Monday, 28 July 2014

HOW TO GROW GIANT SUNFLOWERS



My son George grew his first sunflower this year (he is only two after all).  We entered it in to a local competition for the largest sunflower grown by a child and he won first place. 

I am not surprised, as it is a fantastic plant with huge leaves and a thick stalk.  It came from a seed we were given at RHS Wisley as part of their sunflower event.

Sunflowers are  hardy annuals, so you will have to plant from seed every year. The key to growing large sunflowers (Helianthus annus) is to select a good seed.  You will not get a large sunflower from a seed from a small sunflower variety.  You need to select a giant single sunflower variety. You can tell it’s a giant variety from the size of the seed as these seeds are big, between 2 - 3 cm long.

Sow your seeds into a pot in the spring, rather than outside, to ensure and early summer, or a little earlier in pots. The advantage of growing them in a pot is that they get a chance to get established quicker, and every advantage to grow them bigger needs to be taken.  

Sow into individual 7.5 cm / 3 inch pots.  Fill the pot up with multi purpose compost and drop the seed in pointy tip upwards a 1/4 inch into the soil.  Water gently and place in a sunny position of 20-30 C (a sunny windowsill will do).  Germination will take about 21 days. 

Plant out in the border when the  risk of frost has passed. Choose a sunny position suitable for your sunflower; and one that is a little sheltered or your sunflower may be blown over. Tie your sunflower into a cane when they grow to prevent them from being blown over.

Feed weekly with a liquid fertiliser and water daily during the summer. Your sunflowers will flower in late summer.  Georges award winning sunflower was in bloom at the end of July and it measured  2.68 m / nearly nine foot tall.

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