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How to Grow Sunflowers

Sunflowers are a fun flower to grow. The big, bright blooms are a favorite of people and birds. If you are both a gardener and a bird watcher, you get a double treat when you grow sunflowers

When we think about sunflowers, we usually think about a plant that grows several feet or more. But, there are countless of varieties out there. Some grow just two to three feet. It makes growing sunflowers more practical for some people as these smaller varieties can be grown in containers and set on a balcony or deck.

Just how tall can a sunflower grow? Giant Sunflower varieties popular at fall festival competitions, grow over 20 feet tall. The disadvantage of these types, is the flower head is smaller. Most people like the giant heads atop 7-12 foot plants.

Sunflowers can grow over 20 feet tall, and their blooms over two feet in diameter. Fall festivals often include competition for the tallest sunflower. Giant Sunflower competitions are a regular at most giant pumpkin weigh-offs.

Did you know?: Blooming sunflowers will always face East. Keep this in mind as you decide where to plant them in your garden or yard.

More on varieties of Sunflowers

How to Grow Sunflower Plants:


Sunflowers can be started indoors, or sown outdoors directly into the garden. We like to start them indoors, only because squirrel and birds like to search for, and dig up, the Sunflower seeds that we plant.  If you have this problem and want to sow them directly in your garden, try  placing an old screen over them after you plant them.

If you grow them to feed the birds, look for seedlings growing near the base of last year's crop. They can be left to grow, or transplanted to another location.

Whether you plant directly outdoors or transplant them, make the final spacing as follows:

  • Giants: Space three feet apart in rows three to four feet apart.

  • Regular/Intermediate sizes: Space two feet apart in rows three feet apart.

  • Miniatures: Space one foot apart in rows three feet apart.

Sunflowers look good planted individually, in rows, or in groups. For individual planting, put the seedling or seeds in just about any sunny location. Plant either individual, in groups, or in patterns. Tall varieties should go to the back of the flower garden. Smaller types are usually placed in the front as a border or edging. Make sure they are visible from your deck, porch and windows. You will be able to enjoy watching a variety of birds as they enjoy the seeds in late summer.

Did you know? Sunflowers always point their blooms or face to the rising sun in the East. Keep this in mind as you determine where to plant them.


Sunflowers grow in most soils. The soil needs to be lose enough for them to grow wide, deep roots to support this tall plant in winds. If you are growing a tall variety, stake them to protect them from high winds.

Once your sunflowers get started, they are a low maintenance plant. They will withstand droughts, but adding water will help them. They don't need a lot of fertilizer. And, weeds are not a problem once they get a couple of feet tall.

Harvesting:

Who will snack on the sunflower seeds....you or the birds and squirrels? If the answer is you, then you need to cover the heads with a cheesecloth or piece of screening to keep nature's creatures from robbing the bounty.  An old stocking may work, too. Don't use a plastic bag, as it will keep in moisture, and cause mold on the seeds. Harvest them after the flower petals have died off and dried.

You can use sunflowers as dried flowers in vases and for craft projects. They can be cut just before the flowers die off and dried over a few weeks. Miniature sunflowers make lovely fresh bouquets also. For craft projects, it is important to leave a sufficient amount of stalk.

For More Information:

Roasted Sunflower Seeds are the rage. Use this recipe to roast your own!

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