Sunflowers are true sun worshipers. Not only do the foot wide flower heads resemble the sun with the golden head and petals on the rim that look like sun rays, but the entire head points itself at the sun and follows it through the day, a trait known as “heliotropism”. This action allows the leaves of the sunflower to receive more sunlight. When the flower fully opens, the head becomes stationary.
Sunflowers grow ten feet tall.
Despite their impressive height of up to ten feet, sunflowers are easy to grow under the right conditions. The plant needs full sun, six hours or ore, and prefer deep, fertile soil. Add manure and compost to improve the soil before planting. An inch or two of water a week and a little balanced fertilizer will keep sunflowers reaching for the sky. Mulch the ground between the plants to slow evaporation and reduce weeds.
Sunflowers grow easily from seeds planted half an inch deep when danger of frost is over in the spring. Plant a couple of them every foot. They can be started indoors four weeks before the last expected frost and then transplanted to the garden.
When they grow to six inches tall, the plants should be thinned to one every two feet. Rake soil around each stem to help support its rapidly growing stature. Once they are four feet tall, they may need the additional support of stakes to keep them from blowing over in windy areas.
After the seed heads develop at the top of the stem, it grows into a wide disk. The top of the plant will droop as the head gets heavier. The seeds develop on the top of the disk weighing it down. Sunflower seeds are grown commercially in America and Australia; they make a great snack roasted. The oil in the seeds is used in many foods, and many pet birds as well as wild ones are fed sunflower seeds.
Grasshoppers and aphids will eat the sunflower leaves, but a rapidly growing, healthy plant is little damaged by small insects. Diseases are usually not a problem with sunflowers.
Dry sunflower seeds for snacks.
Children love growing sunflowers because of the size of the plant and the tasty seeds. When they dry out, the heads are ready for harvesting. Just cut them off and hang in a dry, warm location away from birds, squirrels, and other rodents. When he seeds are dry, they can be easily plucked from the head. The old stalks can be saved and used as bean poles or plant stakes.
Sunflowers are native to North America and are called Helianthus annuus by botanists. Native Americans began growing them as long ago as 3000 years.
Varieties of sunflowers include the “Mammoth Russian Striped”, eight feet tall; “Moulin Rouge”, six feet tall with seven inch reddish flowers; “Skyscraper” 12 feet tall.