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How to Grow Sunflowers

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 into your garden is a lot of fun. Here are 7 of my favorite reasons to grow sunflowers.

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7 Reasons to Grow Sunflowers

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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 6 inches apart, but the largest blooms need about 3 feet between each plant.

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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, the roots will decay, and the stem will quickly come out of the ground without removing excessive amounts of soil with the roots.

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2. Sunflowers make an excellent 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 off the ground, and growing plants vertically encourages healthier plants.

This is similar to a “Three Sisters” garden with a beneficial relationship between corn, beans, and squash. Plant sunflower seeds near vining plants and plan for the vines to climb the sunflower. 

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 usually great for this. Prune lower leaves to provide access in and around sunflowers and leave higher leaves and blooms to shade other plants.

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

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 leaves. 

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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.

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. Read this post for more information about growing edible sunflower seeds.

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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.
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Growing and Using Edible Flowers 

Learn more about growing and using edible flowers in this blog post.

What to do about black bugs on sunflowers

Do you have problems with bugs on your sunflowers? This post may be helpful.

6. Sunflowers take the heat.

Arizona summers can be brutal. The sunflowers don’t mind. 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 August to enjoy the blooms year-round.

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Perpetual Flower Planting Calendar for Zone 9B

Flowers to Plant Outside & Seeds to Start Indoors Each Month in the Low Desert of Arizona.
PLANTING GUIDE: Each month lists annual flowers and bulbs to plant outside & seeds to start indoors.
BLOOMING GUIDE: Photos show what may be in bloom that month.

7. Sunflowers make excellent cut flowers.

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  • 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 pollen-less 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 suitable 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.
  • Cut blooms can last from 1-2 weeks depending on the variety.
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Quick and Easy Flower Arrangements from the Garden

Learn more about growing your own quick and easy flower arrangements in this blog post.

How to grow a vegetable garden in Arizona #arizonagardening #arizonagarden #desertgardening #hotweathergarden #howtogarden

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.

If this post about how to grow sunflowers was helpful, please share it:


Tuesday 19th of March 2024

Angela, Can you share a link to the sunflowers that grow best here in AZ?

Angela Judd

Tuesday 19th of March 2024

Sure, I love these branching Sundancer sunflowers. Most (if not all) sunflowers will grow well here. It's one of the easiest crops to grow. You can see my other favorite varieties in this blog post:


Monday 26th of June 2023

Hello, I grew Mammoths this year, and they looked so beautiful and they grew so TALL. But now every single on is drooping. They look sad. What could be the cause? Is it because they're ready to be harvested?

Angela Judd

Saturday 1st of July 2023

Right - Mammoth seed heads get heavy and they droop over as they near harvest time.


Wednesday 3rd of May 2023

Hi - I've grown Mammoth sunflowers for years, and I love them! I'd like to try branching sunflowers this year, though, in hopes that they bloom longer. What varieties do you recommend?

Angela Judd

Friday 5th of May 2023

I love this one from Renee's Garden.

Paula Renfro

Monday 13th of March 2023

How do you stop the squirrels from eating you baby sunflowers?

Angela Judd

Tuesday 14th of March 2023

Barrier methods are the most effective; squirrels are persistent. You may try starting them indoors and planting them out when they are a little larger.


Monday 6th of March 2023

What is the best kind of sunflower to plant along my garden bed to provide afternoon shade for my tomatoes and cucumbers?

Angela Judd

Saturday 11th of March 2023

I like branching sunflowers