Get bright and blooming sunflowers
Bright and colourful sunflowers are easy to grow and don’t take too much maintenance. It's a fun and simple project, perfect to give kids their first taste at growing their own plants. In this guide we’ll be showing you how to plant your sunflower seeds outside, straight into the ground. We’ll also give you handy tips on harvesting the seeds from your sunflower for a tasty, healthy snack.
Best time to plant: April - May
Flowering season: August
Difficulty: Easy, suitable for beginners (perfect for children too!)
Types of sunflowers
Sunflowers come in different colours and will grow to different heights depending on the kind you choose.
If you’re looking for an impressive, tall flower try American giants, these can grow up to 5m tall, definitely something you can show off to the neighbours. If you have limited space then the Dwarf sunspot is perfect, you’ll still get glorious golden petals, but they’ll only grow up to 90cm tall.
For something a bit different the Velvet queen will grow beautiful deep red petals, reaching 1-1.5m tall this will be a real stand-out in your garden. Another quirky choice is the Teddy bear, with fluffy lemon ball shaped blooms, also perfect for smaller spaces as they’ll only reach 45cm in height.
To make a feature of your sunflowers, choose our Verve sunflower seed collection, which includes Velvet queen, Beauty paquito, Teddy bear and Sunburst varieties to give you a colourful display over the summer months.
In our video we'll show you how and where to sow the seed and how to support it as it grows. We'll even show you how to make the most of your sunflower and get healthy and delicious sunflower seeds at the end of the summer.
Where to grow your sunflowers
Sunflowers grow best when planted straight into the ground outside in an area of full sun, in well drained soil. You can also grow them in pots or containers outside, just make sure they’re at least 30cm deep.
You’ll need to find a sunny spot, which gets at least six hours of full sun per day, to give your plant the best chance at growing strong and healthy and giving you a good return of delicious sunflower seeds.
How to plant sunflower seeds outside
Prepare your chosen spot by getting rid of any weeds or stones and digging in some peat-free compost or well-rotted manure.
If you’re growing tall varieties, it’s a good idea to choose a place next to a fence or wall to offer your sunflowers additional support as they grow.
Use a dibber or piece of cane to poke holes in the soil where your seeds will go, check the seed pack for details on how deep and how far apart your particular variety will need to be.
Put one seed into each hole and cover with compost. Pop a plant label in next to the seed so you know where it is and don’t mistake it for a weed when it does start to grow!
Push your plant support into the ground next to your seed, you can secure it to the support as it grows for stability. Loosely tie the stalk to the support with soft garden twine.
Unless your sunflower is of the dwarf variety, you will need to change the size of the support as your sunflowers grow.
Get your sunflowers off to a flying start by sowing the seeds in pots first. You can keep them in a greenhouse or on a windowsill until the young sunflowers are large enough to be planted outside. Just plant one seed per pot, water well and keep the soil moist until planting out in a sunny spot.
Sunflowers are fairly hardy so they can withstand some drought or occasional frost. Make sure you water your seedlings every couple of days, the key is to keep the soil moist, but not waterlogged.
Once they start to flower, feed them regularly with a liquid plant food.
How to harvest sunflower seeds
Harvest sunflowers when their petals become dry and begin to fall, if you wait too long birds and other animals will feast on them before you get there, which is not a bad thing really!
If birds, squirrels, mice or deer are a problem, cover the seed heads with some netting.
If you do want to use them, simply chop off the heads and leave them to dry somewhere warm and dry for a couple of weeks. Once dry the seeds will fall out with a few vigorous shakes. Pop them into the oven for about 30 to 40 minutes at 150°c. They make a delicious snack for the family, can be baked into breads, or even used in your winter bird feed.