Everything about Sunflowers and How to Plant Them
There are many flowers that will brighten up your garden. However, no flowers can do it as the sunflowers do. These flowers are big. Some of them are even as big as a plate. Moreover, they also have bright yellow color that is very eye-catching. Another good thing about them is that they are easy to plant, especially if you know how to plant sunflowers.
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The sunflower is one of the most popular flowers. Therefore, it is no wonder that many people grow them in their garden. If you never plant this particular flower before, you don’t need to worry. The steps of how to plant sunflowers are easy to follow. But, before we discuss them, it is better for you to know more about sunflowers. These are some facts about sunflowers that you must know.
1. History and Origin of Sunflowers
This particular flower is one of the few plants that are native to North America. Sunflowers were first cultivated by the Native Americans thousands about 3000 to 1000 BC in southern U.S. and Mexico. They planted these flowering plants for various purposes.
One of them was for the seeds. Native Americans used the seeds to make certain bread. They also ate them as snacks. In addition, these flowers were used for medication. Moreover, sunflowers were also used as a dye for body painting and fabrics.
When Europeans came to this region, they are fascinated with these beautiful flowers. Then, they introduced them to Europe in the 16th century. People in Europe mostly planted them as ornaments. But, in 1716 they started to extract the oil from sunflower seeds.
Sunflowers may be originated from America, but U.S. is not the biggest producer of sunflower seeds. Based on the statistics, Ukraine is the number one producer of these seeds. And next to Ukraine is Russia. Moreover, it was Russia that developed new sunflowers varieties that are resistant to disease and contain higher oil.
2. Sunflower Characteristics
Common sunflowers or Helianthus annuus are included in the family of Asteracea. They have some unique characteristics that you need to know. Knowing them will allow you to prepare the steps of how to plant sunflowers properly. These are some of them.
Sunflower plants are magnificent. They can grow very tall. The height of their hairy stems is between 3 to 15 feet. But, there are some dwarf varieties that can be planted in pots. Moreover, their leaves are rough and coarsely toothed. They can reach up to 12 inches wide.
Meanwhile, the heads of the flowers are large. Wild sunflower heads usually are about 6 inches wide. Meanwhile, the cultivated ones can reach 12 inches wide or even more. A flower head contains of thousands of tiny flowers. Later on, those tiny flowers will develop seeds when they are pollinated.
This particular flowering plant is heliotropic. It means, the flowers always face the sun and follow its movement. As a result, you will see sunflowers facing east in the morning. Then, in the afternoon, you will see them facing west. However, it only happens on younger flowers. The matured ones usually face the east.
They are annual plants. Therefore, they will die after flowering. Each plant usually produces multiple flowers. But, certain varieties only have one flower head per stem. These plants will start blooming when they are matured. It usually happens between 17 weeks and 26 weeks.
Where and when to Plant Sunflowers
Sunflower plants are suitable to USDA hardiness zones 2 to 11. They are heat tolerant. Therefore, they will be perfect for you who live in warmer areas. In addition, these plants are drought tolerant. Moreover, they require direct full sun to thrive. In consequence, you need to plant them in a sunny spot.
Most sunflowers need to be planted directly to the ground due to its large size. However, if you don’t have much space to grow them on the ground, you can choose the dwarf varieties. They are not too tall and can be planted in pots.
To plant sunflowers, you need to have sunflower seeds. But, you need to wait for the right time to start the process of how to plant sunflowers. The best time to plant them is in the spring.
However, you need to make sure that the soil is warm enough, between 13o C and 16o C. In northern U.S, it is usually between mid-April and late May. But, it is earlier than that in the southern U.S.
The Best Soil for Sunflowers
Sunflowers are adapted to a couple of soil conditions. They can thrive in loamy soil as well as sandy soil. However, it is essential for the flowers to grow in well-draining soil. If your garden does not have this kind of soil, you need to create a raised bed to grow them.
Before planting the seeds, it is also important for you to check the acidity level of the soil. This particular plant can grow well in soil with a pH level between 6.0 and 7.5. Moreover, it is essential for you to make sure that the soil is rich of nutrients. In consequence, you need to fertilize the soil before planting the seeds.
3. Sunflower Seeds: Nutritional Value and Uses
Different sunflower varieties produce sunflower seeds in different color. Some of them have black husk. But others have stripped husk. The black ones are usually processed to make sunflower oil. It can be used for cooking and medication. Meanwhile, the stripped ones are eaten as snack.
Dried sunflower seeds are excellent source of vitamin E, B1, B6, B3, B2, phosphorus, magnesium, manganese, zinc, folate, and iron. Snacking 100 g of this seed will give you twice the amount of vitamin E you need in a day. Moreover, it also gives you about 100% of vitamin B1 and B6 of your daily needs.
Moreover, these seeds are high in dietary fiber. They also contain phytosterols and linoleic acid. Therefore, it can be concluded that sunflower seeds are a healthy snack. Eating them in the right amount will give you some health benefits.
4. Sunflower Varieties
There are many sunflower varieties that you can plant. However, not all of them may be suitable for you. Therefore, it is important for you to choose the right one before you start the steps of how to plant sunflowers. Here are some sunflower varieties that you can plant.
Many American giant hybrid sunflowers grow up to 16 feet tall. But there are some of them that can grow taller than that. Meanwhile, its yellow flower is about 10 inches wide. This plant has a strong stem to support the flower. Therefore, you don’t need to give them stakes for support.
This sunflower variety requires full sun and well-drained soil. Moreover, it also need more water than other sunflowers. Planting them in a row will make your garden looks beautiful. Moreover, it also adds more privacy of your garden.
It is a semi-dwarf variety. A firecracker sunflower plant grows around 90 cm tall. Moreover, it is only 20 or 30 cm wide. Therefore, it is perfect for you who want to grow sunflowers in containers.
This particular variety offers you with unique colors. The tips of the petals are yellow and the area near the center is brown or dark orange.
It is a medium-size sunflower, between 6 to 9 feet tall. The most interesting part of this plant is the color of the flowers. It is not yellow as common sunflowers. But it is a mix of dark orange and brown.
This particular plant is easy to grow. Moreover, it has excellent growth rate. You will see it blooms after 10 or 12 weeks of planting.
It is one of the giant sunflower varieties. This particular plant can grow up to 12 feet. Meanwhile, its flowers can be as big as 14 inches wide. They are yellow, similar to common sunflowers.
This plant must be planted in an area with full sun. However, it must be protected from the wind. You may need to provide a stake to support the stem when it is blooming. In addition, this variety requires full sun, medium-fertile, and well-drained soil.
5. Sunflowers and Nuclear Radiation
These flowering plants are not only beautiful. But, they are also helpful in cleaning up the environment from radioactive contamination caused by a nuclear disaster. It is because these plants are capable of absorbing radioactive from the contaminated ground. Once absorbed by the roots, those dangerous substances are stored in the leaves and stems.
Because of this ability, sunflowers are planted in Chernobyl, Hiroshima, and Fukushima. And it has been proven that planting this particular plant had reduced the level of radiation in the soil and water. It is predicted that it takes 40 years of planting to fully clean a contaminated area from radioactive.
After the plants are harvested, they will be processed in a particular method. This method involves hyperthermophilic aerobic composting bacteria. Therefore, the contaminated area will be habitable again.
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How to Plant Sunflowers
After knowing more about this wonderful plant, many people will surely want to grow it in their garden. If you want it too, you need to know how to plant sunflowers. And if you do it right, you will surely see the beautiful blooms in the summer.
Growing this flower will not only make your garden beautiful. But, it will spark some hopes in your chest and make you more cheerful.
These are the steps of how to plant sunflowers directly to the ground.
Since sunflowers need 6 to 8 hours of sun a day, you need to make sure that you plant them at the right spot. Once you choose the site, you need to prepare the soil. These plants do not only need well-drained soil. But, they also prefer well-dug and loosen soil.
To create it, you need to dig an area about 2 feet deep and 3 feet wide. Loosen the soil in this area and mix it with compost. If you don’t have compost, you can add slow release fertilizer into the soil, about 8 inches deep.
2. Planting The Seed
Once you prepare the site, you need to perform the next step of how to plant sunflowers. If you plant sunflowers for bouquets, you had better choose the dwarf type seeds. But, if you plant sunflowers for the seeds, you need to choose the tall varieties. You need to plant the seeds 6 inches far apart.
The seeds must be planted about an inch deep. After that, fill the little holes with soil and moist the soil. You need to keep the soil moist by watering it for about 10 days or until the seeds germinate.
Later, when they are 6 inches tall, you need to thin the plants. Tall sunflowers need to be planted 2 feet apart and the smaller ones can be planted 6 inches apart.
3. Taking Care of The Plant
To have thriving sunflowers, you need to take care of them properly. These are what you need to do.
Young plants need to be planted carefully. It is important to only water the soil about, 4 inches from the stem. Later, when they are older, you can water them deeply, but infrequently. If the weather is very hot, you need to increase the amount of water.
Sunflowers do not require large amount of fertilizer. Over fertilizing can even cause damage to them. Therefore, it is better for you to fertilize the soil at the planting time. If your soil is thin and poor, you can mix fertilizer and water. After that, apply the diluted fertilizer about 18 inches from the stem.
Staking is important if you grow tall sunflower variety with a single stem and a large flower. Stakes will help them stay upright. Moreover, they also help the plants keep standing in the wind. In supporting them, you can use bamboo stakes.
Fighting Pests and Diseases
Sunflowers are usually prone to rust, powdery mildew, and downy mildew. To fight those fungal diseases, you can spray the plants with fungicide. Moreover, certain moths may lay eggs on the flowers. Therefore, you need to remove the worm from these flowering plants.
Cutting The Flowers for Bouquets
A sunflower bouquet can last for about a week. To create it, you need to cut the flowers’ stems before they bloom. In cutting them, you had better do it in the morning. After that, put the flowers in a tall vase. Moreover, to make the flowers last longer, change the water every day.
If you want to harvest sunflower seeds for snack or to plant them in the next season, you need to leave the flowers dry on the stem or off the stem. After they are dry, remove the seeds from the center of the flowers. Next, rinse the seeds let it dry for a night.
If you want to snack on those seeds, you need to roast them. But, if you want to plant the seeds, you need to store the dry seeds in an airtight plastic bag.
It can be concluded that planting this yellow flowers is not difficult if you know how to plant sunflowers. Moreover, planting sunflower plants at the same time will give you sunflower blooms at once.
If you want to prolong the blooms in your garden, you can plant them successively, every two weeks. Therefore, you will have sunflower blooms all through the summer to early fall.
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