When to plant sunflower seeds

Monty Don opens up about his love for gardening

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Bright and cheerful, Sunflowers are pretty easy to grow from seeds, and the yield is pretty good – there aren’t many other plants that can grow as high as 3cm in your back garden. The tallest sunflower ever recorded was grown in Germany in 2014 – measuring a stunning 30 feet and 1 inch tall!

There are several different types of sunflowers, all with different potential heights:

Helianthus annuus ‘Russian Giant’ – A traditional yellow flower from July-September – stems can reach as high as 3m!

Helianthus annuus ‘Velvet Queen’ – coppery-red flowers from July to September from this popular annual. Reaches 1.8m.

Helianthus annuus ‘Teddy Bear’ – an annual with large pom-poms of double yellow flowers from July to September. Height 50cm.

Helianthus ‘Lemon Queen’ – a perennial sunflower, with lemon-yellow July to September flowers, which can grow to 1.8m.

Helianthus giganteus – large single yellow blooms held on 2m long stems from June to August.

What are the best conditions for sunflowers?

Sunflowers grow and thrive best throughout the spring and summertime.

Plant sunflowers seeds individually in 10cm pots of peat-free, multipurpose compost.

Only plant out into your garden when all risk from frost has disappeared – so in late May and June.

When should I plant sunflower seeds?

Sunflower seeds should be planted from April to May.

Most varieties mature in 85 to 95 days if they are planted in nutrient-rich soil, and tend to thrive best in more alkaline soil.

They should also be sheltered from strong winds – given their spindly nature, they grow best alongside fences or buildings.

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How do I care for sunflowers?

Sunflowers are thirsty types and need plenty of water.

It might seem obvious, but sunflowers also need a lot of sun as heliotropic plants, so plant them in a spot that gets a reasonable amount of sunshine instead of somewhere dark.

When planting, remove weeds and add plenty of organic matter so they can thrive.

The very tall varieties will need to be supported by a garden cane, especially if they are growing in an exposed position.

Sunflowers are generally a trouble-free plant not susceptible to much, but young seedlings can be damaged by snails and slugs.

You can use wildlife-friendly slug pellets or copper tape to deter them from feasting on your sunflowers.

Once they are done with their flowers, pull out the entire plant and put it on the compost heap.

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