How to Grow Sunflowers

How to Grow Sunflowers

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One of my daughters had been insisting on growing sunflowers. I didn’t think we would be able to because summers are so so hot here. But, subhaanAllaah, we were out walking, and came across a broken sunflower head, full of seeds! We took it home, removed all those seeds, and planted a few in the garden below. And then, would you believe it, the sunflower grew up to be 6 feet tall? It was amazing. We had so many bees, and it just brightened up the whole place.

As the name implies, sunflowers need ample amount of direct sunlight. However, there are other things to keep in mind if you’d like to grow sunflowers. This is what we learned while growing our sunflowers:

6 feet+ tall sunflowers in our house

Type of Soil:

Sunflowers prefer loose, well draining, healthy, nutritious soil. They’re heavy feeders, so they’ll grow best in nutrient-rich soil that has some organic matter mixed into it. Personally, I make my own compost, and I add sand, as well as, perlite to it, and our sunflowers love it!

Also, sunflowers have long tap roots, so they need large, deep pots. In my experience, the larger the pot, the bigger you can grow them.
If you live in a desert, high quality plastic pots are ideal. They retain water, unlike clay pots, and help to keep the moisture in. You can shop for different sizes and colored pots here.

When to Plant Sunflowers

Best time to plant sunflowers, according to our weather, is after the extreme cold and hot weather (in Riyadh) has passed. This will be between February and April, or September to November. For those in Jeddah, I’d say it’s anytime, except the month of June and July. Even then, it’s still possible if you can provide shade during the hottest time of the day, which is from 10am to around 4pm.

You can also get sunflower plants from most nurseries, but it’s really fun and easy to grow them yourself. Plus, it’s so much cheaper!

Planting the Seeds

Closeup of a sunflower seed sprouting

So, now you’ve got your sunflower seeds, your soil, and pot ready. Sunflower seeds need to be planted an inch deep, and six inches far.

It’s best to plant them directly in the pot you’re likely to be growing them in. Most plants don’t do well with transplanting, so it’s usually better to plant seeds directly in pots. If you’re growing the large variety (usually the size of the seed signifies the size of the flower) have a stake, CVC pipe or some kind of support. They tend to topple over in strong winds.

Watering and Sunlight

In our Saudi weather, sunflowers need 2 – 4 hours of direct sunlight per day during summer. However, be careful it’s not the Dhuhr (mid noon) sunlight, because that will scorch the plant. The best sunlight is early morning after Fajr (sunrise) or Asr (late afternoon). If you’re planning to grow sunflowers all year through, plant it in a place where it will get ample shade during the hottest parts of the day, which like I mentioned above, is from around 10am to 4pm. Also, to get sunflowers growing continuously, you’d need to plant the seeds at different intervals, so that you have some growing at all times.

As with most outdoor plants, sunflowers need good watering whenever the top soil is dry. The best way to water a plant is to water until the water runs out from the drainage holes. In my experience, in our Riyadh climate, the weather is so dry, you need to water deeply whenever the top soil is dry. I know many sites and books say otherwise, but how many of those books have been written while keeping the Riyadh weather in mind? So, this has worked very well with me, alhumdulillaah, and in shaa Allaah, it’ll work well for you, too.

Pests and Diseases to Keep in Mind

Sunflowers are prone to powdery mildew, rust and mealy bugs. This is a very good reason to wash your plant leaves well too, whenever you water your plant. Many people just water the plant base, and ignore the plant itself, especially if the plants are huge. Another way to keep the plant safe, is to spray a mixture of neem oil in water, or liquid fairy in water, occasionally. I found Neem oil mixture to be the best.
(I use a one-liter water bottle and 1 teaspoon of Neem oil, and keep it in a spray bottle, and use as needed.)

Here are some links for Organic Activated Neem Oil for Plants and Cold Pressed Ready to Use Neem Oil Spray for Plants.

Fun Facts

Sunflowers are an entirely edible plant – from seeds to roots, leaves to stalk, petals to seeds, you can use your sunflowers for salads to sunflower tea!

Sunflower Facts

Please Note: I actually wrote this post for the sunflower kits I make. It consists of my homemade compost, 10 organic sunflower seeds, and a pot. If you’ve bought my sunflower kit, please store them in a cool, dry place.

Sunflower kit
Inside the kit
They make really cute Eid gifts

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