People have grown sunflowers for many different reasons over the years. Personally, I started to plant sunflowers for fun and continue growing them for practicality. They are easy to grow and a good way to teach children the fun, ease, and benefits of gardening. Also, due to their quick growth rate, height, and drought tolerance, they can provide a beautiful “wall” for “off the grid” privacy.
I was just starting to garden when I learned how easy it was to grow sunflowers. The man in charge of the local feed store said they were easy to grow, that “anyone can grow them because they are hard to kill.” He was so right! I planted a few seeds and when they grew up, they were beautiful. There were days that I would forget to water them, yet they still grew tall and strong, turning their beautiful faces toward the sun the whole summer and well into the fall. They were a true representation of God’s glory and His beautiful design.
Years ago I lived in a rural community. Our property was on the main roadway that went through the hills of the northern California gold fields of Yuba County. The garden area was visible from the road but up a steep, 20-foot embankment. We wanted to have a wall to block our garden from both the prying eyes of the local toughs and to block out the noise and exhaust of the passing cars. I remembered the sunflowers I had grown a few years before. I went into town and bought several varieties of sunflower seeds along with three different varieties of marigolds.
I had an area four feet wide and twenty feet long to plant in, which would block our yard from the view of the highway. I grew sunflowers that ranged in height from 2 feet tall to better than 15 feet high in three rows. I planted them about eight inches apart, tallest varieties closest to the road, shortest towards the rest of the garden. Between the sunflowers I planted 18-inch tall marigolds in the back row, 12-inch tall marigolds in the center row, and dwarf marigolds – 6 to 8 inches tall – I the front row. It was the most brilliantly colored privacy wall I had ever seen, the colors ranged in hue from lemon yellow to brilliant oranges, deep russets to dark burgundies. That was the summer I fell in love with all the colors in God palette. The various different colors of orange were – and still are – my absolute favorite.
Put a little potting soil into a small pot, or even a large paper cup with a hole poked in the bottom, plant a seed or two an inch deep in the soil, and water well. Place the planted seed in a sunny spot and water when the soil feels dry an inch below the top of the soil. In seven to 10 days, a sprout will peek its head above the soil. In another week to ten days, the stalk will start to shoot up out of the pot. When the flowers appear, they will follow the sun across the sky from dawn to setting sun.
When you plant directly into the ground, you may want to cover the area with screens to keep birds and rodents from eating your seeds before they can grow up, or plant two seeds in each hole so they can have their share as well.
Don’t Forget To Fertilize When You Plant Sunflowers
When your plants have outgrown their pots, they should be planted in a sunny place. They will tolerate partial shade, but they do their best and grow to their full height in full sunlight and well-drained soil. When the blooms begin to develop, you should add extra phosphorus and potassium to promote bigger blooms. Organic phosphorus can be found in rock phosphate, bone meal, and various liquid organic fertilizers such as fish emulsion. Sources of organic potassium include sul-po-mag (sulfate of potash magnesia for quick release), greensand, and liquid fertilizers such as Earth Juice’s Meta-K.
The flowers will mature in 60 to 90 days. At this point, the seeds can be dried. The dried seeds can be fed to the birds and wild animals of your area, be ground into a spread similar to peanut butter, roasted for snacking, or ground into flour and baked into cakes or breads.
I still enjoy sunflowers and grow them whenever I can. Even when I was an apartment dweller, I planted them in large pots with a few marigolds. I loved their beauty and their shining faces, faces that were always looking into the sun. It was a constant reminder for me to also keep my face turned towards the Son, to keep my eyes trained on Christ.
I hope that you will grow sunflowers to teach your children the fun of growing things and the beauty of God’s creation.