Sunflowers Add Big Splash of Color Along Fencerows

Sunflower Graphic

Sunflowers can grow up to 10 feet tall. Their big-faced flowers not only provide lots of color to summer landscapes but they also attract birds, especially goldfinches.

There are hundreds of species of sunflowers, says Dr. Dave Williams, a horticulturist with the Alabama Cooperative Extension System. Annual sunflowers are typically grown for their seed and have a big head of flower. Perennial sunflowers usually are much smaller.

Sunflowers need full sun and will grow in a wide range of soil types. They prefer a soil pH of 6.0 to 6.5 and grow longer and bigger when planted directly in a garden. They usually don't do well when transplanted. Dwarf sunflowers can be planted in a garden or in pots.

If you want tall sunflowers, plant Giganteus. This variety can grow to 10 feet tall. Or, plant Mammoth, which will grow to 8 to 10 feet tall.

Sunflowers also come in a variety of colors, says Williams. Choose from white, yellow and mixed colors ranging from orange to red.

Plant annual sunflowers after the danger of frost has passed. They will flower in midsummer to fall. Sunspot is a good variety to plant in Alabama. It is a compact plant and only grows about waist high. It has a big head and can be grown in a container. It usually take 5 to 10 days to germinate.

Perennial sunflowers can be planted most anytime. If planted in the spring, they will flower in late summer or early fall. Native swamp sunflower is a perennial that flowers in the fall. Prairie sunflower is another perennial that grows quickly and needs to be divided frequently. Other perennials include Italian White and Teddy Bear. Teddy Bear has double-flowering yellow blooms.

Spring is the best time to divide perennial sunflowers. Fertilize them with 2 to 3 pounds of 12-4-6 or similar fertilizer per hundred square feet of bed area. Plant them about 1 inch deep and 24 to 36 inches apart.

Sunflowers don't make good cut flowers. Once the sunflowers have been pollinated, they decline fast. As the seed begins to ripen, the flowers dry up and fall away.

SOURCE: Dr. Dave Williams, Extension Horticulturist, Alabama Cooperative Extension System (334) 844-3032