Sunflower Glory

greyfurball Posts: 591 ✭✭✭✭
edited November 2020 in Pest & Weed Problems/Solutions

I have tried 3 years in a row now to grow sunflowers, small, medium or large varieties, just for their beauty.

Now yes, I am getting better at it but still not good enough. After all, I have seen pictures some people show of their sunflower fields and they are beautiful. Mine, they are nothing to brag about.

So is there any sunflower enthusiasts who have already determined what's the best plan to grow these flowers?

Mine always get attacked by fungal disease, doesn't seem to matter how much I try to prevent it (and no I do not do overhead watering).

So if you have mastered this plant I would love it if you could give us some expert tips.


  • Hassena
    Hassena Posts: 345 ✭✭✭

    Hi there,

    I cannot say that I am an expert grower of sunflowers. However they do grow well for us, they are one of our weeds. I happily weed eat around them. :)

    Tell us about your growing conditions and what varieties you have tried?

    We have planted many varieties. We stick the seeds in the ground, about a half inch deep. I only water the seedlings, if we are in a particular hot spell.

    We grow them a few places. In the garden, the soil is beautiful. Old forest soil mixed with aged goat manure and vermicompost. Lovely it is.

    They also grow in our pasture, which is heavy red clay. All the sunflowers are in full sun, all day and have good airflow around them.

    The black oil sunflower seeds are the most prolific for us, they don't require staking and grow everywhere the birds don't eat them.

    Hope this helps some

  • greyfurball
    greyfurball Posts: 591 ✭✭✭✭


    My location is zone 6b which is in southcentral Pennsylvania.

    I'm kind of in a trough surrounded by a mountain range a couple of miles away on one side, a man-made hill range on another two sides (because they stuck a freeway in there a few miles over) and just rolling hills in the other. So topographically I am sitting in a hole made by dirt.

    The bad thing about that, often each year as storms come thru this area the rain drops (and snow drops) just pass right over us. So I must collect rain in barrels and use for my irrigation most of the time in the hottest 3 months of the summer.

    But I am careful, I do not do any watering overhead. It is all done by underground Oyas (those are underground clay pots in case you don't know what an Oya is. It gets filled with water and then the water seeps out of the pot at the root zone to water the plants as it is needed.

    Summer time though we do get a lot of the three H days (hazy, hot and humid). That's why I get so much problems with fungal diseases. even in my regular garden.

    I've pretty well learned how to take care of the tomatoes, squash, cukes etc. so that my garden does not get disease out of control. But those methods sure are not working on these sunflowers.

    As for varieties, the first year I was given a bunsh of seeds, the tall variety, so I don't know their name. The second year I bought some of the variety Sonja which is more of a medium height. And then this year I bought a Sunflower mix, so I don't know individual names for these either.

  • herbantherapy
    herbantherapy Posts: 453 ✭✭✭✭

    I don’t have answer but I hope to hear more weigh in. I can’t get my sunflowers to grow well either. I have neighbors with sunflowers so I know they grow here, but mine never seem to come into full flower before the cold settles back in. I’ve even purchased starts in case I was setting my seed out too late and still didn’t get flowers.

  • marcy_northlightsfarm
    marcy_northlightsfarm Posts: 103 ✭✭✭

    I used to grow thousands of sunflowers for the farmers market. You can start them indoors six weeks before your last frost date, then plant them out. If the starts have gotten tall, say over 6-8 inches I bury them deep so just a couple inches stick out. This is to prevent the stem from breaking in a breeze. I sometimes would lay the sunflower down and turn the tip up so everything was buried but the tip. Since fungal issues are you main problem I would recommend the Pro Cut Series which is a single flowering variety. The Pro Cut Series flowers in just 55 days. Hopefully they will flower before the fungus takes hold. I would also recommend planting them in rows about 6 inches apart. Try planting a new row behind the first one every 10 to 14 days for continuous blooms. Another favorite variety I grew was Moulin Rouge, now called Rouge Royale. This is a late flowering variety that has dark reddish brown flowers and branches well. Cutting flowers from it causes it to branch and flower more. Keep and eye on your flowers to watch when the fungus comes in and maybe if there is something you can change to prevent it. I would also recommend mulching to keep soil from being splashed on the lower leaves and stems that might contain the fungus. The seed is available at Geo Seeds This is a commercial seller. There is an online catalog but no pictures. Sunflowers are helianthus, you will find the varieties I mentioned under the Helianthus annuus F1 heading. Favorite colors of mine were orange, red and the bi-colors. Just checked the catalog and some of the Pro Cut colors are DMR, Downy Mildew Resistant, how perfect is that! Definitely order those colors.

  • silvertipgrizz
    silvertipgrizz Posts: 1,990 ✭✭✭✭✭


    Here is a vid for you that I think will help:

    Let me know if you need more help and I'll look for more for you.

  • greyfurball
    greyfurball Posts: 591 ✭✭✭✭


    I've got to watch it and there is some info in there I have not tried before so I'll give that a go next and see what happens. Thanks for the link since I have never heard of him before.

  • greyfurball
    greyfurball Posts: 591 ✭✭✭✭


    thanks a lot for the reccomendations of which varieties to purchase. I will look them up and give those a try next year and see what happens by combining your information and the info from the video shown here also.

    I'm going to master this yet one way or another. Thanks

  • sallyhoward
    sallyhoward Posts: 106 ✭✭✭

    cool video. I let my flowers produce seeds last season (rather than deadheading) and have collected them to grow many more next time. Mine started out as micro-greens but since nobody liked to eat them I transplanted a few into pots and grew them in my hot house. They looked so happy.

  • Suburban Pioneer
    Suburban Pioneer Posts: 337 ✭✭✭

    Dry heat and sandy soil with a bit of organic matter in the upper layer seem to do the trick for me - to a fault! I started out carefully planting a few Russian Giants a few years ago. Anxious that they might not re-sprout from their own seeding, I added some Mongolian seeds to the earth the next year. Well, I should NOT have worried! Mine came back, with a complete vengeance. I threw in the towel and added some wild seed collected in the foothills a few miles from here, and some other varietal seed I had purchased in a fit of enthusiasm for the possibility of sunflowers, just to see what types of hybrids I would get. Big (literally) mistake. Even with the migrating finches stopping through every fall and practically stripping the seed before I can get to it, they still drop literally HUNDREDS of seeds and drive me NUTS pulling up the sprouts in the spring. They are complete WEEDS on our property! And they do grow absurdly huge. On the plus side, a forest of sunflower stalks in the ground (alive or dead) will definitely slow down any intruders on your property, and the dry, dead stalks make great small tree limb substitutes from which to construct hugels.

  • greyfurball
    greyfurball Posts: 591 ✭✭✭✭

    @Suburban Pioneer

    Well, your first line leaves me out. Dry heat is definitely not a normal around here all Summer long. We fight the hazy, hot and humid variety of days more often than not.

    But I do sympathize with you in regards to the rest of your story. Isn't it amazing just how much extra work those birds/critters/pets etc go to just to re-landscape our property for us each and every year?

  • Suburban Pioneer
    Suburban Pioneer Posts: 337 ✭✭✭

    LOL!! Yes - they scratch out, trash, eat, or destroy the roots on everything you want to keep or are raising for the table, they poop on your ornamentals, they spread weed seeds, and they sit in your fruit trees and give you the evil eye as you're trying to shoo them away from "their" feast!!! But, they always seem to leave the plants you're trying to control or get rid of, alone. Grrrrr! I'm TRYING to meet Mother Nature half way via organic edible permascape, but she keep sending in her furred and featherd (as well as leafy) shock troops to make darn sure that my progress is as slow and painful as possible. I truly have to have a hole in my head to keep doing this and not give in to the evil forces of shotguns, gopher gas and Roundup!!!!

  • greyfurball
    greyfurball Posts: 591 ✭✭✭✭

    @Suburban Pioneer ah-h-h patience is a virtue remember.

    After all, yes it is your yard but it is their home. We're the stupid ones who somehow believe we have the right to re-do all of their own property. How dumb can we be?

  • shllnzl
    shllnzl Posts: 1,810 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @greyfurball I know nothing about sunflowers other than I get a few volunteers each year from birdseed the birds spread around. They don't get big or last long in the desert. I discovered this one and gave it a small amount of water yesterday. Otherwise it grew without any rainfall in our desert heat.

  • Suburban Pioneer
    Suburban Pioneer Posts: 337 ✭✭✭

    Looks a lot like the native sunflowers that grow around here (north edge of Great Basin - on the ancient sand dunes that once surrounded the lake that filled the valley. Heckuva place to garden, but we're getting there!) Congrats! Our natives seem to bloom in July, as well, though I can't imagine WHERE they find enough moisture in our low humidity and dry heat, either.

    I you can save seed from the hungry birds, do it for insurance purposes. But, I'll bet the little fella, if left to his own devices, will see o it that he leaves a few offspring for next year. Do keep me posted! I'm crossing my fingers that you're on to something, here :-)

  • Hassena
    Hassena Posts: 345 ✭✭✭


    I used to order a lot of sunflowers from Johnny's. We get most of seeds through baker creek, and we save some of the harvest for replanting.

    They have great info on cultivating and when the flowers bloom.

    I'd plant hundreds of them annually for our big fall fundraiser.

    It does sound like your climate is ripe for mildew/fungus. Good air flow and possibly baking soda spray would help. Maybe even a garlic spray...

    hope you find some varieties that work.

  • bcabrobin
    bcabrobin Posts: 251 ✭✭✭

    I pass a field where they planted sunflowers in at least 8 years ago. Every year they have some volunteers, this is a no-till farm but it's cool to see how many volunteers they get.

    I think the key is full sun, all day. If they don't get that then the mold/fungus start.

    Try a patch that you don't water (that year it will rain everyday, right?) maybe they don't need the amount of water you think they need, maybe they like to let the roots dry out. My dad always had sunflowers and I don't remember him ever watering them.

  • greyfurball
    greyfurball Posts: 591 ✭✭✭✭


    All good suggestions you have made but I actually tried planting a patch in the partial shade this year just to see what happens.

    Usually mine are always in the sun all day... after all it is called a sunflower,,, supposedly I've always read it wants full sun. But the ones I have in shade are doing better, disease wise, than the sunny ones. But the shady ones are half the size now of the sunny ones.

    I still think it comes down to my climate. We do get a lot of hot, humid days and I can tell these plants are not happy with it. I have to water them sometimes (again though I use the underground Oya pots to water). We have had 11 days straight now in the 90's (many of those in the upper 90's) and it's been humid each of those to a varying degree. Even with water all my garden/plants still look parched many days. But then it has not rained here in all eleven of those days either. It has been 15 days since we have had any actual rainfall in my area.

    I broke down 4 days ago and wrapped most of my garden in insect row cover just to diffuse the sun's rays some. Thankfully it has helped. Pain in the butt working in the garden now but at least everything isn't hanging off the bushes all wilted and shriveled up.

    But the sunflowers, I do not consider those a necessity to try to save so they have to put up with all this heat just like I do, they don't get a wrap.