Last year we grew thousands of sunflowers at the flower farm. We learned a lot about growing these wonderful flowers on a bit of a larger scale. In this post I will share tips that everyone should know about how to plant sunflowers for the cutting garden.
Types Of Sunflowers To Grow For The Cutting Garden
- You can grow several types of sunflowers for the cutting garden, the branching type and the single stem type. There are numerous different varieties of each type to chose from.
- Most people growing sunflowers for cut flowers will chose to grow the single stem type because the flowers do not produce pollen, and are cleaner in the vase. Single stem types also bloom more quickly from seed to harvest so you can have earlier blooms from the cutting garden.
- Branching types can also be used, and certainly have their place. Branching stems are harvested off each main stem as they mature. Some are very pretty and unique!
- We prefer the single stem sunflowers, and plan to grow lots of different varieties this year. Since these sunflowers only have a single stem, each plant is harvested only once.
- One benefit of growing the single stem sunflowers is that they take only about 60 days to bloom. This enables you to have flowers earlier in the season.
- It also enables you to succession plant.
- Many of the branching sunflowers take longer to bloom.
- In order to have sunflowers available throughout the season, it’s important to succession plant so that you have a steady supply of sunflowers all season long.
Should I Soak Sunflower Seeds Before Planting?
Sunflower seeds have a hard outer shell. Soaking the seeds before planting can soften the shell, however is not necessary for successful germination of the seed.
- We have grown many different types of sunflower seeds, and have never soaked the seeds before planting.
- We have had great success with planting the seeds directly into the ground and waiting for the natural process of germination to occur.
How Long Do Sunflowers Take To Grow?
- Sunflowers usually germinate and break through the soil within one to two weeks after planting.
- Within two months we are then harvesting our single stem sunflowers!
How Late Can You Plant Sunflowers?
To determine how late you can plant your sunflower seeds:
- first look at the expected days to maturity on the seed packet.
- next look at the first fall frost date for your planting zone. You can look up your gardening frosts dates on The Old Farmer’s Almanac.
- count back the days from your first fall frost date, and add a week or two. This would be the latest date that you can plant your sunflower seeds safely.
Sunflowers are heat loving plants and do not tolerate frost. Make sure your seeds will have enough time to grow to maturity before your expected first frost date. That way you will have lots of time to enjoy your beautiful blooms.
- Here in zone 5b our first frost date is expected around September 8, although sometimes we don’t get frost until October.
- If we are planting single stem sunflowers for cut flowers, the latest we can plant them without risk of frost injury is 60 days before September 8th. Therefore we will do our last planting of sunflowers about mid July.
- We might even push it a little further to test if we can get sunflowers in early October, knowing that there could be a risk of damage due to frost.
What Is The Best Way To Grow Sunflowers?
You can grow sunflowers in pots or directly in the ground, but the best way to grow sunflowers is in the ground.
- In the ground, sunflowers can spread their roots and establish a good solid base from which to grow. They will be more secure from this vantage point, and less likely to be toppled over from the wind.
- Growing in the ground, especially in large numbers will still not completely prevent the risk of being blown over in a windstorm, however the chances are less.
- Sunflowers do not tolerate transplanting very well. You can start your earliest flowers in trays to get a head start on the season, and transplant them early on, although later plantings will do better if planted directly into the soil.
- We did not have great success with transplanting our sunflowers. They seemed to stop growing for a while after they were transplanted into the garden. They also didn’t grow as strong as our direct seeded sunflowers.
- The other issue with planting in trays and then transplanting into the garden is that it’s a lot more work!
How To Plant Sunflower Seeds
Planting sunflowers seeds is very easy.
- Just dig a hole or a trench 1/2″ deep, plant the seeds and cover with soil.
- Using a mechanical seeder will save a lot of time if you are planting a lot of sunflowers at once. If you are planting out just a few seed packages, you can certainly do this by hand!
- For the last two years I had planted the sunflowers by hand, setting a string between two poles and digging a shallow trench to plant the seeds into. I found this technique very strenuous to say the least.
- We have a Jang seeder, however didn’t have the right size rollers to fit the sunflower seeds at the time. We found an antique seed spreader in the barn, and used it to plant the rest of the sunflower seeds.
- The seeder eliminated the physical stress of planting by hand, and was greatly appreciated. We had so many sunflowers all throughout September, that we had many extras to give away to family, friends and neighbours!
- The problem with this wonderful old seeder was that there was limited control over some of the planting technique. We had reduced control over how many seeds were released, how the seeds were spaced, and just how far some of them flew in different directions!
- This year we have new sunflower rollers for our Jang seeder, and I am thrilled to be able to use this tool this summer.
Succession Planting Sunflower Seeds
- Succession planting single stem sunflowers is a great idea to manage your flowers in the cut flower garden. Plant only enough seeds that you will be able to use every week.
- If you over plant, you may not be able to use all your flowers before they are past their prime.
- This happened to us when we planted thousands of sunflowers all at once.
- Despite frequent harvesting many of these flowers became too mature before we could use them.
- An example of the flower being too mature would be petal loss. At this stage they are no longer good to put into bouquets.
The Best Stage To Harvest Sunflowers For Cut Flowers
Harvest sunflowers for cut flowers just as the petals start to open revealing the centre of the flower. This is the prime stage, and if harvested in this stage your flowers will last a long time in the vase!
What Conditions Do Sunflowers Need To Grow?
- Sunflowers need a sunny location and well-drained medium fertile soil.
- They require some moisture, however we did not provide any more than the weather was able to provide.
How Far Apart To Plant Sunflowers?
Sunflower seeds should be spaced between four and six inches apart. The closer you plant the seeds together the smaller the sunflower bloom.
- Depending on the size of flower you are looking for, you can chose your planting space to either increase or decrease the size of your blooms.
- We have a florist who likes smaller sunflowers, about the size of the palm of your hand. We grow these sunflowers closer together to get the smaller blooms.
- I personally love the larger blooms, so make sure to have some plantings a little further apart.
Do Sunflowers Come Back Every Year?
Sunflowers are annual flowers, therefore do not come back every year. You will need to replant sunflower seeds every year to have them growing in your garden.
- You can save some of the seeds from your sunflowers to replant in your garden the following year.
- Even the pollen-less sunflowers were able to produce some seeds, although much fewer than the pollen producing sunflowers.
- To do so they would have to have been fertilized by bees carrying pollen from sunflowers from other locations. Most likely from the neighbours!
Can I Plant Sunflower Seeds From The Grocery Store?
You can definitely plant and grow sunflower seeds from the grocery store. I sometimes can’t resist picking up seeds that I would like to grow in my garden. Sometimes these seeds come from the grocery store!
I hope you have found this post on how to plant sunflowers for the cutting garden useful. If you have any questions or comments, please leave them in the comments below!