Sensational sunflowers from seed…
Sunflowers are one flower that’s pretty much always grown from seed. It’s a happy tradition for many gardeners and so easy! Marie Niemann shows us her favorite kinds and why she grows them,..every year! Find out some fun facts, how to grow them and harvest the seeds, too.
“Growing sunflowers is fun and easy for all ages, all they require is dirt, water and sunshine. They aren’t fussy as to what type of soil you have either. I’ve even planted some in containers and they did fine, you just need to be sure to water them regularly. They might need some support as they get taller and heavy with blooms.”
The reward of growing sunflowers is being able to enjoy their beautiful cheerful blooms all summer long, often lasting well into the fall. I look forward to my early morning summer strolls through my gardens.
Sunny morning sunflowers
Sometimes I take a cup of coffee out to sit and enjoy a quiet start to the day, and to be greeted by sunflowers happy smiling faces is a wonderful way to start my day! That puts a smile on my face every time. They often appear to be dancing as they gently sway back and forth in the warm summer breeze. As the morning sun lights up their happy faces it also wakes up the bees already busy buzzing around them eager to enjoy their sweetness.
The large Mammoth Sunflowers are an amazing variety and can easily grow 10-12’ tall, each producing very large flowers. Eventually they are unable to hold the weight of the huge flowers and begin to hang down their heads while preparing to release their large grey striped seeds. The birds seem to know right when the seeds are ready and visit for a little sweet treat.
How to grow sunflowers:
- Choose a sunny spot
- Poke a small hole and plant seeds
What are Sunflower Aliens?
“It’s exciting to see what unusual flowers will grow because the bees have cross pollinated the flowers. Some call them aliens, since they are a cross between two different varieties.”
I wish I had more room to grow an entire field of them. The first field of sunflowers I saw was while traveling through Kansas. I was in awe, how would it be to enjoy that every day?
Fun facts about Sunflowers:
- The tallest sunflower on record was 27 feet high!
- There are two kinds of sunflower seeds. Sunflower oil which is used in cooking and in margarines is made from black seeds and snack food is made from the striped seeds.
- Kansas is often known as the Sunflower state and the flower is in fact Kansas’s state flower.
- It is a misconception that flowering sunflower heads track the Sun across the sky during the day. Young flower buds do display movement similar to this behavior through a process called heliotropism. But a mature flower usually points in a fixed easterly direction.
- The flowers within a sunflower head are clustered in a spiral pattern whereby each floret is oriented towards the next by the golden angle of 137.5°. This produces a pattern of interconnecting spirals. The number of left and right spirals are consecutive Fibonacci numbers.
- Normally there are 34 spirals in one direction and 55 in the other. Very large sunflowers can have 89 in one direction and 144 in the other.
- Famous Dutch painter Vincent Van Gogh did a series of paintings featuring and called Sunflowers.
Marie says, “I save some of the seeds from each plant in the fall and share the rest with friends, squirrels and the birds. For best results if you want to save the seeds, allow the bloom to dry out completely on the stalk until it is a pale brown color on the back of the head. If you cut them too soon the seeds won’t be fully developed and you risk getting mold.”
Harvest the seeds
- Cut the head off the plant using some strong scissors about 6 inches down the from the top of the stem.
- Dry out for up to a week before you extract the seeds.
- Brush off all the mature disc florets from the face of the sunflower head with your fingers.
- With the seeds now exposed press your thumb down firmly and move it in a circular motion and they will eventually come loose and start to drop out.
Saving the seeds
“I get lots of volunteer’s popping up in the spring and have to thin them down. It is possible to transplant them successfully when small, but they do better to just plant them where you want them to grow. Seeds can be purchased anywhere flower seeds are sold, at most grocery stores and garden centers. Or you can order some more unusual types from any of the seed companies. Don’t worry if you don’t get them planted in the early spring, you can plant them anytime and will still be able to enjoy happy flowers all summer.”
Why not plant some of your own sensational sunflowers to enjoy and help keep the bees happy too?