by Mackenzie Kupfer
Aside from Shasta daisies, I would say that sunflowers are the happiest of flowers. Their faces seem to smile and I find their presence to be very uplifting. I love lining the backyard fence with them to provide some extra privacy and cover up the boring wood panels. As the name suggests, sunflowers require full sun but other than that, they aren't too picky. They can withstand periods of drought and aren't sensitive to pH levels in the soil. Their roots spread wide and they can grow up to 12 feet tall so they do take up a lot of room. Even so they are fairly easy to grow, fun to eat, and beautiful to look at.
When deciding to where to plant your sunflowers, keep in mind that the seeds and stems do emit toxins. Although these toxins are harmless to humans and animals, they do kill off the surround grass and other plants. For this reason I have dedicated sunflower beds.
Sunflowers can be started indoors but they do fine when you plant them directly into the soil. They are actually so easy to grow that you might see some popping up under a bird feeder. Wait to plant until the danger of frost is gone but if you have a short growing season you can plant a little earlier because sunflowers can withstand a little bit of chill compared to other plants. Plant the seeds about 1 1/2 inches deep and about six inches apart. Thin them out once the first true leaves (second set) appear. This will help to ensure that you get plenty of healthy sunflowers.
Even though sunflowers can withstand a little bit of drought, it is best to water them on a regular basis to encourage root growth which will result in taller, healthier plants. You might want to invest in some flower gardening supplies such as plant supports to help your sunflowers maintain their structure. Stake any flowers that grow over 3 feet tall so that they don't slouch over. I usually loosely strap them to my fence.
The flowers should mature in early fall and they will droop down slightly from the weight of the seeds. The backside of the flower will turn from a bright green to a yellow brown. To harvest the seeds, cut the stem about a foot away from the flower and hang to dry. Once the seeds are dried you can dislodge them from the flower by brushing them with your fingers. I usually put a fan behind where I am brushing to blow away the extra debris so I don't have to sort through it later. Save some of the seeds to plant next year and then roast the rest for a tasty snack!
Mackenzie Kupfer has been a lover of all things green since the age of six when she began gardening with her Nana. She is currently an online publisher for Avant Garden Decor which provides flower gardening supplies. In her free time, Mackenzie enjoys attending garden shows, yoga, and trying out new recipes.