Growing Sunflowers can be fun

Once I saw a sunflower and had a dream that night it was a plant from another world. Yes, they are big and unusual but certainly very much of this Earth. Talking about sunflowers is a large subject, not just because most sunflowers are so large but there are over 52 species known at this time.

The sunflower genus Helianthus is native to North America and there is estimated to be over 38 types of genus known in America. Another 14 types are native world wide in many different countries. They can be almost any size sometimes averaging 3 to 6 feet in height. Regular garden varieties look like unusually large flowers and other giant species can grow up to 10-12 feet on average in ideal conditions like the American Giant or the Kong types of sunflowers.

Planning and planting

Sunflowers do best when planted directly into the ground soil because their main tap roots are not limited by a pot or planter. Weather is also a factor because they grow best when abundant light is available during the day time. Too much moisture can rot them out or destroy the flowers petals and not enough water will affect their growth.

Depending on what you are growing you will need the appropriate preparation. A well chosen growing area, proper soil, well planned growing season conditions in regard to time of year they are planted, fertilizer, pest control, and though toward what type to be planted. For small gardens or potted plants almost any genus type of sunflower will work. The flower will scale its growth to the area it is planted in.

For large seed yield, one needs to plant the sunflower directly in the ground. Many times the roots may shy away from growing too large to support such a large flower so one will need a support steak, post or rod to support it. This also becomes necessary when the head of the sunflower grows large and heavy or there is considerable local wind in the area it is planted in.

Different types of sunflowers have different color seeds ranging from white or brown to purple for most varieties. The seed color will also hint at its taste when eaten. White seeds are fairly mild tasting and probably the most popular. Brown seeds are good for breads and making flour for baking. Purple seeds are a wild card and have flavor that is unique to the plant many times.

Dig a hole about 3 feet deep in the soil and about 2 feet wide. Make sure the area inside the hole is clear of roots and rocks. Water inside the hole just to get it wet. Use premium planting soil made for trees or garden plants to fill in the hole after it is cleared out. Add some soil about half way then add more water but not too much water, then add more soil till the hole is full. Plant the sunflower seed about 2 inches deep but make sure the hole is well packed with soil before planting the seed. The sunflower seed needs well packed soil with no air gaps. Use a shovel to push the soil down or step on the ground around where you placed the potting soil to pack it all down the best you can. Water the soil down well again so the top of the soil is moist but not muddy. The best fertilizer to use is already mixed into the potting soil or use your own as needed.

After a few days usually you will see a small sunflower plant sprouting where it was planted. The plant may still have the shell from the seed stuck on it’s self or a leave. Be careful not to damage the small plant if you remove a piece of the shell. It is recommended to use a small ground steak or stick to support the plant as it grows. Often it will grow tall and thin till it fills out and gets stronger. Use tie wires to secure it to the ground steak or growing stick. Sunflowers like to follow the sun in the day time so do not bind it to the stick very tight. Bind it only as much as needed so it does not fall over. If the sunflower falls over it will bend its stem and possibly damage the plant.

Plant care and harvest

Some sunflowers grow tall almost overnight others will take a few weeks to get strong and tall. Water is important so do not forget to keep them well watered when you grow them. Also some pests and bugs like to eat the leaves of the sunflower. Many times it does the flower no harm but if too many leaves get eaten by pests too fast the plant may not like it and get sick. Consider buying a non poisonous plant protection spray from the garden store. A lot of these types of sprays are oil based and may have a strong odor so be cautious when using them. Although no pest spray works all the time it will be helpful giving it a try to protect the plant.

When the sunflower matures it will grow a flower head larger than usual. This is because the head is where the sunflower seeds come from. Often the heads can become heavy as they grow larger so be prepared to secure the sunflowers head onto a pole or garden steak heavy duty enough to support the weight as it grows.

Be sure to check the flowers head for pests. Sometimes the pests will try to eat the seeds so either be prepared to expel them from the plant or harvest the plant before they damage the seeds. When you think the seeds are ready for harvest cut the head off the sunflower and place it in a bag and let it dry out. When the head dries out completely the seeds are ready to plant again or eat.

Some sunflowers grow multiple heads, many times extra small sunflower heads will grow off the main stem. They may also mature or maybe just stay small. Also the sunflower may die after the main head is removed. Give it some time and new heads on the sunflower may keep it alive for a while more. The plant can on average live around 2 to 3 months, sometimes longer.

Sunflowers are a great way to learn about plants and flowers. They are very interesting and beautiful. Also the seeds can make a great healthy snack.

Gardening | do_it_yourself

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