Sunflowers look great in a vase but are heavy drinkers and need conditioning in a dark place overnight after cutting.
I have tended to drift away from growing Sunflowers but now I think my reasons may not be correct.
I tended to grow tall varieties which produce one or few flowers. They were showy but needed support from the wind in our northern hills.
The knew the space was better dedicated to other plants and the only sunflowers that grew this year were self sown from our bird feeders (and the flowers were small weedy efforts that I should have pulled up).
Reasons to Grow Sunflowers
- There are shorter growing varieties that are a sensible 3-4 feet high when they flower.
- Sunflowers have become popular as cut flowers and you can choose a pollen free variety just for this purpose.
- Multi headed Sunflowers are just as easy to grow and far more prolific.
- Some Sunflowers perform well in late summer as other annuals begin to go over.
- Not every Sunflower is a Russian Giant and many smaller varieties have a British personality
- Beware some red/brown flowering varieties are over earlier in the season
- The lemon and yellow coloured flowers remain a firm favourite
Harewood House near Leeds has been conducting trials of Sunflowers and this variety was well finished by the first week in September.
Two Good Doer Varieties
- Soraya (center pic) produces 5 inch diameter, richly-colored golden-orange flowers with cheery dark brown faces.
- Soraya is vigorous, self-supporting and grows 4 to 6 feet tall. It will not fall over, even in full bloom!
- They are so well-branched that you can expect upto 25 flowers from each plant during the season!
- Soraya make long lasting cut flowers for the house.
- The foliage is lush and not prone to mildew
- Soraya is a recent Fleuroselect winner and will bloom in 11-13 weeks after sowing.
- Sunflower Valentine (top picture) grows 4-5 feet.
- Valentine produces long stemmed lemon yellow cut flowers with striking black disks.
- Valentine branches from low on the stem
Tips for Better Sunflowers
- When large enough to handle, thin seedlings to 45-60cm (18-24in) apart to ensure large leaves.
- require little or no fertilizer and water sparingly
- Sow March to May ½in deep in drills 12in apart in well cultivated soil raked to a fine tilth. Germination usually takes around 21 days.
- Pollen free varieties are uniform and excellent for cut flowers.
- Sunflowers are not picky about soil type but they do need direct sun.
- Thin the plants to 2 to 4 feet apart so their foliage can help them grow.
- If you want to have cut flowers from your larger sunflowers stunt the plants to make them easier to pick and increase the volume of flowers.
- Pinch out the growing tips when they reach about eight inches tall with several leaves. Remove the tip between your thumb and forefinger. Shortly you’ll see lots of buds breaking from the space between the remaining leaves and central stem.
- The sunflowers then grow to about six or eight feet tall, and rather than producing one king flower you will get many slightly smaller sunflowers each one with a perfect long straight stem.
- Sarah’s favourites are ‘Red Sun’ with velvet flowers in the deepest crimson and ‘Valentine’ (discussed above)
- Sarah Raven sows two seeds spaced three inches apart with eighteen inches between that pair and the next. If one germinates plants are spaced at the right intervals. If both do, dig one up and plant it somewhere else.
Sarah Raven Grows Larger Cutting Sunflowers
Read more on sunflowers from Sarah Raven
Sunflower varieties available from Thompson & Morgan
Other Sunflower trials