Growing Sunflowers:
How to Grow Sunflowers Organically

Nothing shouts 'summer' more than fantasticly growing sunflowers. They're also exciting for children who watch the seedlings quickly grow way above their heads. What's more, sunflowers provide treats to lure garden-pest-eating birds into your garden.

Finally, harvesting sunflower seeds will give you a solid dose of phytochemicals and important vitamins and minerals... especially Vitamin E and Vitamin B1 (thiamin).

Growing Sunflowers: Plant Snapshot

Growing Sunflowers
  • Sunflower (Helianthus)
  • Annual or perennial? Annuals and perennials
  • Recommended varieties (by color):
    • Cream: ‘Key Lime Pie’
    • Green: ‘Jade Hybrid’
    • Orange: ‘Fire in the Sky’, ‘Honey Bear’, ‘Orange Sun’, ‘Soraya’
    • Red: ‘Double Dandy’, ‘Ruby Sunset’
    • Yellow: ‘Teddy Bear’, ‘Mammoth Russian’, ‘Lemon Queen’, ‘Icarus’
    • White: ‘Italian White’
    • Yellow & orange: ‘Solar Flash’
    • Red & yellow: ‘Florenza’, ‘Ring of Fire’
  • Recommended USDA Hardiness zones: 05a to 11a depending on variety
  • Mature Height: 36 to 200 inches (90 to 500 cm) depending on variety
  • Mature Spread: 14 to 48 inches (35 to 122 cm)
  • Sun Requirements: Full sun
  • Blooming season: Early, mid & late summer, early & late fall
  • Cold tolerance (annuals only): Tender - need warm soils to germinate and grow properly.
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Growing Sunflowers: Planting the Seed, Transplanting and/or Root Division

We've included everything you need to know about the planting stage on a separate page... click here to learn all about planting sunflowers.
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Growing Sunflowers: Sunflower Plants Care

Where to Find Growing & Plant Care Supplies...

For effectice, healthy and/or well-rounded options, click the following links...

Sunflowers will grow well with our standard flower watering guidelines. However, if you’re hoping to grow stunningly tall plants or want to encourage extra flowers, water more often. This is especially true if you’ve chosen to grow your sunflowers in containers. Make sure you water the base of the plant where the stem meets the soil and ensure that roots are soaked.

There’s nothing more disappointing then watching your sunflower shoot up only to see the plant fall over before it fully flowers. In order for tall, mature sunflowers to remain upright, they require staking.

If you’re growing them individually, provide a strong cane stake for each plant. Make sure that canes are dug in at least 12 inches (30cm) into the ground when the plant is still small. Tie the stem in but, be careful to not tie it too closely as the stem will quickly thicken to support the flowerhead. For heavy planting, it’s better to make a screen support to tie sunflowers into.

To continue to give your sunflowers the nutrients they want, organic poultry manure pellets should be added to the soil in early summer.

Snapshot: Sunflower Plants Care

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Growing/Harvesting Sunflowers for Displays & Seeds

Cutting Sunflowers for Displays

If you’re growing sunflowers for displays, plant a multi-flowering variety.
Before cutting, look for flowers that are almost fully opened as these will give you the longest display life. Cut using sharp pruning shears early in the morning. And cut as long a stem length as possible.

Remove all leaves that will be under water and drop immediately into cold water.

Harvesting Sunflower Seeds

Click here to jump to our page about harvesting sunflower seeds.

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Growing Sunflowers: Pests & Diseases

Emerging sunflower plants are very vulnerable to slugs and snails. For the organic gardener, there are some slug pellets that are safe for other wildlife such as birds. It’s also possible to use nematodes that work under the surface of the soil attacking newly hatched slugs.

Aphids can also present a challenge. Remove them by hand and encourage other garden creatures like birds and ladybugs to give you a helping hand.

The following pests and diseases have been known to affect the success of growing Sunflower Plants (see Organic Garden Pest Control for information about how to prevent and address pests and diseases)...

Pests

  • Aphids
  • Carrot beetle
  • Foliage-feeding caterpillars
  • Glassy-winged sharpshooter
  • Leaf beetles
  • Leafhoppers
  • Spider mites
  • Sunflower stem weevil
  • Thrips
  • True bugs

Diseases

  • Aster yellows
  • Downy mildew
  • Gray mold
  • Powdery mildew
  • Root and stem rot
  • Rusts
  • Verticillium wilt
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YOUR Experience & Advice About Growing Sunflowers

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