Since confessing my somewhat sketchy seed-starting skills, I’ve shared my love for zinnias and marigolds for even the most newbie seed growers. But those lovely little blooms are dwarfed by my next no-fail seeds: sunflowers!
A Little About Sunflowers:
While sunflowers belong the the genus Helianthus, which contains more than 50 species, the common garden sunflowers we all know and love are all derived from Helianthus annus, native to the U.S. and domesticated for food purposes over 5000 years ago. The dozens (if not hundreds) of cultivars now available provide gardeners with a variety of colors, heights, and even petal arrangements. Sunflower seeds are edible, but many hobby gardeners grow them for birds instead, leaving the flowers on the stalks well into fall to let the birds enjoy them right where they stand. For the classic garden sunflower, grow Mammoth, an heirloom variety that’s been a garden staple for hundreds of years.
Why I Love Sunflowers from Seed:
- I hate tiny seeds – they’re so hard to deal with – and no one could ever accuse sunflowers of having small seeds! They’re easy to see, count, and handle.
- Sunflowers are generally best when sown directly in the ground, because they grow long, strong taproots very quickly. Direct sow is easy and, since sunflowers aren’t that picky about soil as long as you put them in a sunny spot, you can pretty much plant and forget.
- Some varieties may need staking when they get tall, but newer varieties are shorter and sturdier.
- Once you find a variety of sunflower you like, you can save the seeds and plant them from year to year – very economical!
- For sunflower growing tips, see this article from The Old Farmer’s Almanac.
Five Sunflowers to Try:
- Velvet Queen (4-5 feet, great for birds / Park Seed)
- Soraya (5-6 feet, wind-resistant / Park Seed)
- Chianti Hybrid (3 – 4 feet, multiple burgandy blooms / Burpee)
- Elf (1 – 2 feet, good for containers / Burpee)
- Strawberry Blonde Hybrid (5 – 6 feet, rose-pink blooms / Burpee)
Seed Starting Resources:
- Seed Starting Tips
- Starting Seeds Indoors
- Starting Vegetable Seeds Indoors
- Wildflower Seed Planting – Sowing Seed
What’s your favorite sunflower to grow? Share with us in the comments!