By Jackie Rhoades
No garden flower brings a smile to the face as easily as the sunflower. Whether it’s a single stalk growing in the corner of the yard, a line along the fence, or a whole field planting, sunflowers always attract attention. Each spring, you can find sunflower seeds for planting on the racks at the grocery checkout or anywhere a garden department exists or perhaps a friend has shared some of theirs.
If you have no experience with planting sunflowers, you may have some questions about how to plant sunflower seeds and when to plant sunflower seeds.
When to Plant Sunflower Seeds
Knowing when to plant sunflower seeds is important. Most package directions for how to plant sunflower seeds suggest sowing directly into the ground after all danger of frost is past and that’s fine if you live in an area where your growing season is long enough, but if your season is short, you may not have enough time for an outdoor planting.
Sunflowers take from 70-90 days to mature with the larger flowered varieties taking the longest, so you’ll probably want to get a jump on the season by planting sunflowers indoors about three weeks before the last frost date.
How to Plant Sunflower Seeds
Once you’ve chosen your sunflower seeds for planting, you need to choose a sheltered place out of the wind or a spot along a fence where the tall stalks can be tied. Sunflower roots grow deep and wide, so turn the soil well before planting. Add plenty of compost. Large flowers need good nutrition.
How deep to plant sunflower seeds isn’t nearly as important as how far apart. After all, seeds dropped from last year’s flowers often sprout where they fall. Most package directions for how deep to plant sunflower seeds recommend about one inch, but if the kids are helping you plant, don’t be too fussy.
If you’re starting indoors, don’t worry about how deep. To plant sunflower seeds in peat pots or paper cups, put two seeds per pot and just cover them with soil. You’ll thin out the weaker seedling before transplanting. Water well and keep the soil moist. In a week or two, your seedlings will push through and grow rapidly thereafter.
The size of your sunflower varieties will dictate how far apart to plant your sunflower seeds. For planting the giants, you’ll need 2 ½ – 3 feet between each plant for optimum growth. The regular size will need 1 ½ – 2 feet and the miniatures only six inches to a foot.
Planting sunflowers is an easy an easy and fun way to add a burst of color to your garden, but be forewarned. Sunflowers are a favorite treat for birds, squirrels and chipmunks. They can dig them up as fast as you can plant them. If you find yourself at war with these backyard thieves or simply want to avoid the conflict, cover your sown seeds with pieces of fence or clear plastic bottles with the bottoms cut off until your sunflowers sprout. Then sit back and watch them grow until those big beautiful blossoms are following the sun.