This striking sunflower produces rich chocolate coloured blooms with gold-rimmed edges over a long period in summer. Multi-headed and boasting large pollen-free flowers up to 15cm (6") in diameter, Sunflower 'Shock-o-Lat' is ideal planted en masse at the back of a border. The tall, sturdy stems make fabulous cut flowers for a vase indoors too. Height: 1.8m (6'). Spread: 50cm (20").
Culinary note: Some parts of these flowers are edible. Try toasting the seed kernels for a healthy snack. For more details about edible flowers click here.
Companion planting: Try growing sunflowers with chives to deter aphids.
Direct sow Sunflower seeds outdoors where they are to grow from April to May. Choose a position in full sun on well drained soil which has been raked to a fine tilth. Sow seeds thinly, at a depth of 1cm (&frac;1/2") in drills spaced 45cm (18") apart and cover seed with its own depth of soil to exclude light. Water the ground regularly, especially during dry periods. Germination usually takes up to 21 days. When sunflower seedlings are large enough to handle, thin them out to 30cm (12") apart.
Alternatively, sow indoors in individual 7.5cm (3") pots from March to April at a temperature of 20-25C (68-77F). Once germinated, grow sunflower plants on in cooler conditions until large enough to plant outdoors after all risk of frost has passed.
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