In any size or colour, sunflowers attract bees and other beneficial insects and produce nutritious seeds enjoyed by people and their feathered friends. Read on for six ways to make the most of the sunflowers in your garden.
Size and variety
If you think all sunflowers are 2-plus metre giants, think again!
- There are dozens of varieties to choose from, including branching bushes and dwarfs small enough to grow in containers.
- Most sunflowers are yellow, but there are also deep reds, creamy whites, and lovely mahoganies.
1. Start with seeds
Sunflowers are among the easiest annuals to sow from seed.
- Plant seeds in late spring after the soil has warmed.
- In midsummer, sow another packet for a beautiful fall show.
2. Don’t skimp on sun
If they run short of light, sunflowers will twist so their flowers face the sun.
- Use this trait to your advantage by choosing a site easily viewed from its south or west side, because sunflowers usually face those directions.
3. Plant a sunflower hedge
Branching sunflowers such as ‘Italian White’ produce dozens of blossoms on big, bushy plants.
- When grown 60 centimetresapart, they make a tall, dense hedge for the rear of a sunny flowerbed, and the blooms make great cut flowers, too.
4. Sunflowers as trellises
Grow sunflowers as living trellises for pole beans.
- Use a tall, single-stemmed variety and let it grow at least 30 centimetres tall before planting pole bean seeds at its base.
5. Keep the birds away
Keep summer birds from eating seeds you want to save for winter.
- After the petals shrivel, slip a cut piece of old pantyhose over the ripening seed head.
- Allow at least three weeks of ripening time before gathering and storing your homegrown birdseed.
6. Reuse flower parts later
Save the stalks for next year.
- After sunflowers finish blooming, lop off the stalks near the soil line, trim off any branches, and store your “sunflower poles” in a dry place until spring.
- Use them to make a natural-looking teepee trellis for scarlet runner beans or morning glories.