How to Grow Sunflowers: Everything You Need to Know

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Sunflowers are a great addition to any garden or landscape. With their bright colors and cheerful disposition, how could you say no? Nothing livens up a landscape more than a large showy display of sunflowers. And we are going to tell you everything you need to know to grow as many sunflowers as you want.

You know you want a billion of them – (me too!).

Bright yellow sunflowers against a blue sky.

How to plant sunflower seeds

Sunflowers are incredibly easy to grow from seed.

  • To germinate sunflower seeds before planting, you can soak them in water for a day and then plant them in moist soil.
  • Take a handful of seeds and plant them about 1/2 an inch deep in the soil. They should be about 12 inches apart, but you can plant a little closer for a bushier display.
  • You can plant as many or as few sunflower seeds in your garden space as will fit comfortably. Sunflowers look beautiful in rows, and it makes it easier to get to them for watering and fertilizing.
  • You can get a head start by planting your seeds in pots indoors before planting outside. You will need a good source of light like a south-facing window or a growing light. Plant your sunflower seeds four weeks before the last frost date for your zone.

Two sunflowers blooming against a white background.

How to grow sunflowers

  • Sunflowers need full sunlight, so make sure the location you plant has at least 10 hours of full sun.
  • The perfect location is a wall or fence facing south without any shade.
  • Plant sunflowers about 12 inches apart and water them well.
  • Sunflower plants grow best when planted close together because their seeds thrive in large groups.
  • Consider using two or three varieties simultaneously. This design creates an exciting look with different heights and colors growing well in one garden space.

Three seedling sunflowers growing in a small peat pot.
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Watering Requirements For Sunflowers

Water sunflowers well and often.

Sunflower plants grow best when watered at least once a day and more if possible.

Root rot will occur where heavy rains pool with poor soil drainage. Root rot is common in areas where there are clay soils or high-pH levels from fertilizers being over-applied.

Sunflowers require fertile, well-drained soil.

How long do sunflowers take to grow?

Sunflowers need a long time to develop before they are ready to harvest their seeds.

They can take up to 60-90 days before they are fully grown.

  • Did you know? Sunflowers can be grown as delicious and nutritous microgreens! The best part? They are ready for harvest in just 7 – 14 days.

How to care for sunflowers?

Sunflowers are exceptionally delicate, and it is vital to provide gentle care.

To care for sunflowers:

  • Water regularly.
  • Provide plenty of sunlight to grow well in their natural environment.
  • Fertilize with compost instead of chemical fertilizer (so it doesn’t kill them).
  • Staking may be required if plants get too heavy on top – do not stake with any materials besides wood or fabric.

A bright yellow sunflower growing against a white background.

How long do sunflower blooms last?

Sunflowers can last approximately two months when cared for properly.

If you want to prolong how long they last as cut flowers, add preservatives (available at many grocery stores) to the water when adding fresh flowers. Without preservatives, cut sunflowers will last about 3 days, but you can stretch that out to about a week with preservatives.

The late-blooming sunflower makes an excellent late-season food source for the bees.

A bundle of cut sunflowers on display in a white jug.

What are the best sunflower cultivars for showy blooms?

For the best showy blooms, look for tall cultivars with sturdy stems and large flower heads. These types of flowers will provide more petals to see against the sky and be easy to photograph or display in your home.

Some of the best showy cultivars include “Early Sunrise,” which has dark orange petals and a yellow center, and “Painted Lady Sunflower,” whose sunflowers have deep red centers with light green edges on each petal.

For tall sunflower cultivars, try planting “Happy Sun” or “Lemon Queen,” both of which have dark orange petals that contrast the bright yellow centers. . These flowers will stand out in any sunny location!

If you are looking for a shorter, but showy flower, try planting “Prairie Sunset,” a sunflower with red and green mixed together on its outer petals.

Many sunflowers laid out and overlaid on top of one another filling the image with bright yellow showy blooms.

How to Harvest Seeds From Sunflower Heads

In late summer, when the sunflowers have died back and are dry to the touch, you can quickly harvest seeds from their heads.

First, use a sharp knife or razor blade to cut down through the center of each head, this will make it easier to pull the seeds free. You will see how it splits into two halves with an inner shell containing many tiny seed packets. Then simply use your hands to break the seeds free from the flower.

Did you know you can eat sunflower shoots? You can, and they are very sweet and tender and make wonderful additions to salads. They are also one of the fastest-growing vegetables you can grow in your garden (or indoors!).

A sunflower head read for harvest.  The leaves have died back and the head is droopy and filled with sunflower seeds.

How to grow sunflowers in a pot:

  • You will need a deep pot at least 16 inches deep with a mix of loose soil. Fill the container with your mixture until about an inch from the top.
  • Before planting, water thoroughly. You will need to keep this plant moist but not soaking wet at any time during its growth cycle. Plant seeds in even rows or clusters (about two inches apart) along one side of the pot. Keep them watered carefully following each watering session!
  • Lightly fertilize the soil once a month when growing in containers.
  • Keep the pot in a sunny, warm location and water them every day or two.
  • Wait until they are about 18 inches tall before you cut off any dead flowers!

More About Growing Sunflowers

Are you obsessed with growing sunflowers? Welcome to the club! Check out all of our sunflower-growing resources!

A single dwarf sunflower growing in a terracotta pot.

Growing Sunflowers In the Summer Garden

Sunflowers are beautiful and fun flowers to grow. They can also be surprisingly easy, as long as you follow these steps! Be sure to check out our other posts for more information on how to garden with flowers.

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