Basic Sunflower Care
Sunflower is a highly valued crop used for oil, ground meal and seeds. It's one of the few crops that actually originated in North America. Sunflower is an annual plant and a heavy feeder that loves the sun. There are many varieties, ranging in height from very small to over 15 feet. Yellow, orange, burgundy or red are the most popular colors although there are others.
Sunflowers are hardy plants that can grow with minimal care, but they do require some tending. In order to grow healthy sunflowers you need three basic components--soil, sun, and water.
TIP: Our expert gardening advisor, Susan Patterson suggests, "Sow sunflower seeds directly into the garden rather than starting them in pots. Plant 5 or 6 seeds in a clump 8 inches apart and thin to 2 plants when they are 12 inches tall. Select the strongest plant when they reach 2 feet tall.
Sunflowers can grow in nearly any type of soil, as long as it is well-drained. They can be planted in rocky soil, fertile soil and mixed medium soil. For the best results, provide your sunflowers with enough space to establish a thick root system and enough space to grow tall stocks. Don't plant your sunflowers too close together, as this can cause root strangle which will inhibit their ability to grow normally and to produce seeds. Work a slow release fertilizer that contains trace minerals into the soil.
TIP: Susan advises, "Add well-aged manure, rabbit, horse or cow into the soil before planting sunflowers."
When growing sunflower, ensure they get enough sun. Sunflowers need 6 to 8 hours of full sun daily. They do the best in full sun, however, gardens that have partial sun can also produce healthy sunflowers, they may just not reach their full height potential. Don't plant your sunflowers in shady spots, as this will stunt their growth and limit their ability to produce sunflower seeds.
Water and Feed
Water new plants thoroughly.
TIP: Susan adds, "Water sunflowers 3 to 4 inches away from the plant to ensure that you get the root zone. Do not put fertilizer directly on the stem."
For larger plants, dig a moat all the way around, 18 inches from the plant, and 3 inches deep. Pour several gallons of diluted organic fertilizer into the moat weekly.
TIP: "Watch the weather carefully and always be prepared to offer additional support to sunflowers in the event of strong winds."