Flower of the Month - The Sunflower
“We’re all golden sunflowers inside”
- Allen Ginsberg
The sunflower has long held the top spot as the most commonly grown cut flower worldwide, and it's no wonder - they are ridiculously easy to grow, and they thrive during the hottest days of summer and early autumn. On top of this, they require very little attention to thrive. In this post, we'll walk you through what to think about when growing your own sunflowers - as well as some history and fun facts.
The sunflower has been with us since 3000 BCE when it was first cultivated in North America. They were originally developed for food, medicine, dye and oil. It wasn't until around 1500 that the sunflower was exported to the rest of the world by Spanish conquistadors.
Sunflowers display a behaviour called heliotropism, which means that they track the sun. The young blossoms will face east in the morning, and follow the sun as the Earth moves during the day.
Giant sunflowers reach a height of up to 12 feet or more. The world's tallest sunflower reaches 30 feet and 1 inch.
In 2012, the astronaut, Don Pettit, brought along some sunflower seeds up to space and planted them at the International Space Station.
Each sunflower can contain as many as 1000 to 2000 seeds.
There are about 70 different species of sunflowers.
Sunflowers are good at absorbing toxins, and they have been planted in Fukushima, Japan, to soak up nuclear radiation after the devastating tsunami.
There are two different types of sunflowers; branching and non-branching. Branching types get quite large and produce a lot of blooms over a long period of time. They need a lot of room, and should be spaced about 18 to 24 inches apart.
Non-branching types (also called single stem) produce one flower per seed, and are the types that most florists will keep in stock. For smaller, bouquet sized blooms, space plants 4 to 6 inches apart.
Sunflowers need a lot of sun. The ideal location is one which provides 6-8 hours of sun a day in a sheltered location so there's low risk of wind or storm damage. The soil should be rich and well trained, and free from rocks or other large roots. Any obstacles in the soil will inhibit root and plant growth.
Harvest as soon as the first petals on the sunflower blooms start to unfurl, and strip the bottom three quarters of the leaves from the stem, for the longest vase life. No flower preservative is needed.
Also read: Flower of the Month - The Dahlia