One word that describes sunflowers is – summer. Sunflower (Helianthus annuus) is a heliotropic annual flowering plant. Heliotropic means that it turns the flowers in the direction where the sun goes. With more than 70 varieties, some of its gorgeous varieties include the autumn beauty, Moulin rouge, Mammoth, and Teddy bear. Read our guide to know exactly how to grow sunflowers from seeds and stem cuttings.
You can grow sunflowers from both seeds and stem cuttings. As a summary, choose a bright, sunny spot with a well-draining soil mix and plant your sunflower seeds about half an inch deep. Maintain two to three feet distance between two rows and six feet spacing between two plants.
The seedlings take 10 to 14 days to germinate. To grow sunflowers from stem cuttings, choose a four to six inches long stem with mature leaves and no flower buds. Remove all the bottom leaves and leaving only two to three leaves at the top and plant them in the soil. In a few days, the roots shall develop.
Keep reading if you need all the details to grow healthy sunflower plants.
How to Grow Sunflower from Seeds
Sowing the sunflower seeds
Before getting on to sowing the seeds, keep in mind all the pre-requisites such as soil mix, tools, season, and containers. Take a medium-sized (4 to 5 inches deep) container with drainage holes at the bottom.
Fill 70 to 75 percent of the container with this mix. Press the soil and make it firm to make an even surface.
Now take the seeds and put them two to three inches apart from each other. Do not place the seeds too close to the edges of the pot. After gently placing the seeds in the container, cover them with half an inch layer of the same soil mix.
Press the soil again to make good soil contact. Seed to soil contact helps in proper germination. Water the seeds gently using a shower and do not displace the seeds.
Maintenance of the seedlings
Keep the container in a sunny location and keep the soil moist at all times, especially during the first 10 to 12 days. Seeds will germinate after about a week. Water the pot every day to make sure that the soil remains moist. After 15 to 20 days, true leaves will start developing.
To boost the growth of seedlings, water the seedling with half tablespoon NPK 19:19:19 fertilizer mixed in 1-liter water. Water the seedlings with this fertilizer once every two weeks for healthy plant growth. Once the seedlings are five to six inches tall, you can transplant them to the final location.
To transplant, using a gardening tool, gently take out the plant without disturbing the root ball. If you are planning to grow the sunflowers in a pot, take a 10 to 12 inches’ big pot to accommodate one plant. Cover the drainage holes with small stones and pebbles to allow the excess water to drain out keeping the soil intact.
Fill the pot with the soil mix leaving the top two inches of the pot as it is. Dig a hole in the center and place the plant by covering it with soil to provide support.
Water it well such that water drains out of the drainage holes below. You can plant these sunflowers in a bigger pot to keep them in groups. Make sure to keep a five to six inches’ space between the plants.
The period before and after the development of flower buds is critical and if you don’t water well at this stage, it can hamper the plant’s growth. 60 to 65 days after sowing the seeds, buds will start developing and after 70 days, the flowers will bloom.
They continue to bloom for 10 to 15 days. Seeds are ready to be harvested after 100 to 125 days of planting the flower. Collect the seeds from the brown flowers and you will have a seed supply for the next season.
Growing Sunflowers from Stem Cuttings
Choose a four to six inches long, healthy stem with mature leaves. Make a 45 degree cut below and plant it in a mixture of soil and compost. Water the plant thoroughly. For faster rooting, dip the cutting in a mix of honey and cinnamon powder.
Keep the cutting in shade for a few days and then shift the pot to full sun. In the next 50 to 60 days, your plant will be ready to bloom as sunflowers are fast growers. Depending on the variety of the sunflower, you can either grow it in pots or directly on the ground.
Dwarf varieties can be planted in pots but the larger varieties like ‘Mammoth’ should be directly planted in soil as opposed to pots. These have a deep root system that spreads fast and leaves the organic matter in the soil upon death.
So, grow these annual flowers in your garden if you want to increase soil fertility.
Few Important Tips
Before you begin planting sunflowers in your garden, make sure to read these tips to avoid any mistakes. Follow these tips and rest assured, you will have beautiful blooms in the garden. Sunflowers are quite resilient when it comes to maintenance.
Apart from the regular care, they do not demand anything exclusive. Maintain normal growing conditions and you will have a happy sunflower blooming. Read all its growth requirements below.
The bright sunflowers bloom from mid-summer to early fall. The perfect time to sow sunflower seeds is early spring to early summer months so that they can flower during the summer and rainy seasons.
Sunflowers are resilient plants that can grow in all kinds of soil but they do need a well-draining soil mix that retains moisture. The better the soil mix, the better results your plant will give. Choose a well-draining, loose soil mix to grow your sunflowers.
For seedlings, use a mix of 70 percent coco peat, 30 percent compost, and one tablespoon of fungicide powder to avoid root rot. Mix these well to make a good soil mix. For bigger plants, use 50 percent garden soil, 25 percent compost, and 25 percent coco peat.
Sunflowers grow the best in sunny spots that receive five to eight hours of direct sunlight. For maximum flowering, long and hot summers are needed.
Since sunflowers are sun-loving plants, they also have high water requirements. Maintain a regular watering schedule to keep your plant healthy. If you don’t provide enough water, the leaves will start drooping and in no time, the plant will die.
To check if your plant needs water or not, put your finger in the soil, and if it feels dry till the second knuckle, water it thoroughly.
Sunflower is a heavy fertilizer feeder. Provide your plant with NPK fertilizer every 10 days or bi-weekly to promote new growth and flowering. After fertilizing, water the plant to dissolve the fertilizer and activate nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium.
Focus more on nitrogen because it helps in leaf production. These plants get so big so fast because they get their energy from the sun and it is the leaves that help in the photosynthesis process and ultimately, producing flowers.
The flowers will be produced when the plant is ready. For maximum potential, provide a nitrogen-rich fertilizer during the active growth period. Fish fertilizer is a great example of nitrogen-rich fertilizer. Well-aged manure is also an excellent source of nitrogen.
Other nitrogen-rich fertilizer sources are blood meal, bone meal, worm castings, and seed meals.
Sunflowers love warm weather.
But they are not too fussy about the timing of sowing. You can sow the seeds any time between early spring and late summer and enjoy the blooms till early autumn. They do not enjoy cold weather conditions.
They can survive the mild cold, but they are not going to grow as happy as they do in warmer conditions. So avoid planting them in temperatures below 60 degrees Fahrenheit.
Keep a check on your plant to remove any spent or dead flowers.
Deadheading refers to the removal or plucking of dead or spent flowers. This helps the plant in spending its energy in the production of more new flowers and helps in the overall fresh growth of the plant. It also helps in extending the life of the plant.
So deadhead the flowers when needed.
When the main flower starts to droop, clip off that flower and this will enable the secondary flowers to bloom.
Sunflowers are a must-have in the garden if you want to attract healthy pollinators like bees that help in seed fertilization. Keep all the basic tips in mind and you will have a healthy plant.
We recommend growing sunflowers from seeds as it will give better results with flowering when compared to propagation by stem cuttings. It is a great plant to have around the plants that need pollination for fruit formation.
So if you are looking to add some color to your garden next summer, sunflowers should be on your list of flowering plants. Let’s know your thoughts in the comments.