to bloom.
If you are using sunflowers in bouquets, arrangements, or harvesting for others, make sure to harvest the sunflower when it is just showing color and beginning to open. Harvest in the early morning or evening.
Harvest single stemmed sunflowers at the base, cutting the stem at the ground. Trim the stem to the desired length and strip off the leaves. Place into a clean bucket with clean water. To keep stems upright, tie 5-10 stems together with a rubber band.
Harvest branching sunflower stems at the base of the stem. If the stem is short, harvest the main stalk of the plant. Strip off the leaves and place into a bucket.
Sunflowers are considered a "dirty" flower and will turn clean vase water dirty. Either place a few drops of bleach in the vase water or a CVBN tablet to treat the water.
Other things to consider
Sunflowers can get diseases. We experienced a foliar disease last year. To control the spread of disease and prevent it in the first place rotate planting beds each year; dispose of plant debris, and do not leave it lying on the ground; make sure to plant sunflowers in full sun.
This post is part of a year-long series on flowers and plants that we love and grow on the farm. Check out other flowers that we love.