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How to grow sunflowers from seed

Sunflower seeds Velvet Queen, Valentine and Dwarf Yellow Spray
Sunflower seeds Velvet Queen, Valentine and Dwarf Yellow Spray

Sow under glass March-May or outside late May-early June

Sunflowers are one of my all-time favourites, so I’m growing three varieties this year for a long season of colour.

They’re very easy to grow, and come in all shapes and sizes, from knee-high to house-size giants.

If you want to get kids interested in gardening or want something easy to have a go with if you’re a beginner, you couldn’t choose a better flower.

Sunflowers are suitable for borders, beds and pots, especially when combined with other easy annuals such as Cosmos, nasturtium or cornflowers.

Flowers are long-lasting whether on the plant or in a vase and attract beneficial insects. Their spent heads can be left on to feed birds throughout winter.

Sunflowers Velvet Queen, Valentine and Dwarf Yellow Spray on the heat mat
Sunflowers Velvet Queen, Valentine and Dwarf Yellow Spray on the heat mat

Sunflowers love the sun!

As the name suggests, they need full sun and the flower heads will track the sun, so be careful where you plant them or your neighbours may get the benefit if they look over the fence.

Here are this year’s choices:

  • Velvet Queen: A stunning mix in shades of red to dark claret, with a chocolate centre. Height 180cm, Mr Fothergill’s, approximately 30 seeds, £2.29.
  • Valentine: Bright lemon yellow, 15cm flowers with a black disc. Cut flowers last up to 18 days. Height 1.5m, Thompson & Morgan, approximately 18 seeds, £2.99.
  • Dwarf Yellow Spray: The neat, dwarf habit can be used to create an unusual hedge. Height 45-60cm, Thompson & Morgan, approximately 30 seeds, £2.99.

Potted guide: sunflowers from seed

  • Sow seeds indoors from now until the end of May, 1.5cm deep, individually in small pots of compost (I use recycled yoghurt/rice pots) at about 20°C in a windowsill or propagator.
  • Once germination takes place, give seedlings as much light as possible and grow on in cooler conditions (an unheated greenhouse, cold frame or sunny porch is ideal).
  • At the end of May, gradually accustom plants to outside conditions before planting out 45cm apart.
  • You can also sow direct outdoors where they are to flower, in May/early June. Sow two seeds together every 45cm and remove the weaker plant, which can be transplanted.
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Mandy Watson is a freelance journalist and an incurable plantaholic. MandyCanUDigIt grew from the tiny seed of a Twitter account into the rainforest of information you see before you. Gardening columnist for the Sunderland Echo, Shields Gazette and Hartlepool Mail and editor of the Teesdale Mercury Magazine. Attracted by anything rebellious, exotic and nerdy, even after all these years. Passionate about northern England and gardens everywhere. Falls over a lot.


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