Growing Sunflowers: When to Plant and How to Grow Sunflowers

Learn the ins and outs of growing sunflowers. Planting these bright and breezy bloomers is a snap — growing them is even easier.

Annual Sunflowers Bloom in Any Soil in Full Sun

Annual Sunflowers Bloom in Any Soil in Full Sun

©2009, Dorling Kindersley Limited

2009, Dorling Kindersley Limited

Helianthus annuus, common sunflower, is a widely branching, stout annual, with coarsely hairy leaves and stems. The terminal flowers' heads are large and showy, up to 5 inches across. Grow in full sun and in any soil.

Planting sunflowers is as simple as can be. There’s no secret technique to learn how to grow sunflowers successfully. These bloomers are wired to grow, and all it really takes is sowing a seed. You can learn a few tips and tricks for growing sunflowers, but at its heart, the process is simple — just like the beauty of these sunny bloomers. 

Annual sunflowers (Helianthus annuus) are the commonplace, everyday flower with a center disk surrounded by petals. They grow from seed that’s large and easy to handle, which makes them a great choice for a children’s garden. Even little fingers can keep track of these seeds. 

Growing sunflowers starts with choosing the right spot. This is probably the trickiest part of learning how to grow sunflowers. Sunflower buds follow the sun as it treks across the sky each day. The French word for sunflower is actually “tournesal,” which translates to “turn to the sun.” Once blossoms open, they face e6ast. Consider this when you’re selecting a spot for planting sunflowers. 

Taller types of sunflowers cast a long shadow in the garden. In the vegetable garden, plant them on the north side in full sun so they won’t shade other crops. These annual bloomers aren’t picky about soil and even grow in dry, poor soil, which makes growing sunflowers a snap. You don’t have to prep soil too much, but if you can add compost or other organic matter to soil before planting sunflowers, you’ll have even healthier plants. 

If you’re growing taller types of sunflowers, consider how you’ll support plants as they zoom toward the sun. Some gardeners sow seeds in a shallow ditch and heap the excavated soil against stems as they grow to provide extra support. Stakes may work, but you need to make sure they’re anchored deeply in soil. A summer thunderstorm with gusty winds can quickly topple tall sunflowers and stakes. 

Knowing when to plant sunflowers isn’t difficult. Wait until soil has warmed — around the average last frost date for your region. How to plant sunflower seeds? Tuck them into soil 1 inch deep and 6 inches apart. Space them more closely — 4 inches apart — if you want more sunflowers and don’t mind a smaller bloom size. If you’re growing sunflowers to raise blossoms for homegrown bouquets, sow some seeds every 10 to 14 days to prolong the flowering period for your crop. 

Although sunflowers are drought-tolerant annuals, they thrive when they receive sufficient water. Give them 1 to 2 inches weekly for strong growth. Mulch soil with a 2- to 3-inch layer of organic mulch to keep weeds down and conserve moisture. Sunflowers are sun worshippers and love heat. As summer temperatures sizzle, watch your plants soar.

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