A Yearly Tradition: Watching Sunflowers Grow From Seed

By Laura Miller | February 13, 2021
Image by John Rehg
by Laura Miller
February 13, 2021

When you think about it, seeds are pretty amazing. Inside a tiny shell, seeds hold the essence of life. Suspended until conditions are right for germination, seeds can renew a species ravaged by fire or flood. 

Each winter, when I start my vegetable plants, I’m always astonished that a mere tablespoon of seeds will grow into a mass of vegetation which fills my garden and produces bushels of veggies. And one of the most amazing seeds I’ve grown is the sunflower.

Seeds come in all shapes and sizes. From tiny celery seeds to the large pits and nuts of avocados and walnuts, it seems like the larger the seed, the taller the plant. Yet, in comparison with other species, sunflower seeds are quite small for a plant that can grow quite large. 

Sunflowers from Seed

So how tall can sunflowers grow? According to Guinness World records, the tallest sunflower grown to date reached a staggering height of 30 feet, 1 inch (9.17 m.). While we’ve never grown a sunflower anywhere near this tall, we have had these sun-loving plants reach heights of 12 to 15 feet (3.7 to 4.6 m.).

I say we, because years ago my family had fun entering garden produce in the Grange division of our county fair. These friendly competitions had premiums in the pennies and ribbon-shaped stickers, but it was a great way to inspire my family to take an interest in gardening. 

While I concentrated on entering peppers, tomatoes and onion, my son did his best to grow a pumpkin big enough to garner a place in the esteemed “largest pumpkin” class. My husband, however, claimed the tallest sunflower competition as his own. 

It never failed to bring a smile to my face when I’d see hubby watering and fertilizing his “special” sunflower which grew alongside the barn. You see, my husband isn’t much into gardening. Whenever it was time to work in the vegetable patch, he’d find a pressing excuse why he couldn’t help. 

I didn’t really mind, though. The vegetable garden was my domain. And as I picked and compared my vegetable entries for the fair, hubby would take a shovel to his sunflower and carefully remove it from the ground. 

The Tallest Sunflower

The tallest sunflower competition was based upon the height of the plant from the emergence point at the soil to the tip of the flower. A bent or broken stem was reason for disqualification. To prevent that mishap, my husband would tie the sunflower to a long pole as it grew. To protect those precious inch-adding petals from damage during transport, he’d cover the sunflower head with a bag.

Hubby would then watch as the officials measured and recorded the height of his sunflower. A nod of satisfaction would cross his face if he realized he was in the running for one of those prestigious ribbon-shaped stickers.
After the fair was over, we’d return to collect our “ribbons” and produce. Once home, hubby would harvest a handful of plump sunflower seeds for the following year’s competition and the remaining flower head would be set out for the birds. And again, a smile would cross my face. Yes indeed, seeds are pretty amazing!

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