What do sunflowers look like when they start to grow?

How to Grow Sunflowers

Want to know how to grow sunflowers? This step-by-step guide will give you all the information you need to grow sunflowers from seed in your own garden or allotment.

About sunflowers

Sunflowers are one of the biggest and brightest flowers around. With beautiful, golden yellow petals they bring a feeling of happiness and a vibrant splash of colour to the garden. They’re also very easy to grow and make an excellent flower for children to take care of.

First discovered around 3,000 BC, sunflowers were a source of food for American Indian tribes, harvested for the oil and nutrient-rich seeds which would often be ground and used as flour for baking bread.

Today, as well as the flowers making a stunning addition to our gardens, or cut and placed into a vase indoors, the seeds and their oil are still popular for eating.

When to plant sunflowers

When growing sunflowers, you can generally plant the seeds from early March to mid-May, but this will differ by variety so always check the seed packet. To give them the best start, the seeds will need to be protected until they’ve germinated, and seedlings are around 5cm tall; it’s best to do this indoors to avoid any damage from frost.

Growing sunflowers from seed

Sowing sunflowers in seed trays

What you’ll need to get started:

  • Sunflower seeds
  • Seed tray
  • Multi-purpose compost
  • Plant labels
  • Waterproof marker pen or a pencil

Fill the seed tray with some multi-purpose compost to around 1cm below the top. Add one seed per cell and push it down gently into the compost. Fill each cell to the top with more compost and then water well. Finally, add a plant label so you know what you’ve planted.

Position the filled seed tray in a warm, bright spot; a sunny windowsill is ideal for this.

Once your seedlings have germinated and grown to around 5cm (2 inches), they can be moved into individual pots around 7.5cm (3 inches) in diameter. Add a small amount of multi-purpose compost to each pot then carefully remove the seedling from the tray and place into the new pot. Fill with compost then gently push the compost down to compact it and secure the seedling. Water well and add your plant label. Position the pots in a warm, bright spot.

Tip: be gentle when removing the seedlings from their cells to avoid causing damage to the plant or roots. If needed, gently run a narrow, flat object such as a dinner knife or even a plant label, around the inside of the cell to loosen it.

Tip: from this point, you can start to use a liquid fertiliser to support the seedlings’ growth; the fertiliser should be diluted by 50% and used twice a week.

Once your plants have reached 30cm (12 inches) in height, you can plant them in the garden or move them to a bigger pot. Don’t do this any earlier than May to avoid them being damaged by any late frosts.

Planting sunflower seeds in the ground

Before you get started, you need to make sure that the soil in which you’ll be sowing your seeds is a fine crumbly texture and weed free; make sure you choose an area with full sunlight and well-drained soil.

It’s good practice to add some organic matter such as Gro-Sure Farmyard Manure to the area you’re planting in as this will help to nourish your sunflowers.

Create a drill (a shallow depression in the soil) for each seed with a 10cm gap between each one; the drills should be about 12mm deep.

Carefully place the seeds into the drill and cover with soil. As the seedlings grow, thin the plants out so they’re around 45cm (18 inches) apart.

Once the sunflowers become taller, use a cane to support the stems by loosely tying the stem to the cane with some string. This will help keep the stem strong and the plant will be encouraged to grow straight.

Pinching out sunflowers

Pinching out is a technique used to encourage new stems to grow on plants.

Whether you pinch out your sunflowers will really depend on what you want to do with them when they’re in bloom:

  • If you’re growing sunflowers for a competition and want to maximise the height of the plant, then it’s recommended that you don’t pinch out the growing tip. This is because the growing tip is what makes the plant grow tall and give you that extra height you’re looking for
  • If you’re growing sunflowers with a view to picking them, pinching out the growing tip will stunt the plant so that it produces more flowers.

To pinch out sunflowers, remove the growing tip of the plant using your thumb and forefinger; this should be done once the plant has reached 20cm to 25cm (8 to 10 inches) in height.

The plant should grow to 1.8m – 2.2m tall, but you should expect 4x the amount of blooms you would normally see, giving you lots of beautiful flowers to cut and display.

How long do sunflowers take to grow?

There are various varieties of sunflowers, and each one will grow at a different rate. On average, though, it takes between 80 and 120 days for a plant to mature and develop seeds.

Sunflower varieties

Variety Approximate growing height Variety notes
American Giant 5m
  • A real giant among sunflowers
  • Strong stem requires no support
  • Great in borders and hedging
Toy Shop 90cm
  • Compact, bushy plants
  • A mix of single and double flowers
  • Great variety for cutting
King Kong F1 4m
  • Produces multiple blooms on each plant
  • Needs good support
Junior 60cm
  • Pollen-free variety with long flowering time
  • Multiple flowers on each branch
Giant single 4m
  • Quick growing
  • Single, tall flowers
Sunshine Giant 2m
  • Great variety for children
Jammie Dodger 1.2m
  • Perfect for garden display
  • Single, double and semi-double blooms
Solar Flash 40cm
  • Early flowering
  • Compact variety
Moulin Rouge 1.8m
  • Something a bit different with rich mahogany petals and a black centre
Velvet Queen 1.5m
  • A perfect feature flower with beautiful red petals
Firecracker 60cm
  • Dwarf variety
  • Stunning red and gold flowers
Starburst Panache 1.8m
  • Unusual Catherine wheel appearance
  • Double golden blooms
Ginger Nut 1.5m
  • Bright orange flower with large heads
  • Blooms last up to 2 weeks after cutting
Sunsation 30cm
  • Extremely compact dwarf plant
  • Up to five flowers per stem

Perennial Plants

Perennial plants don’t need to be planted every year

Our Perennial plants are great value because they come back every year and grow in size; this means you get a return on your investment year after year! Once established in a suitable spot, they will come back year after year – some for decades, increasing in size and in the number of blooms produced each year.

By carefully selecting plants with a variety of blooming times, your garden will change throughout the growing season and you’ll always have flowers. Many perennials have attractive foliage adding visual interest even when they’re not in flower in addition to a wide variety of flower colours and shapes.

We supply perennials in pots and bare root perennials. Buying perennials as dormant bare-roots is the best way to add new specimens to your garden for a lot less money than plants bought in a state of full growth.

How to care for your Bare Root Perennials

Bare root Perennials are quite often better to plant in the garden than established plants out of a large container because establish plants are already root bound and can take very long to adapt to the garden. With a bare root perennial, as soon as you plant it and water it, it will begin to develop on its root system and settle right away.

For best results build a cone of Soil in the bottom of the planting hole. Do not add fertilizer to the planting hole as it may burn new roots. Place the plant in the hole and spread the roots around the cone of Soil. Gently fill in the hole, firming the soil as you go. Leave a slight depression around the plant to hold water. Water the plant, saturating the soil around the plant, so it can begin working on its root system

Always keep your plants watered during their 12 weeks. A weekly deep soaking will encourage a root system. Apply a layer of compost each spring to provide nutrients and maintain soil health. Fertilise each early spring with some organic fertiliser.

Dividing plants

Most though not All Perennials should be divided every three to five years especially when the heart of the plant does not show Healthy growth and the flowers apPear only on the side of the clump then it is time to divide them. Division can be used to control the size of rapidly spreading overgrown plants, to get more plants for use elsewhere or to share with friends. Signs that Perennials need dividing are flowers that are smaller than usual. The growth in the centre of the plant dies out leaving a hole with all the growth around the edges or when the bottom foliage is poor. In general, it is best to divide spring and summer flowering Perennials in the early autumn and autumn flowering Varieties in late spring. Never divide Perennials on hot sunny days. By dividing the plant when it is not flowering all the plant’s energy can go to root and leaf growth. Water well a couple of days before dividing them.

Clumps can best be divided in early spring when New growth begins and the weather is still cool and damp. The entire clump can be removed from the ground by digging around all sides of the plant with a sharp knife or Trowel or it can be pulled apart by hand, wash off excess Soil so that roots are clearly visible. Depending on the size of the clump, dividing can also be done without actually removing it from the ground. Divide the clumps into sections having roots attached to each growing shoot. Do not allow the divisions to dry out replant immediately in the garden or in containers.

How to do it devide

Generally after the flowering period during late summer. Take two forks and a spade. Cut loose the plant clump with the sharp spade and lift the clump out of the Soil. Place the two forks back to back in the centre of the clump and force down. Use the forks as levers to divide the clumps in to pieces. Move the forks away from each Other left and right. Remove any dead non vigorous looking parts and replant the Healthy much smaller clumps right away; they will quickly regrow.
Sometimes you can do it best with a only sharp spade for example with Hosta, They can grow quite dense and are difficult to break. Use the spade to cut them into parts by carefully placing the spade at the centre of the clump and cutting through it several times. Replant the clumps right away. Hosta’s are best done during the end of the winter (late February and early March) or no earlier than mid October during autumn.

What to feed your plants

You can enhance your garden plants by providing them with a few good meals throughout the summer. Pelleted poultry manure can give them the nutrients they need to Fight against Soil bacteria. Pot plants work better if they are fed with liquid food every fortnight.

For flowering plants use dilute liquid tomato food and for anything that’s prized or grown for spectacular foliage it is better to use a general-purpose food.

For slowing growing plants that need encouragement use foliar feed. This food is consumed through the leaves giving them a kick-start; it works immediately but is short lived. Once your plants get started change to the liquid feeds. A popular version of the feeding is to use sea-based nutrient mixes, especially algae, because they contain many of the fifty “trace nutrients”; the more “trace” is needed, the harder it is to balance the element within the Soil. Trace elements are considered most fit for delivery by foliar feeding. Algae also contains some hormones considered good for the cellular development of the plants’ leaves, flowers, and Fruit, again making foliar feeding useful to organic gardeners who eschew artificial-hormone applications.

Buy affordable perennials easily at Gardens4You

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With all our plants you get grow and bloom insurance, if you are not satisfied you get new or your money back. You can order without worry. We have the best quality. You can also fertilise your plants with extra delicious plant food.

Other popular plants you may like are Bonsai trees and Flower Bulbs. Also view our garden Perennials and Shrubs.
We also have a huge variety of Houseplants for a wonderful green ambiance in your interior.

Master Gardener: Colorado’s sunny climate perfect for sunflowers

Their heads bowing or dancing cheerfully in the breeze, sunflowers are a fun and festive end-of-summer flower and a prelude to fall. They are easy to grow and their seeds can be delicious to eat.

Sunflowers come in various sizes and shades of yellow, red and orange. They can grow as high as 10 feet, and the flower head can reach a spectacular diameter as large as ten inches.

The sunflower family is one of the largest families of flowering plants, with almost 1,550 genera and 24,000 species, including annuals, perennials, stem succulents, vines, shrubs, trees and herbs. Some of the plants in this family include marigolds, zinnias, daisies, thistles, ragweeds, artichoke, endive, dandelion, string of pearls and tarragon. There are about 67 species and 19 subspecies of the sunflower itself.

” History and food

Sunflowers are native to the Americas. Spanish explorers brought the plants back to Europe, where they became very popular as ornamentals as well as a source of food.

Food uses include roasting the seeds for snacks, grinding the seeds into a fine meal used to thicken soups and stews, and roasting the hulls to make a drink similar to coffee. Parts of the plant are used to make dyes and the stalks have been converted to building material. The oil can be used as hair oil, cooking oil and a carrier oil, as well as to produce margarine and biodiesel. The remaining parts can be processed as animal feed or medicine or to remove toxic waste from the soil or make sun butter (similar to peanut butter) and bread.

The flower itself is actually called a head, composed of numerous florets (small flowers crowded together). The sunflower seeds are the fruit of the plant, with the true seed found within the kernel.

In the bud stage of the flower, it exhibits heliotropism, that is, in the morning the flower faces the east and follows the sun to the west by the end of the day, then at night turns back to the east to meet the morning sun again. As the flower matures, the stem stiffens and it loses its heliotropism and will face in any direction, but the leaves will still exhibit some heliotropism.

How to grow sunflowers

Because of the larger size of some sunflowers, they need plenty of space to grow in the garden so plant them at least two feet apart. The seedlings should be well watered and weeded and compost should be added to the soil for extra nutrients. Sunflowers, as you might guess, thrive best in full sun.

Plant them in areas that won’t shade other plants in the garden; at the back or north end of the garden is best. Some people even use the stalks as support for their poll bean crop.

Seeds are best planted in spring but can also be planted, like wildflowers, in the fall for blooming the following spring.

The head should be ready to harvest in about four month’s time, when the head has turned down, the center florets are shriveled and the back of the flower is turning a yellow brown. To ensure harvest, cover the head with fine netting to keep the birds and the squirrels from eating the crop of seeds. When you cut the seed head, leave about one foot of stem on it and hang it in a warm, dry, well ventilated area free of insects and rodents with cheesecloth over the heads to catch the seeds as they fall.

To roast sunflower seeds, (if salt is desired) first soak overnight in a brine of two tablespoons of salt to one cup of water, drain and dry seeds, spread them out on a cookie sheet and roast them in a 200 degree F oven for three hours or until crisp. They can also be roasted in a 300 degree oven for 15-25 minutes.

They are easy to shell if roasted long enough. Be sure the seeds are fully dried before putting them in air-tight containers for storage.

Sunflowers brighten any garden; their cheerful faces are beautiful to the eye; they provide food for birds, animals and humans. Next year consider adding them to your garden or sow some seeds in October before the first frost to enjoy them next spring.

Carol Lynn Ripka is a Greeley Master Gardener and sunflower and bonsai enthusiast.

“The scientific name of sunflowers is Helianthus, Helia for sun and Anthus for flower.

“Sunflowers are a great choice for attracting birds to your yard.

“Sunflowers are fast-growing plants that can grow 8 to 12 feet tall in rich soil within six months.

“Sunflowers require only 90 to 100 days from planting to maturity.

“An interesting, unique sunflower characteristic is that the flowering heads track the sun’s movement, a phenomenon known as heliotropism.

“Sunflower seeds are rich in oil, which they store as a source of energy and food. Seeds are crushed to give us cooking oil. Toasted seeds are tasty snacks.

“Sunflowers are drought-resistant.

“Many species are native to the high plains and are an excellent dryland crop. Colorado places fourth in the nation in commercial sunflower production.

Colorado State University

If you are searching for a sturdy plant with bold blooms, the sunflower is for you! And the bonus is that they are prime subjects for cut flowers.

Sunflowers are available as perennials and annuals. The common sunflower, Helianthus annus, is an annual and grows in all zones and is an important agricultural commodity in some states. These are coarse, hairy plants with 2-3” wide flowers. Flowers range from two-colored to chestnut red or pale yellow. Another annual, ‘Sunspot’ supports heads up to 10” on 2’ high plants. Popular among the giants are ‘Mammoth Russian” and ‘Russian Giant’.

For children, annual sunflowers are easy to grow, with almost instant gratification along with a positive experience.

The Maximillian sunflower (H. maximilianii) is a North American native perennial in zones 1-24. These flowers form a clump 3’ wide and up to 10’ tall stems. These are topped with a spire of 3” yellow flowers. This perennial is a reliable bloomer in Colorado and is drought tolerant, once established.

Among other perennial sunflowers is the Jerusalem Artichoke (H. tuberosus), in zones 2-24. These produce bright yellow flowers, four inches across and grow easily in Colorado. Some are grown commercially and their tubers are edible, sold in markets as “sunchokes”. Tubers should be dug andreplanted every 2-3 years or the quality of the tuber will decline.

Sunflowers do best in full sun, at least six hours a day and spaced approximately 6-12” apart. Water deeply, but infrequently.

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With the balmy weather Colorado has experienced this past week, eager gardeners could be forgiven for thinking it’s time to plant their spring and summer vegetables.

As more seasonal temps with freezing nights return in the coming week, reality will alas intrude, as it tends to do. But that doesn’t mean you can’t scratch that gardening itch. You can ramp up your seed-starting operation for the season.

How to get started with seeds

If you’ve never started seeds, not to worry. It’s not that complicated. Think of it this way: When agriculture started 10,000 years ago, our whole species didn’t know how to grow food, but they caught on fast. Now, with the wisdom of millennia to tap into, you’ve got this. Here’s how.

Tagawa Gardens adviser Linda Larsen offers a key piece of advice to those who have never gardened before: “I would decide by what I have space for.”

In other words, don’t buy seeds for 50 different veggies if you only have room for a garden that’s 10 feet by 10 feet. The other thing to remember as you’re choosing a garden site is that you need full sun. If a tree shades the spot in the summer, it won’t work.

With that in mind, pick the seeds you want to start and separate them by the season in which they are grown and harvested. In general, cool season crops include greens, lettuce, peas, radishes, broccoli, cauliflower, turnips, beets and carrots. Warm season crops are those harvested in mid-to-late summer, such as tomatoes, peppers and eggplant.

Making things somewhat more complicated is that some veggies should be started inside and others should be directly planted into the ground. How do you tell the difference? Look at the instructions on the seed packet, Larsen advises.

“The packages contain a wealth of information,” she says.

Many gardeners prefer to directly sow the cool crops, rather than starting them inside. (That’s what Larsen prefers.) However, for those who want to get a bit of a jump on the season or just can’t wait to get their hands into some dirt, cool-season crops such as greens or lettuces can be started inside now and transplanted into the garden in March or April.

Paul Cure, who, with his wife, Anne, owns Cure Organic Farm in Boulder, says they have head lettuces growing in their greenhouse now. The head lettuce is destined for student gardens at Boulder Valley Schools.

Cure, whose farm will sell its produce at the farmer’s markets at Denver Union Station and in Boulder, says greens and head lettuces can be started inside now or direct-sown outside in mid- to late March if you have row cloth to protect them from the coldest temps. Greens such as kale, collards and mustards, are among the vegetables best suited to cold. They can take a bit of frost and the nip of cold makes them sweeter. Hardiness temperatures are generally listed on the seed packet.

Tagawa Gardens’ Garden Advisor Linda Larsen shows the assortment of items needed to begin the process of cultivating seeds for your summer garden at Tagawa Gardens on Feb. 6, 2017 in Centennial, Colorado. From left to right are an assortment of trays for planting, different kinds of soils with which to plant, different types of seeds, and plastic coverings to create a humid environment once the seeds are planted.

Average frost date in Colorado

Open a seed packet in a search for information, and you may find yourself still a bit befuddled. Instructions for sowing outside or starting inside almost always refer to the average frost date — as in “Start inside 6 to 8 weeks before average frost date.”

The reason for writing the directions that way is that frost dates vary by climate. Your friend in Georgia may be able to set out tomatoes in early April, while your uncle in Minnesota may have to wait till the end of May or even early June.

In most places in Colorado, the average frost date is between May 15 and May 30. But certain variables complicate the picture. The higher the altitude, the later the frost date, since warm spring temperatures come later in the mountains.

Larsen says that for most of Denver proper, the average frost date is about May 15. Some families even have a tradition of planting warm weather vegetables plants, such as peppers and tomatoes, on Mother’s Day. Larsen, says however, that some places outside Denver may see a later average frost date. She lives near Parker and considers her average frost date to be May 25. Some gardeners hold off until Memorial Day weekend.

Days to maturity

Colorado is a tough place to garden because the growing season is short. If you plant tomatoes in late May, they could face a frost in mid-September. That means it’s important to know how long it takes from planting to harvest. Some crops are quick: For example, certain varieties of radishes, a cool season crop, take only 30 days from seed planting to eating. Many tomatoes, especially the larger beefsteak varieties, take 90 days or more.

Seed-starting equipment

Most people buy oblong plastic trays with domes from a garden center for their seed starting. The trays prevent the water that drains from pots from dripping, and the domes create a greenhouse effect. Larsen also recommends a germination mat, a sort of soil heating pad that goes under the trays to keep the temperature warm. The trays, domes and mat are reusable for the next year. Rather than using a germination mat, some gardeners keep their seed trays warm by placing them on top of the refrigerator or next to their furnace.

“There’s not a seed around that likes to germinate if they don’t at least have a temperature of 55 degrees,” Larson says.

Some seeds, such as peppers, like it positively tropical.

For individual pots, many people use four-pot and six-pot inserts that fit into the trays, Larsen says. But gardeners looking to save money use paper cups, egg cartons or even plastic ice cube trays, all with drainage holes cut into them.

For best results, gardeners should use a soil medium instead of garden soil or potting soil for seed starting. Most nurseries have their own soil medium for sale. At Tagawa Gardens, the medium is made with perlite, vermiculite and peat moss. The lightweight medium with the moisture-holding peat allows seeds to sprout and roots to form without having to work very hard.

Tagawa Gardens’ Garden Advisor Linda Larsen uses a cut straw to carefully pick individual Crimson Cushion Beefsteak tomato seeds to place in small trays to begin the cultivation process of growing them for your garden on February 6, 2017 in Centennial, Colorado.

How to plant seeds

To plant seeds, Larsen moistens the soil medium and places it into the pots. She uses a chopstick or skewer to make a small hole in the medium and drops in two seeds per pot. She uses a spray bottle to mist the seeds to keep them moist, checking them daily. If both seeds germinate, she snips off the smaller plant, once both have developed their first two true leaves (the plant’s second set of leaves after the small leaves that emerge after germination).

Another key point: Make sure you label the pots with markers, so you know what is in each pot.

When true leaves have emerged, the plants should be watered regularly and given a glug of half-strength liquid fertilizer each week.

After a good mass of roots has grown, the seedlings should be transplanted into larger pots with potting soil. Larsen advises a second transplant after they outgrow the first pot with soil.

Shining a light on seedlings

While some plants can get by with good natural light, warm-weather plants such as tomatoes that may spend a couple of months indoors do best with grow lights. Many gardeners buy shop lights and use warm (red) spectrum tubes alternated with cool (blue) spectrum light. Or gardeners can buy daylight spectrum tubes.

Many gardeners hang their light setup on chains, keeping the fluorescent lights close to the plants and raising them as the plants grow.

Helen H. Richardson, The Denver PostThese are 6 week old Belleza Pink Gaura flower seedlings growing at Tagawa Gardens on February 6, 2017 in Centennial, Colorado. Tagawa Gardens’ garden advisor Linda Larsen, who is also a master gardener and bee keeper, goes through a step by step process on how to begin the process of cultivating seeds to plants for your summer garden.

Other tips for keeping your veggie starts happy

Larsen says to water the plants with room temperature water. When transplanting, grab the plant by the leaves rather than the stem, she adds.

“If you bruise a leaf, especially a lower leaf, it’s not a big deal,” she says. “If you bruise a stem, it could alter that plant for the rest of its life.”

When it’s time to plant your babies outside, get them ready by exposing them to the outside temperature and light for increasing periods of time each day, making sure they’re well watered.

Keep an eye on the weather and future weather reports. If the nights have been cold and the soil is less than 50 degrees, warm weather plants may be stunted. Putting dark plastic or landscape fabric on the outside beds can warm the soil.

Why do it?

You may be thinking that seed starting seems like a lot of trouble when you could buy plants from a garden center or even buy vegetables from the farmer’s market.

You like doing it.

Here’s another argument for those who have children: It’s a great family project, says Cure, of Cure Organic Farm.

“It’s always such an incredible process to see the life of a seed, how a plant can grow from something so small,” he says. “I’m always amazed.”

When to plant in Colorado

For the most specific information, refer to your seed packet.

In general:

Cool-weather seeds can be started inside now through the end of the month. Depending on the cold tolerance of the plant, they can be sown outside starting in mid-to-late March.

Warm-weather seeds should be started in mid-March. Many Coloradans remember St. Patrick’s Day as the time to start seeds. Warm-weather seeds for tomatoes, peppers and eggplants cannot be sown outdoors after the mid-to-late May frost date — they won’t have time to mature. But summer and winter squash, cucumbers and green beans can be sown after the frost date when the soil is warm.

Sunflowers are famous for their tall stems and bright, yellow blooms. Aside from the flower’s beauty, its seeds are highly nutritious. Although sunflowers grow best in full sun, they’re a tough plant and can withstand dry climates and most soil types. Beginner and experienced gardeners alike will enjoy the minimal care required to grow a sunflower from a seedling to full maturity.

Sunflowers bloom throughout the summer and early fall. You can read through the various phases of a sunflower’s life cycle to learn how to harvest and use sunflowers in everyday life. Gifting sunflowers, for example, is a great way to show a friend or loved one how much you care. The vibrant color of this well-known plant will surely brighten any room.

Stages of Sunflowers

The sunflower goes through five stages during its life cycle. The germination phase begins the sunflower’s life. The vegetative phase then takes place when the plant grows leaves. Soon after, the reproductive phase occurs, and the bud of the flower forms. The blooming phase then follows, and the flower is fully grown. Once the season is over, you can harvest the seeds for personal use.

Germination Phase

Once you plant your sunflower seeds, the germination phase of the flower’s life cycle will begin. This phase takes up to eight days. During germination, roots will develop from the seed and a shoot will push through the surface of the soil. The shoot is looking for sunlight because all plants need sunlight to grow. Germination usually occurs from mid-April to late-May, depending on when you plant your seeds.

Vegetative Phase

After germination, the vegetative phase of the sunflower’s life cycle occurs. Your plant will still be a seedling for close to 13 days after it breaks through the soil. This initial part of the vegetative phase is called vegetative emergence.

Once the plant forms its first leaf that’s at least four centimeters long, the plant is officially in vegetative stage one (V1). When the plant grows two leaves that are at least four centimeters long, it progresses to vegetative stage two (V2), and so forth.

If you plant your sunflower in April or May, the vegetative phase will occur in May or early June.

Reproductive Phase

The reproductive phase occurs when a bud forms between the plant’s cluster of leaves. The bud may initially have a star-like appearance, but once the reproductive phase is complete, you’ll see your bud transform into the tall stemmed, yellow bloomed plant you know so well.

It takes about thirty days for a sunflower to bloom. The reproductive phase will begin in June and end in July or August.

Blooming Phase

Once your sunflower is in full bloom, you’ll have around 20 days to enjoy the beauty of the flower. The blooming phase provides the opportunity for bees to pollinate the flower and fertilize the seeds. When the back of the sunflower head turns yellow, you’ll know the seeds are ripening.

The blooming phase is the best time to take advantage of your sunflower’s yellow blooms. You can put your flowers in a vase, gift them in a bouquet or make a wreath for the fall.

Harvesting Phase

To harvest the seeds of your sunflower, wait until your sunflower droops and turns brown. Then, cut the stem leaving four inches from the head of the sunflower. You must store the sunflower head upside down in a dry and breathable bag.

Your seeds should be ready to harvest within 110 to 125 days after you planted the flower. This means that if you planted your seeds in May, your sunflower will die in early or mid-August and you should have ready-to-harvest seeds in late-August or September. Because sunflowers are annual plants, they must be replanted year after year.

Growing Tips for Sunflowers

  • Water sunflowers regularly during the essential growth period.
  • If you plant your sunflowers in poor soil, add a slow-acting fertilizer.
  • Support your sunflowers with staking if they grow over three feet.
  • Use barrier devices around your sunflowers to deter wildlife during harvest time.
  • Check the back of the flower head for yellowing to identify seed ripening.
  • Hang flower heads upside down in a warm, dry place and harvest seeds into a bag.

Ways to Use Sunflowers

When you grow sunflowers in the summer, you can harvest the large blooms and use them in many ways through early fall. You can gift sunflowers to a friend or loved one, decorate your home with their welcoming yellow hue or incorporate them into a wedding arrangement.

Gifts

Gifting sunflowers is the perfect way to show someone you’re thinking of them. Sunflowers symbolize strength, adoration and loyalty, so they’ll have sentimental meaning to friends, family and romantic partners alike. There’s no other plant that can brighten someone’s day quite as easily as a sunflower.

Decorations

Sunflowers are commonly used in fall decor, such as wreaths and fall bouquets. Their bright yellow tone goes well with the deep browns and oranges of fall. You can incorporate sunflowers into your table arrangement, display them on your mantel or welcome guests into your home by placing them outside your front door.

Weddings

If you plan to have a rustic or outdoor wedding, sunflowers can be an excellent addition to your bouquet. The flowers will make your bouquet pop as you walk down the aisle, and they’ll bring a natural element to your ceremony. Using sunflowers for your wedding bouquet will make your special day memorable to all who attend.

Watching a sunflower grow from a seedling to full maturity is a rewarding experience. The life cycle of the sunflower will teach you patience and proper maintenance of a plant. Once the flower reaches full bloom, you can gift your sunflowers and decorate your home with them. Then, you can harvest the seeds and begin the process again next year.

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The subject of famous poetry and artwork, sunflowers are a beautiful and much adored plant. Their striking looks and vibrant colouring have made them a popular choice in gardens across the globe.

In this article we pay tribute to the sunflower by listing 5 facts you may not have already known.

1. Sow and grow

Sunflowers are easy plants to grow. Just pop a seed in the ground, water it, then a green sprout will appear in about 14 days. To boost their height, give them a liquid feed every 2-3 weeks.

2. Tasty leaves

Each sunflower leaf grows up the stem at about a 90° angle from the one below it. The leaves are actually edible and work well in salads and stir-fries or steamed with the tough centre vein cut out and removed.

3. High and mighty

According to the Guinness World Records, the tallest sunflower in the world was grown in Germany in 2012 and reached more than 8m high. The grower broke his own record for the tallest sunflower set in 2009.

4. Bonus blooms

One sunflower head consists of more than 1000 individual blooms called disc flowers, and what we think of as petals are called ray flowers. Wild plants have multiple heads while cultivated sunflowers have one.

5. Seed and feed

There are two types of commercial sunflower seeds. The small black seed used in bird feed is also processed into oil, while the second type is a larger non-oil seed with black and white stripes that is used in food.

Flowers That Look Like Sunflowers

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Sunflowers, with their bright yellow petals and dark, central cones, are some of the most iconic flowers in the American landscape. Many types of coneflowers mimic the cheerful look of the sunflower, providing a similar look for native flower gardeners.

Recommended Flowers

To achieve the bright, happy look of a sunflower garden, there are several types of coneflowers that make ideal additions or replacements for the traditional sunflower. Some recommended coneflowers include the yellow coneflower, Tennessee coneflower, black-eyed Susan and the eastern purple coneflower.

Descriptions

Coneflowers mimic the look of sunflowers with 10 petals surrounding a large, darker central cone. The yellow coneflower (Echinacea paradoxa) features bright yellow rays and a dark brown center. It grows to an average height of 2 1/2 feet, according the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. The Tennessee coneflower (Echinacea tennesseensis) is well-known for its purple blooms and is one of the rarest wildflowers. Planting it may help increase the survival of the plant. The black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta var. pulcherrima) features drooping orange to yellow petals and a dark brown cone that extends above flower’s face. The purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) is a similar color the Tennessee coneflower but features drooping petals like the black-eyed Susan.

Benefits

Planting coneflowers in the garden helps create the look of a prairie wildflower meadow and also provides medicinal benefits. The echinacea flowers can be used as an antibiotic, according to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. Echinacea flowers and the black-eyed Susan attract hummingbirds, butterflies and other birds to the yard.

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