Have you always had an interest in knowing how to grow sunflowers from seeds?
If yes, then you are where you should be.
This article will teach you how to grow sunflowers step-by-step from seeds until harvest.
Here, you will get access to information from seed preparation to harvesting and even storage of your sunflowers.
Also, you will learn about the uses of sunflower and the diseases that affect sunflower plants as well as their prevention methods.
In addition, you will get 5 tips on how to care for your plants so that they survive and give more yields.
So, without wasting time, let’s get into the details.
Overview Of The Sunflower Plant
The cultivated sunflower (Helianthus annus L.) is a plant from the family Asteraceae.
The term ‘Helianthus’ is derived from the Greek word ‘helios’, which means sun, and ‘anthos’, which means flower.
Sunflowers are annual plants, which can grow from seeds and be as long as 5cm tall.
In the olden days, it was grown as an ornamental plant and later for food and medicinal purposes
It is believed to have originated in North America, where it was cultivated by the native Indians.
It was later introduced to Europe in the sixteenth century(1600).
The plant is mostly cultivated for its oil.
The sunflower colors range from multicolor to orange, red and yellow being the common color.
One very special thing about sunflowers is their heliotropism which happens during their earlier stage of growth.
Sunflowers are heliotropic, meaning that they turn their flowers to follow the movement of the sun across the sky from east to west.
They then return at night to face the east, ready for the morning sun all over again.
Uses Of Sunflower And Its Products
- Sunflower seeds may be dehusked and eaten raw or cooked.
- Its oil can be used for cooking.
- Industrially, the oil is used in manufacturing margarine.
- It is also used in making animal feed.
- The leaves are used as fodder.
- The yellow flowers yield a yellow dye used in dyeing clothes.
- The flowers are used for decoration.
- The oil is used to cure skin ailments.
Health Benefits Of Sunflower And Its Products
1. Sunflowers help to support the immune system
Sunflower seeds offer an excellent source of vitamin E which is an antioxidant that helps to keep your immune system in good health.
Also, it supports your immune system and increases its ability to fight off viruses.
In addition, it helps the body to maintain and develop immune cells.
2. It also helps to boost energy levels
Sunflower’s high levels of protein help to boost your energy levels.
In addition, other nutrients like vitamin B and selenium help to keep you energized.
3. Sunflowers can help to reduce inflammation
For either short-term or chronic inflammation, sunflower seeds can offer anti-inflammatory benefits.
The seeds contain plant compounds that can reduce inflammation.
4. It also helps to improve heart health
Sunflower seeds are rich in healthy fats including polyunsaturated fat and monounsaturated fat.
Also, these fats have been linked to lower rates of cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol.
Recommended Varieties Of Sunflower to Grow
Tall and Tiny Sunflower Varieties
- Russian mammoth: This is the traditional giant sunflower that can grow about 12 feet tall.
- Autumn beauty: This is a gorgeous sunflower that grows about 6 feet tall.
- Lemon queen: It has pale yellow blooms with chocolate centers and can grow 6 feet tall.
- Teddy Bear: This is a tiny variety that grows just 2 feet tall and is ideal for gardens and pots.
Conditions To Grow Sunflowers From Seeds
Sunflowers grow best on well-drained sandy loam to clay soil with a pH ranging from 6.0 to 7.5.
A minimum of 8o frost-free days is needed for the sunflower crop to yield well.
Sunflowers need at least 6 to 8 hours of direct sunlight per day.
They thrive in warmer weather and climates.
They are well known for their hardiness and ability to survive extreme heat.
Soil temperature for germination must be about 50OF.
In most regions, the soil will be 50OF around April and mid-July or mid-March and early April.
For growth, the temperature can be between 70 and 80OF.
Sunflowers grow best in nutrient-rich soils that have compost or other organic matter mixed into it.
How To Grow Sunflowers From Seeds
Step 1: Prepare the sunflower seeds for planting
Soak your seeds in water overnight and it’s ready for planting.
Note that you cannot use roasted seeds or seeds with their outer shells removed.
They will only germinate as long as their outer shell is present.
Step 2: Prepare the soil for planting the sunflower seeds
Work in a slow-release granular fertilizer 8 inches deep into your soil.
Ensure that your soil is nutrient-rich with organic matter or composted (aged) manure.
Also, clear every weed in your soil before planting
Step 3: Plant the sunflower seeds with the right plant spacing
Plant three seeds no more than 1 inch deep and about 6 inches apart.
Give enough room for low-growing varieties with about 30 feet in between.
You can lightly add fertilizer at this time because it encourages strong root growth.
Step 6: Thin the sunflower seedlings so that they grow well
You can thin the seedlings once they are about 6 inches tall.
When you thin, make sure that only the strongest plants are left.
Step 5: Water the plant and provide support so they don’t fall
When the plant is small, water the area around the roots, from about 4 inches from the plant.
Once your sunflower plant is well established, water deeply but not too frequently to encourage the plant to grow deep roots.
If you are growing a tall variety, you may need to provide support so it doesn’t fall under the weight of its blooms.
Step 6: Apply manure and fertilizers to boost the growth of sunflowers
After your sunflower plant is well established, you can apply fertilizers
Apply 1 tablespoon of 5-10-10 or 10-10-10 fertilizer per square foot.
Sprinkle the fertilizer on the ground 6 inches from the base of the plants and then water immediately so it soaks into the soil.
Harvesting Your Flowers And Seeds
After your sunflowers are fully grown, the next step is to harvest them.
You can either harvest sunflower flowers or their seeds.
Here’s how to do that;
How to harvest sunflower flowers
When you want to harvest your flowers, make sure you do so in the morning.
This is because the heat stresses the plants and may cause them to wilt prematurely.
Handle your flowers gently so the petals don’t fall off.
How to harvest sunflower Seeds
Once the flower dries and the back of the head is brown, the seeds are ready to be harvested.
The reason for harvesting sunflower seeds is for eating or for replanting next year.
So, to harvest the seeds, cover the flower heads with garden fleece, cheesecloth, or a paper bag after they mature.
This is to keep birds and squirrels away from the seeds.
To remove the seeds, brush your hand over the seed head to knock out the seeds.
How to store sunflower seeds
After harvesting your sunflower seeds, dry them under the sun because wet seeds can cause mold.
After they are dried, store the seeds in an airtight container until you need them.
Diseases of Sunflower
1. Bacterial Head Rot
This disease can be caused by Pectobacterium carotovorum, its subspecies and Pectobacterium astrosepticum.
It appears as lesions that develop watery, soft-rot symptoms that later become dark brown as the disease further progresses.
Also, the heads give off an odor like that of rotting potatoes and slimy masses of bacterial growth are present.
2. Rhizopus Head Rot
Rhizopus Head Rot is caused by R. stolonifer, R. oryzae and R. microsporus.
It first appears as dark spots of varying sizes on the heads as a result of wounds.
It is distinguished from other head rots by the presence of the grayish, threadlike mycelial strands.
Also, small black reproductive structures usually the size of a pinhead may be present.
3. Sclerotinia Head Rot
This disease is caused by Sclerotinia sclerotiorum.
It appears as lesions that are large, soft, and brown on the back of the heads that later turn tan-cream, typically odorless.
Also, white mold and hard black structures form inside the head and the heads may shred and disintegrate.
4. Bacterial Stalk Rot
It is caused by Pectobacterium carotovorum, subsp. carotovorum and P. atrosepticum.
Infected stalks may soften and dry up, becoming dark brown to black, and may also split open.
Plants often lodge under the weight of maturing heads and foam may appear on infected tissues as a result of bacterial-causing fermentation of sugars in plants.
5. Charcoal Rot
Charcoal rot is caused by Macrophomina phaseolina.
It may first appear as a gray to silver basal lesion starting at the soil line and may cause premature plant death later on.
Also, you may find abundant dusty black microsclerotia inside the lower stem (visible with a hand lens) and vascular tissue compressed into layers.
6. Downy Mildew
Downy mildew is caused by Plasmopara halstedii.
This disease causes stunting of leaf chlorosis, white spores on the underside of the leaf, and plant death.
The secondary infection causes discrete brownish leaf spots on the upper leaf surface.
Phomopsis leaf canker is caused by Phomopsis helianthi or P. gulyae.
7. Phomopsis stem canker
The disease may cause leaf bronzing and large (often greater than 6-inches) brown stem lesion that is centered on the petiole.
Also, the stem will become hollow and is easily punctured with the thumb and premature senescence and/or widespread lodging may occur.
8. Fusarium Root And Stems Rot
Fusarium root and stems rot is caused by Fusarium species
The disease may cause Internal pink, orange, red or purple discoloration of the pith.
9. Phoma Black Stem
Phoma black stem is caused by Phoma macdonaldii.
It appears as 1 to 2-inch black lesions that are usually superficial.
The lesions are usually centered on petioles and multiple lesions may occur on the same stem.
10. Basal Stalk Rot
Basal stalk rot is also called sclerotinia wilt and it’s caused by Sclerotinia sclerotiorum.
It may appear as white mold (mycelia) and black sclerotia on the lesion at the base.
It may cause the whole plant to wilt and shredding and lodging may occur at the base of the plant.
11. Verticillium Wilt
Verticillium wilt is caused by Verticillium dahliae.
This disease causes color changes in the vein and lower leaves.
Also, it damages the vascular tissue and a brown ring may later appear.
It causes wilting at bloom, usually in patches or rows, and the pith may shrink and turn black at maturity.
It is also called White rust.
It causes spores on the underside of the leaves and lesions on the stem, petiole, and head to appear dark and bruise-like,
13. Apical chlorosis
Apical chlorosis is caused by Pseudomonas syringae pv. Tagetis.
It turns the distinctive bright yellow to nearly white in new leaves though, during the warm weather, the new leaves are unaffected.
It may also occur on isolated plants, patches, or in rows and may cause stunting if plants are infected at a young stage.
We have come to the end of this article and I’m sure you have learned a lot.
At this point, you should be able to grow sunflowers from seeds.
Also, you should know about the diseases that can affect your sunflower plants.
In addition, you should know how to harvest and store sunflowers.
If you have any questions that this article did not address and/or are not in the FAQs, leave a comment and I will get back to you.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
How long does it take to grow sunflowers from seeds?
It takes about 60 to 180 days depending on the variety, location, and season.
Can I grow my sunflowers indoors?
Yes, you can if all the conditions for growth are met.
Can sunflowers grow in shades?
Yes, they can tolerate some shade but they have better chances of surviving when they receive full sunlight.
Do you plant sunflower seeds pointing up or down?
The narrow end should be down because that is where the roots will emerge from.
So it must definitely be pointing down.