This year, for the first time, I grew sunflowers in my garden. For years I watched these majestic flowers grow in other gardens and bloom in my small town’s fall beds. I envied the gorgeous, sunny blooms, so I finally went for it.
To get started, I picked up a few seed packets at my grocery store. I admit to not doing any research. I only wanted an assortment and to be surprised at what came up in the fall. Included in the packets were:
- ‘Helios Flame.’ This flower grows about 4 feet (1 m.) tall and has reddish and yellow-striped petals.
- ‘Italian White.’ I loved the idea of this white variety, but unfortunately none bloomed this year.
- ‘Evening Sun.’ This one has deep reddish flowers with a touch of gold at the petal tips.
- ‘Moulin Rouge.’ This type has strictly red flowers, a deep burgundy just right for fall.
- ‘Soraya.’ This short variety produced deep yellow, cheerful flowers.
Sunflowers don’t transplant well, so although I was tempted to start them indoors, I sowed them directly into my flower beds. I put them close to the wall of my garage and along the patio for support as they grew.
Within a week or two I had seedlings. Sunflowers aren’t too hard to grow. My biggest challenge came at this stage. I have a lot of wildlife in my yard, including rabbits, squirrels, and deer. They all find sunflower shoots extremely tasty.
Admittedly, I lost several plants at this stage, but I over-sowed to make up for the wildlife snacking. I also tried bird netting until the seedlings got bigger, although some critters still got under it. I also used a spray of soapy water and hot sauce to deter nibbles.
For the survivors, flower buds began appearing in August, and by early September, I had flowers. My favorites were the small ‘Soraya’ blooms. Although small, they have a classic sunflower look. The other types with different colors are pretty as well.
Using the Flowers
I cut a few flowers at a time to bring indoors. With cats in the house, this is one type of flower I know is safe and non-toxic. I also enjoy leaving the flowers in place to decorate my fall beds. I still love my wildlife too, so I will leave several flowers to produce seeds to feed birds and others as the weather gets chilly.