These easy to grow annuals are one of the Nations most loved flowers. Their cheerful yellow colour makes a dramatic sight grown en masse in fields or a cut flower in a jug in the kitchen. They even provided the inspiration for Van Gogh to paint his iconic masterpiece.
Sow these hardy reliable annuals in March in seed trays or individual pots and plant out in the border just as soon as the threat of frost has passed.
They make an excellent seed to grow together as a family or group to get children involved and have a competition to see who can grow the tallest! Just so you know what you need to beat, the tallest one on record was grown in Germany and reached 30 feet tall!
Sunflowers, or Helianthus to give them their collective name are part of the Asteraceae family which has over 70 different varieties. They like to grow in a sheltered spot in full sun and they are not fussy about the soil conditions, just as long as it is well drained.
Water regularly and feed with a liquid feed once a week to encourage growth and flowers. The larger varieties will need staking to ensure the weight of the flowerhead does not weigh down and damage the stem.
Young sunflower plants face the early morning sun in the East and track the sun westward through the day. This is called heliotropism, but once the plants have reached maturity, they stop doing this and remain facing East.
Sunflowers are versatile. They can be grown to create a stunning screen to mask a blank wall or ugly shed, and in some parts of the country, landowners create an annual maze for children and adults to pay a small fee to get lost in!
Sunflowers have wildlife benefits too. They attract all sorts of pollinators including butterflies and bees and if you leave the seed heads in place after the plant has finished flowering, the birds will enjoy the seeds.
There are many varieties to choose from whether you plan to grow them in a border or even a container, there is one to suit everyone.
Helianthus ‘Russian Giant’ has a large yellow flower and can reach 3 m in height and flowers from July to September, the one to choose if you want to win a competition!
Helianthus ‘Velvet Queen’ has a lovely coppery red flower with dark centres looks perfect for a sunny autumn border growing to 1.8 m in height.
Helianthus ‘Teddy Bear’ this eye-catching annual has pom-pom like bright yellow double flowers. Perfect for growing in pots reaching 50 cms in height and flowering July to September.
Finally, Helianthus ‘Lemon Queen’ this perennial lemon-yellow variety is another perfect choice for your border at 1.8 m in height flowering July to September.
Before I go a quick reminder, Taunton Flower Show will be celebrating its 190th year at the annual show in Vivary Park, Taunton on Friday 5th and Saturday 6th August, and is an enjoyable day out for all the family. This year we will be exhibiting our own show garden ‘Time to Reflect’ so come along and say hello.
Until next time Julie