Sunflowers can be grown in pots or sown directly into the ground. They can be started off indoors in early spring and will grow quite happily on a window sill for a time. Alternatively, seeds can be planted outside directly once the risk of frost has passed.
To begin growing your sunflower, fill a pot with compost to 1cm below the rim. Anything that will hold compost will make a good pot. If you don’t have a plant pot consider using yogurt pots, tin cans, plastic cups, old bottles or toilet rolls. Sow one seed per pot and water so that the compost is moist. If you are growing different varieties of sunflower remember to label your pots.
Sunflowers started off indoors grow rapidly and tend to be tall and leggy because of the warm environment – you should see them begin to shoot within about a week to ten days of sowing your seeds. Tieing them to a cane will help keep them upright – if you don’t have any canes you could consider using pencils, chopsticks or knitting needles.
Sunflowers started off indoors are tender and should be introduced to the outside world slowly – a couple of hours outside before returning them inside overnight over a period of time helps to prepare them for being outside permanently.
Sowing seeds outdoors is best done after the the threat of frost has gone. Seeds can be sown directly into the garden border or in pots as described above. If you are sowing your sunflowers outdoors (and when your sunflowers are small), be aware that slugs, snails, mice, rabbits and other animals have a healthy appetite for baby sunflowers. Plastic bottles make good shelters; try cutting a plastic milk bottle in half, cutting off the base and putting it over the top of your sunflower – this will deter anything that thinks your sunflowers might be dinner, while allowing the sunflower room to grow out the top. Throwing gravel or egg shells around the base of your sunflowers makes an uneven surface which it is difficult for slugs and snails to move on.
Watching your sunflower grow
Sunflowers like plenty of sun but also like to be kept moist, so choose a sunny spot when planting them out but don’t forget to give your sunflowers a regular drink. When sunflowers are well established they can also be given a drop of lawn feed or tomato feed which helps them grow tall and tieing them to garden canes will help support them as they grow.
Further information about growing sunflowers, including short instructional films, can be found on the Dobbie’s Garden Centres website.