Grow sunflowers for beauty, seeds

Photo by Kathie Rowell.

Some sunflowers are grown for their seeds. Photo by Kathie Rowell.

By Allen Owings, LSU AgCenter horticulturist

Sunflowers are among the easiest flowers to grow, and they thrive in the heat of our summers.

Depending on the variety, sunflowers will bloom anytime from about 55 to 75 days after planting the seeds. About 60 days is a good average. Sunflowers can be broadly divided into those that are grown for seeds and those grown as ornamentals and cut flowers. Most people are interested in the ornamental and cut-flower types.

Sunflowers come in heights ranging from 1 to 8 feet and come in a wide range of flower colors. While brilliant yellow will always be popular, you can also choose from creamy white, bronze, mahogany, rusty red, burgundy and orange, with some types producing flowers with more than one color. The center disk of the sunflower also adds to the display and goes through color changes as the flower matures and seeds form. Double types produce flowers full of petals with no central disk at all, such as Teddy Bear. Ornamental varieties for cut flowers include Sunbeam and Sunbright.

If you want to grow sunflowers for the delicious, nutritious seeds, make sure you choose varieties bred for seed production, such as Mammoth Russian (also known as Mammoth), Russian Giant and Gray Stripe. These tall-growing sunflowers produce a single, enormous flower at the top of the plant. To grow a really big seed head, apply general-purpose fertilizer when the flower head begins to appear.

The versatility and variety of today’s sunflowers offer something for almost every garden and gardener. If you haven’t tried this native American plant lately, give it another look.

Some sunflowers are grown primarily for their ornamental value. Photo courtesy of LSU AgCenter.

Other sunflowers are grown primarily for their ornamental value. Photo courtesy of LSU AgCenter.

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