It’s hard to see a sunflower blooming and not smile. Sunflowers are a great addition to a summer garden. Take advantage of the unique characteristics of sunflowers and put them to work in your garden. Learning how to grow sunflowers is easy, and finding new ways to incorporate them in to your garden is a lot of fun. Here are seven of my favorite reasons to grow sunflowers.

How to Grow Sunflowers

How to grow sunflowers #sunflowers #gardening #howtogrowsunflowers

1. Sunflowers are easy to grow.

Sunflowers are one of the easiest flowers to grow. Drive along a freeway in certain parts of the country and you will see wild sunflowers growing in compacted dirt on the side of the road. Plant sunflower seeds about an inch deep in loose soil; the roots like to grow deep and wide. Sunflowers can grow in poor soil but richer soil will produce larger blooms. The amount of space to leave between plants depends on the size of the flower. Small blooms can be spaced about six inches apart, but the largest blooms need about three feet between each plant.

How to grow sunflowers #sunflowers #gardening #howtogrowsunflowers
How to grow sunflowers #sunflowers #gardening #howtogrowsunflowers

Tip: When it’s time to remove the sunflower, don’t pull it out; cut the stem a few inches above the dirt. In a month or two, roots will decay and stem will easily come out of the ground without removing excessive amounts of dirt with the roots.

2. Sunflowers make a great trellis for other plants.

Sunflowers make a great trellis for other plants. Sunflowers grow tall and the many vining plants of summer (cucumbers, squash, melons) often find the tall, straight trunk and climb. This natural trellis helps keep the plants up off the ground, and growing plants vertically encourages healthier plants. This is similar to a “Three Sisters” garden where there is a beneficial relationship between corn, beans and squash. Plant sunflower seeds near vining plants and plan for the vines to climb the sunflower. 

How to grow sunflowers #sunflowers #gardening #howtogrowsunflowers
Birdhouse Gourd vine using sunflower as a trellis.

3. Sunflowers provide shade in the garden.

Once you learn how to grow sunflowers in your garden, they often come back year after year. As they sprout, determine which ones to let remain to provide shade for your garden. The multi-branching varieties are often great for this. Prune lower leaves to provide access in and around sunflowers, and leave higher leaves and blooms to shade other plants.

Want more ideas for providing shade in the garden? This article shares my favorite tips. 

How to grow sunflowers #sunflowers #gardening #howtogrowsunflowers
Branching type sunflowers with lower branches removed can provide shade in the garden.
How to grow sunflowers #sunflowers #gardening #howtogrowsunflowers

4. Sunflowers can attract colorful birds to your yard.

Here in Arizona, if you have sunflowers and like to get up early you may be rewarded by visits from Love Birds. They show up as early as 5 a.m. in my yard during the summer. I’ve spotted ten in my yard at one time. When they are done, the yellow finches show up and enjoy the seeds and the leaves too. 

There are always plenty of sunflowers, so I don’t mind sharing with the birds. It’s one of my favorite parts of summer mornings. To attract visitors all year, dry sunflower heads and attach to fences in the winter months to feed the birds.

How to grow sunflowers #sunflowers #gardening #lovebird #howtogrowsunflowers

5. Sunflower seeds are delicious and easy to grow.

Birds will eat any kind of sunflower seed, but if you are growing them to enjoy yourself, look for confection varieties for their plump delicious seeds. Varieties to try are Gigantus, Mammoth, Snack Seed or Titan. For more information about growing and harvesting edible sunflower seeds, read this article I wrote for Kellogg Garden.  

How to grow sunflowers #sunflowers #gardening #howtogrowsunflowers

Signs that the sunflower seeds are ready to harvest:

  • The flower petals dry out and begin to fall off.
  • The back of the flower begins to turn from green to yellow and eventually brown.
  • The seeds are plump and developed.
  • Left to dry on the stalk the seeds turn from white to brown.
How to grow sunflowers #sunflowers #gardening #howtogrowsunflowers

6. Sunflowers take the heat.

Arizona summers can be brutal. The sunflowers don’t mind – in fact they seem to thrive on neglect. Pops of yellow flowers brighten up a summer yard. Learning how to grow sunflowers is an easy way to add color and variety to a summer garden and yard. In Arizona, you can plant sunflowers from February through July, so you can enjoy the blooms nearly year-round.

How to grow sunflowers #sunflowers #gardening #howtogrowsunflowers

7. Learn how to grow sunflowers as cut flowers.

  • Single-stemmed types produce one flower per seed. The bloom size of single-stemmed types is determined by the planting distance between plants. If you leave more space, the blooms will be larger.
  • Branching types have many flowers per seed. You should allow 1-2 feet between branching varieties.
  • Look for pollenless varieties for cut sunflowers. Varieties to try are Sunrich and Procut for single stem, and Teddy Bear and Moulin Rouge for branching varieties.
  • Both types of sunflowers are good for cut flowers, depending on the sizes of blooms you prefer.
  • Harvest the stem just as the petals begin to open; sunflowers will continue to bloom once cut.
  • Remove all leaves below the top bloom.
  • Depending on the variety. cut blooms can last from 1-2 weeks.
How to grow sunflowers #sunflowers #gardening #howtogrowsunflowers

Want more information about gardening in Arizona? This blog post shares 7 tips for  how to grow a vegetable garden in Arizona

Arizona annual flowers planting guide helps you learn when to plant flowers in Arizona, and whether to plant seeds or transplants.

How to grow sunflowers #sunflowers #gardening #howtogrowsunflowers
How to grow sunflowers #sunflowers #gardening #howtogrowsunflowers

15 Comments on How to Grow Sunflowers

  1. I never have luck with sunflowers if I’m lucky to plants will come up at of a whole bag each do you have any advice for me?

    Email me

    • Birds may be eating your seedlings, be sure to cover seeds until they sprout and are 3-4 inches tall. Other issues may be bugs (rollie-pollies) eating the seedlings – you may have to pick a different spot or transplant there when plants are 3-4 inches tall. Soil temperature is also important, sunflowers prefer warm soil.

  2. How often do I water my sunflowers. This is the first time I’ve ever planted sunflowers. They are growing and are about 1 to 2 inches high. I usually water daily in the morning. I look forward to your advise

    • Sunflowers are pretty tough plants. You may want to skip a day or two between watering as the sunflower grows to encourage roots to go deeper. Keep an eye on the plant, if it looks wilted once the sun goes down or in the morning it needs more water.

    • Nearly all varieties do really well here. Choose the one you like. If there is one that you love one year, be sure to save seeds so you can plant it again.

  3. Thank you so much for this great information! You mentioned that sunflowers do better in rich soil- do you have any suggestions for preparing the soil before I plant? I am preparing to attempt to transplant sunflower seedlings I started indoors (our rabbits and squirrels here kept eating them up when I started them outside earlier this summer). I live here in Phoenix. 🙂

  4. My seeds started out well and now two of them have been attacked. I checked on them this morning and it was fine but this afternoon it looks like something has strangled it. I had this happen last week too. Any ideas??

    • Could be pill bugs or birds. Both can be problems. Protect from birds with netting. Pill bugs or other insects can be tricker – you can wrap the stems with newspaper as a barrier.

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