Sunflowers and the sunny outdoors in summer go together. Sunflowers are easy to grow when direct seeded into flowerbeds. Seed catalogs advertise some sunflowers as having features for growing in containers. Plant them after the danger of frost is past. With 6-8 hours of sunlight a day, even the tallest sunflowers will mature, bloom, and produce seed within a season.
These sunny plants are native to the Americas, where they were grown for food, medicine, dye, and oil and were found by Spanish explorers in the 1500s. Low cholesterol property of sunflower oil has kept it in demand since the 1970s in the United States. Sunflower seeds snacks are a staple at summer sporting events.
Fields of young sunflowers follow the sun across the sky in South and North Dakota. When the stems stiffen as the plant matures, the flowerhead faces east. This sun-tracking feature (heliotropism) also applies to flowerbed or container sunflowers. East is their best side for photos.
The large “flower” of sunflower has thousands of florets. Ray florets are yellow, and seeds grow in the brown disk florets. As an ornamental, sunflowers are available in a wide variety of colors and patterns and heights.
We at Plant Exchange have grown standard height and dwarf sunflowers, the latter in containers of standard potting soil with a time-release fertilizer. The plants need airflow in a planter. Remove discolored leaves to maintain airflow and avoid common sunflower diseases. Bees are active on both varieties of plants that we see below. (A few ornamental sunflowers have reduced pollen, a feature desired by some for cut flowers.)
This season, “Suntastic” Hybrid by Jung Seed Company, is 21 inches tall, has 6-inch flower disks and 6-inch dark green leaves. The dwarf sunflower was two weeks earlier to bloom than volunteer sunflowers in the flowerbed. Each stalk has four or more flower disk buds.
The sunflower and its companion clump of ornamental grass block a less desirable view when seated.
‘Sunny Bunch’ by Burpee Seed Company is 3 feet tall and has flower disks and leaves that are 4 inches in diameter. It also has four or more flower buds per stalk. The stalks are stiff and stand up to prairie breezes.
A group of them makes a cheery bunch.
These are fun to enjoy out the window when having breakfast.
Have you tried growing sunflowers in containers that are your favorites? Do tell us about them.