Everyone should grow sunflowers… at least one or two. They’re happy flowers – there can’t be many people who don’t feel good when they see a sunflower, or even better a whole mass of flowers, on a summer day.
Sunflowers are good for pollinators too, attracting bees and hoverflies with their big flowers. You can cut the flowers to add to homegrown bouquets or leave them on the plant to make seeds that the birds will devour later in the year. And if you have a competitive streak, see which member of the family or gardener on the street can grow the tallest sunflower.
Now is the time to be sowing sunflowers, March or April is perfect. They’re best started in pots on a windowsill or in a greenhouse. Although if you leave this year’s plants to seed, there may well be self-sown plants in the garden next year.
Fill a 9cm pot with peat-free compost and put a seed in. Cover with a little more compost, water gently and put the pot in a warm place. As soon as you see a green shoot, move the pot to a sunny windowsill. Remember to water your plants regularly and give them as much light as possible – on warmer days put them outside in the sun and bring them back indoors overnight. This helps to ensure sturdy growth and gets them used to the cooler conditions outdoors.
Plant your sunflowers in a sunny spot in the garden in late May or early June. They like a fertile, well-drained soil, so add some homemade compost. Stake your plant to make sure they aren’t flattened on the first windy day and keep watering if the weather is dry. Also, watch out for slugs… they love sunflowers, but not in a standing back and admiring the flowers kind of a way. Put a ring of broken egg shells or some gravel around the base of your plants to help protect them.
Then watch them grow!