Sunflowers are exactly as they sound ‘sunny flowers’! They just evoke all things Summer.
They can feel a bit of an intimidating flower to grow your own but they really are quite straightforward.
Otherwise known as Helianthus or Helianthus Annuus for the common sunflower, the name originates from the Greek words Helios which means Sun and Anthos which means flower.
Did you know that there are over 70 varieties of Sunflower?

Key facts

  • The Sunflower originates from the Americas, native to Northern and Central America there are three species found in South America – it is thought to originate back to 3000 BC
  • American Indians first domesticated the plant and used it for food and dying textiles and paint on the skin.
  •  Russia first commercialised the plant in the early 19th century
  • Sunflowers are heliotropic – this means they move in the direction of the sun
  • They are annual and perennial although perennial is not as common
  • They can reach 16 feet in height although the growth depends on the genetics of the variety and domestic varieties are often a lot smaller.
  • There are thought to be 70 varieties
  • Some cultures see sunflowers as a symbol of courage.
  • Kansas is known as ‘the sunflower state’!



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How to sow and grow…


1. You should always start your sunflower off in a pot, a fairly deep one.
2. Ideally these seedlings should be planted in March, April or May.
3. The rule is one seed per pot and you need to cover the pot with some form of clear plastic.
4. Keep in a bright place but cool until the seed germinates.
5. Once germinated remove the clear plastic covering and water well till ready to plant in the outer  garden. (You can retain in a pot but they won’t grow as tall!)
6. Plant with multi-compost and always use a stake, tall bamboo cane is ideal
7. Plant in a sun facing area – unsurprisingly these beauties need sun!

Kids love growing sunflowers – easy to use are egg cartons – fill each egg hole with compost – make a whole with your thumb and plop your seed in. Cut a bottle in half to make a cloche style covering and grab a lolly stick as your mini cane. Don’t forget to re-pot when those first shoots appear though!


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How to harvest sunflower seeds…a tasty treat!

At the end of the season you can harvest your sunflower for seeds which can be used as a yummy snack, to replant or to feed your wildlife.

  •  Wait till the flower is dry and the back of the head turns brown – the petals die and the seeds should look plump.
  • Cut the head off the plant a good few inches below the flower head.
  • Lie the dry flower on a flat surface and rub your hands over the seeded area (middle) and then pull out the seeds by hand or using a fork.
  • Rinse the seeds well and then leave out to dry overnight.
  • If you’re saving the seeds to replant put them in an airtight container until you’re ready to sow them.


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