Thompson & Morgan
top tips for growing sunflowers

Top tips for growing sunflowers

wildlife tasks january - robin


Richard Hope, winner of this year’s Thompson & Morgan Tallest Sunflower Competition, gives us his top tips for growing sunflowers.

  • It takes complete dedication from beginning to end, if something needs doing and you put it off, you could destroy your plants.
  • Nice, warm temperatures over the summer and into early autumn will help the growing season, but remember to give plants protection against extreme weather.
  • It’s best to grow your sunflowers against a solid, south-facing structure i.e. a wall - you’ll need to prop a ladder against it to climb up and support your plants.
  • I always use the seed from my previous year’s biggest sunflower.
  • This year I had the best sunflowers I’ve ever grown and the only thing I did differently from previous years is use incredicompost® with incredibloom®
  • I start my plants off in the greenhouse and re-pot them into bigger pots until there’s no further chance of frost, then I plant them outside.
  • It’s really important to protect your sunflower plants against slugs as they can decimate your plants in the early stages.
  • Until my plants are about 10ft (3m) tall, I feed my plants with high nitrogen feed, then I ease off as the incredicompost® and incredibloom® give the plants enough

Choice of varieties and growing tips

richard hope sunflowers

Thompson & Morgan offers a wide range of sunflower varieties to grow at home. There are the giant varieties, like Tall Timbers or Mongolian Giant and Russian Giant - the seeds of the latter are endorsed by the RHS for children and are great for young gardeners - as well as many others which come in different colours and sizes. You could always grow some of our smaller varieties to contrast with the height of your taller specimens. Try Dwarf Yellow Spray which can be used to create an unusual hedge to enclose beds or borders. Or for something quite different from a traditional sunflower, why not go for Sunflower ‘Teddy Bear’? It’s a dwarf variety and produces wonderful fluffy ‘pom-pom’ flowers that are quite different to the usual sunny sunflower faces that we’re used to.

We’d love to hear about your sunflower growing stories and see photos of your plants, so don’t forget to get in touch. Whether you grow a monster or a tiddler, let us know!

It’s worth mentioning that some parts of sunflowers are edible. Try toasting the seed kernels for a healthy snack; sprinkle them on salads and add to breakfast cereals or smoothies for a nutritional boost. For more details about edible flowers, click here.

Birds also love the seeds of sunflowers, so you’ll be doing your bit for wildlife by growing a few in your garden!


 

Further tips and growing instructions:

incredicompost

Timely tips for growing a towering giant:

  • Dig out a 10cm (4in) deep moat around each plant, 45cm (18in) away from the stem.
  • Use this to apply regular water and a weekly feed of up to four gallons (two watering cans of diluted liquid fertiliser)
  • Apply a weekly foliar food of liquid seaweed solution. Do this late in the day to avoid sun scorch.
  • Sunflower roots can grow down to 1.2m (4ft). As an alternative to the moat, use a thick stake to create a ring of deep holes around the plant and apply water and feed into these for deep penetration.
  • Before flowering, use a general purpose feed, such as incredibloom®, to encourage good stem growth.
  • Once flowering starts use a high potash tomato feed.
  • Plants should need no staking, but if high winds are forecast delay watering to keep stems light and avoid chances of blowing over.