Rise and shine sunflowers

Sunflowers are pure fun in the garden. They’re bright, cheery and bring out the inner child in us all. 

For me, they also release my competitive streak - where I can’t help but check out other people’s sunflowers and mentally compare them to ones I’m growing.

After the erratic spring weather we’ve been having lately, December is the perfect time to start thinking about planting some sunflowers in your garden.

Sunflowers come in all shapes and sizes. Varying in height (from to 60cm to 3m tall), and flowering in colours from crimson to orange, yellow and even stripes. Most sunflowers each produce a single flower head, although some branching varieties grow multiples. And the largest heads can grow up to 50cm wide.

Sunflowers are heliotropic, meaning they turn their heads throughout the day to gain maximum sun rays on their faces. So factor this in when you’re working out where to plant them in the garden. If you place them on the western border to your house, they’ll be facing away from you in the afternoon sun.

When it comes to growing sunflowers, they are pretty easy. They require a sheltered, well-drained, but only moderately, fertile soil. However, it’s key that they’re planted in a super sunny spot that gets at least six to eight hours of daily sun.

This year Awapuni Nurseries has gone for a classic, bright yellow flowering, single stem sunflower – the Russian giant. It definitely lives up to its name and can reach up to 3m high.

You can grab some Russian giant sunflower seedlings from our Awapuni Nurseries online shop. We deliver direct to your door and guarantee satisfaction. If for any reason you’re not entirely happy with your order we will replace it. Our regular bundles have nine seedlings, or the bulk bundles come with 25 seedlings in them.

Now work out where to plant them. I personally love the group impact they can make when grown in a bunch together or along a fence line.

Dig holes around 3cm deep and plant your seedlings approximately 30cm apart. Sunflowers can really suck the nutrients and water out of the ground around them, so make sure any nearby annuals are around 30cm away from the sunflower stem.

Now is also the time to stake them to ensure they don’t topple over later on. You’ll be amazed at how quickly they can shoot up, so its important to stake early before you risk damaging the root systems.

Water your sunflowers in the morning to avoid root rot overnight. Once established they don’t really need any fertiliser, but adding some every few weeks is a good idea if you’re entering them in a tallest sunflower competition or just really want to show off.

You can also grow sunflowers in pots. I recommend at least a 30L pot, as you don’t want the sunflower to get top heavy and topple over. Again, stake it right from when you plant the seedling so you keep the root systems intact. Having them near a fence or wall where you can secure them to something else is also recommended to ensure their stems don’t break under their own weight.

In two to three months your sunflowers should have risen and be shining proud in your garden. Later, when the heads begin to droop you can harvest their heads for seeds.

Once harvested, soak the seeds over night in a lightly salted water. Then slow roast them for 40 mins at 150°C. Once cooled, store in an airtight jar in the fridge for two months or freezer for up to a year. Enjoy them added to salads or savoury baking for many months to come. Delicious.


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