How to grow sunflowers to decorate your vegetable garden or garden

How to grow sunflowers to decorate your vegetable garden or garden

Grow sunflowers it can give a much more cheerful aspect to our vegetable garden or garden. Obviously a cultivation for decorative purposes is different from one for commercial purposes. This crop is very widespread worldwide and the production of sunflower oil it needs no introduction. But it is obvious that in these cases it is practiced on very large surfaces. This plant, of South American origin, found its initial diffusion in Europe starting from 1500 as an ornamental crop.

Here we want to treat it from this point of view, a wonderful flower with a spring-summer cycle, which gives color to our land. So let's see the right period for sowing, the necessary care for cultivation and what are the possible uses in the vegetable garden and in the garden.
But before starting with the cultivation let's see the botanical characteristics of the plant.

Botanical characteristics of sunflowers

The sunflower, scientific name Helianthus annuus, is a plant with an annual cycle. It belongs to the family of Asteraceae (or Compositae), as well as the dandelion.
The word Helianthus derives from the composition of two Greek words, namely helios= sun and anthos= flower.
The name therefore expresses the plant's attitude to follow the course of the sun with its large flower.
In plant physiology this behavior is said heliotropism.
Also in Italian the common name "sunflower" clearly recalls the trend of this plant.


The sunflower is a plant characterized by a remarkable development. In its natural habitat it can reach up to 4 meters in height. With our climate, however, the species cultivated for ornamental purposes usually reach up to 2.
The stem of the plant has an erect, cylindrical shape, very robust, with a rough and bristly surface.


The roots of this flower are of the collated type and well developed. They manage to go deep into the ground, especially in the first 40-50 cm, even if they can reach up to 2 meters. This long root system allows the plant to find water in depth and therefore to resist water stress.


The salient feature of cultivating sunflowers is obviously the large terminal flower head, called calatide. This is composed of a flat disc receptacle surrounded by a double or multiple series of bracts.
The calatid has a diameter ranging from 15 to 50 cm and is formed inside by hundreds of small flowers.
Depending on the variety, it can be single at the apex, or multiple, with smaller flower heads in the lower branches.

In reality, the calatid is composed of two types of flowers, namely the ligulate ones and the tubular ones. The first are the external ones, of the asexual type. They are arranged in a corolla on one or two rows and consist of a large yellow ligule.
The others, the tubuloses, are those of the internal disc. They are of the hermaphrodite type, small in size and less conspicuous. They consist of an inferior ovary and a tubular perianth, with a yellow to reddish color.

The sunflower heliotropism works like this: at sunrise the calatids clearly face east, while at sunset they are west. This natural mechanism stops when the calatidae reach full maturity and begin the formation of the seed. At that point, in fact, the sunflower flower always faces north / north-east.


In a cultivation of sunflowers, the pollination of the flowers is of the cross type, that is heterogamous.
Basically, pollination occurs thanks to the action of bees and other pollinating insects such as bumblebees. Technically, this process is called entomophilic.
Bees and other insects are very attracted to the bright colors and pollen availability of sunflowers.
Even a few plants in the home garden are therefore a precious resource for our bee friends. It is obviously important for this purpose that there is no type of chemical contamination in our vegetable garden or garden,

Sunflower seeds

The fruit of the sunflower consists of a large achene with a particularly elongated shape. It is composed of a hard and fibrous pericarp that adheres to the seed, with varying colors from white, to black, to streaked. The real seed, on the other hand, is 75% of the achenium. It consists of a seminal integument, the embryo and two cotyledons containing fats and proteins. And it is from here that the oil is extracted.
During the formation of seeds, the calatidae bends due to the increased weight. When fully ripe, it looks towards the ground.
We will see in a few paragraphs the properties and uses of sunflower seeds in the kitchen.

Varieties of sunflowers

If we decide to grow sunflowers we have to think about choosing the best variety, suited to our needs. The main varietal differentiation of the seeds is made on the basis of the biological cycle of the plant. This varies on average from 110 to 140 days.
Most of the sunflower seeds available on the market are hybrids, divided into three macroclasses depending on the early, medium or late cycle. The best yield in terms of seeds, and therefore of fatty acids, is given by seeds with a medium-late cycle.

How to grow sunflowers

Pedoclimatic needs and sowing period

Growing sunflowers is a practice that has a typically spring and summer crop cycle. This flower prefers a temperate climate, with fairly high temperatures during the summer.
In general, the plant adapts well to the climate of our territory, being however very rustic. Foresight lies in identifying the right sowing period, which is usually towards the end of March in the southern regions, and of April in those of the center north. The important thing is that it be averted the risk of frosts, which can compromise the plant at the germination of the seed and in the early stages of vegetative growth.

Soil preparation

The ideal soil for growing sunflowers must be very draining. In addition, it must be worked in depth, in order to give the root system the possibility to overcome the surface layers. In large areas the land is usually plowed and refined with one subsoiling. Obviously, for a home-grown sunflower cultivation where few plants are sown, these operations are not necessary. In this case a good one is enough digging like those that are normally carried out for vegetables.

Sowing techniques

The seeds of this flower can be buried directly in the ground, making small ones postarelle. The depth of the burial must be proportionate to the size of the seed. In the case of a cultivation of sunflowers, therefore, the seed should be inserted into the ground at about 3-4 cm.
The plant then provides a distance between the plants of about 40 cm, while the distance between the rows must be approximately 60-70 cm.
These distances will allow all plants to develop harmoniously.


This plant benefits from the presence of decomposed organic matter in the soil. For this reason, if we intend to grow sunflowers, it is good to fertilize using very mature animal manure or, alternatively, the home compost.
Fertilization must be done a little before sowing, so that it is well integrated into the soil.

Cultural care

The main needs of a sunflower cultivation areirrigation and defense from weeds.
In the first case, there are no major problems for the water requirement. The root system goes deep, so the plant is able to find water on its own. However, from the initial stage to flowering, make sure that the soil is always well moist. It will therefore be necessary to intervene with support irrigation. When the plant is mature, the water needs are gradually decreasing.

As for the cleaning of weeds, however, the sunflower suffers from competition from weeds. This is especially true in the initial phase, subsequently the cultivar clearly takes over.
To avoid weeding operations, you can intervene with the natural mulch. This will also help us keep the soil more moist. With this organic agronomic technique, preferring straw, we will also have significant benefits on an aesthetic level.

Collecting sunflower seeds

From a food point of view, they are i sunflower seeds the precious part of the plant. These reach full maturity when the achenes detach easily from the calatide. To understand when it is the right time to harvest them, just look at the calatid itself and the leaves, which appear dry. The stem and stems, on the other hand, begin to darken.
Growing sunflowers in our latitudes means having the harvest at the end of August at the end of September, depending on the degree of ripeness reached and the cycle of the plant.

At the level of industrial agriculture, harvesting is carried out with specially adapted wheat combine harvesters. In the domestic field, we can easily do it by hand with typing operations on the farmyard.

The benefits of sunflowers in the vegetable garden and in the garden

The first advantage of growing sunflowers at home lies in the aesthetic factor. Looking closely at a sunflower plant in full bloom is a fascinating sight. Country life doesn't have to be just for production. We must also learn to enjoy the peace that nature with its beauties is able to give.
Another useful function is the natural attraction that this flower generates towards bees and other pollinators. We are well aware that the presence of these beneficial insects is essential for the harmony of the entire ecosystem. And this, in turn, is a very important thing for the health of our plants.

In addition to this, there is the possibility of exploiting the sunflower in full bloom as a spy plant, for harmful insects in the garden. For example, the absoluta tomato suit she is very attracted to the yellow of the flower and therefore visits you frequently. The presence of the moth on the flower will allow us to intervene in time (perhaps with sexual confusion traps or other organic remedies) saving the vegetables.
With this in mind, we recommend placing sunflowers at the outer edges of the field, both so as not to annoy other crops, and to create a sort of external protective barrier.

Nutritional properties of sunflower seeds

Sunflower seeds possess excellent nutritional properties. They have a high content of essential fatty acids, such as folic acid, useful during pregnancy, and linoleic acid, a substance used by our body to produce Omega 3, fatty acids useful for the protection of cardiovascular diseases.
They also contain B vitamins and vitamin E, which perform antioxidant functions. Finally, they are very rich in mineral salts such as iron, phosphorus, zinc, magnesium and potassium.

Food uses

In industrial agriculture, sunflower seeds are mainly used for the production of seed oil. In the home, however, we can use the seeds collected from our organic plants directly as they are. In the kitchen, if we salt them and lightly toast them, we can use them as a snack or as an aperitif. We can combine them with the preparation of a healthy and tasty muesli. We can use them together with almonds and pine nuts to make pesto at home.
But there are also many other recipes, so you can really indulge yourself with your imagination.

Of course, if you use the seeds of your organic plants, you won't have any problems whatsoever. If, on the other hand, if you turn to the market for the seeds to plant, pay attention to whether they come from organic productions. A product with excellent quality standards you can find it here.

It might also interest you

Organic cultivation

Organic Cultivation is a blog that was born from our desire to spread the good practices of organic farming. To do this we decided to give our knowledge to anyone who wants to get involved and create their own vegetable garden (even using a terrace or a simple balcony). Growing without the use of pesticides is possible and we want to prove it by presenting alternatives biological and effective for any type of problem linked to agriculture.


Sunflowers are one of the most extraordinary plants that exist. They are native to North America and were discovered when some natives worshiped them as a symbol of the sun god. These plants, which rotate during the day following the movement of the sun, generate a lot of light and joy in our home. Plus, planting sunflower seeds is so simple that even children can do it. However, how to plant them will largely depend on whether we have a garden or whether we should grow them in a pot, as well as the type of sunflower that is chosen. Be that as it may, in this article we will explain how to plant sunflowers at home step by step .

You may also be interested in: How To Plant Poppies At Home - Here Is The Answer

Growing sunflowers and other plants for birdseed

Every winter, when it's cold, I start thinking about what I could do for the birds that have spent the summer with us. We do a lot of intentional planting for birds and bees during the growing season. Why shouldn't we also plant for the winter?

Here on our farm we like to grow sunflowers and other plants that provide seeds in the winter. There are also some weeds that we are careful to leave standing. We could clean up our garden beds and buy expensive sacks of seeds, or be lazy and let Mother Nature feed the birds. There is time in spring to clear garden debris. This year, think about leaving the seeds standing. Birds that overwinter in your area will thank you and possibly turn you into an amateur birdwatcher.

Here are some of our favorite winter feeders:

Growing sunflowers and other plants for Winter Birdeded

Sunflower (Helianthus annuus)

This seed is in many classic bird seed mixes. A border of sunflowers in your garden or just outside your family room window will provide hours of fun as you watch goldfinches, titmice, blue jays, mourning doves, and cardinals hanging upside down to reach for seeds. Leave these stems standing or cut off the heads and lay them on your deck or feeding platform.

Cosmos (Cosmos bipinnatus)

This year we planted this beautiful annual flower in our old pasture. We enjoyed the yellow blooms during the summer. Most people would have mowed the stems after the first frost, but we left everything standing. This winter we will be watching our feathered friends from the comfort of our living room and we will know that they are well fed.

Amaranth (Amaranthus spp.)

It doesn't take a lot of imagination to understand why these plants are good for birds. Dry stems in the pasture at this time must have several ounces of seed in each. This is a relatively hardy plant that allows birds to feed from the ground and out of harm's way to nearby cats.


There are many different species across the country that can provide thistle seeds to birds such as the little finch. We have a lot of them Cirsium arvense here in Ohio. We usually leave at least one standing garden with this tall growing thistle. It is a lot of fun to watch yellow acrobatic finches as they perch atop a precariously waving thistle stalk. I'd rather just leave the weeds than drag the thistle seeds to a feeder!

Goldenrod (Solidago spp.)

This herb has such a bad name, but it appears to be food for humans, bees, and birds. In winter, the seeds feed on finches, pine peas, yellow-rumped fireflies, indigo buntings, cardinals, chickpeas, titmice, and sparrows.

Hawthorn (Crataegus spp.)

We have a hawthorn just outside our front door. During the winter the berries feed our birds, cardinals, house finches and blue jays. In spring, if anything remains, we often have a day or two when robins come down en masse and pick up the clean tree.

Echinacea (Echinacea spp.)

All along our pond we have the sturdy sticks of echinacea topped with their brown pincushion of seeds. This beautiful medicine is easy to obtain, a favorite for landscapers, and is well-liked by the American goldfinch and pine snake.


Here in Ohio we have several native stars. I especially like the New England purple aster (Symphyotricum - New England). We let it bloom in the fall, regardless of how much we would like to have well-groomed flower beds. They are important as nectar and pollen suppliers for the honey bee. Once they have gone out to sow, they will feed a wide variety of birds including cardinals, chickpeas, goldfinches, indigo buntings, nuthatches, sparrows, and towhees.

Want more ideas for attracting birds to your backyard? Check out this other natural DIY article:

  • How to naturally attract birds and wildlife to your backyard

About the Author

Carla Gozzi was born in Modena, October 21, 1962, and lives between her hometown, Milan and New York. He began working in the fashion field as assistant stylists, including Jean-Charles De Kastelbayaka, Christian Lacroix, Calvin Klein and Ermanno Servin. Charles also participates as an observer at fashion shows and has been a coach in style.

What is the best time to plant sunflowers

Ideally, i sunflowers should be planted in the spring, so that when they bloom they will receive the rays of the summer sun, which is the time when they grow best. Although there is less water underground in the summer, the roots of sunflowers can reach deeper than other flowers or plants and get the water they need.

However, some people prefer to plant the seeds in the winter in pots, so that when spring comes and they transplant sunflowers overseas, they are the first blooming sunflowers of the season.

How to make a small rose garden

If you are lucky enough to have a garden or a large terrace, you could make a rose garden to beautify and decorate your outdoor space in an elegant way.

There rose is one of the most beautiful and most loved flowers: there are many varieties of roses as well as infinite are the colors and perfume that it can emanate.

  • Rose garden: choose the location

When you decide to make a rose garden it is necessary to carefully determine the area of ​​the garden where to plant the roses.

The rose loves the sun so it is necessary to opt for an area where the sun's rays strike more frequently.

It should be borne in mind that roses should not be planted very close to walls because these plants need a lot of space around them to develop freely.

For this reason, between one plant and another or between one plant and a wall, a space of about 30 cm must be left on average.

  • Roseto: the land

To this type of attention we must also add a type of ground particular that must be clayey and sandy at the same time.

If you do not have this type of soil, it is better to remove the one present in the garden with a pickaxe, a spade and a shovel and insert the new one. clayey soil and sandy.

In the case of the realization of a rose garden on the terrace it will be enough to get the right soil to pour into capacious pots.

  • Rose garden: planting roses

The best season for planting roses isAutumn because in this period the temperature of the land it is hot and this favors root development.

Before planting the rose it is advisable to leave the plants to soak in water for a whole night and then the next morning, after digging the holes, the plants are arranged.

The roots they should be well covered with fresh soil, applying pressure with your hands around the stem.

  • Rose garden: watering

Once you have finished planting the rose, proceed to water the soil abundantly making sure that the water penetrates until roots.

In the following weeks and up to winter, the rose garden as soon as it is born, it should be watered twice a day.

Unlike many rare (often very expensive) items that collectors look for at flea markets and trade fairs, you don't need a bulging wallet to add some uncommon specimens to our collection of garden plants and flowers. Lot of unusual garden flowers they are not only cheap, but just as easy to grow as the grandmother's zinniasObviously such species will never supplant the popularity of roses, hydrangeas and irises, but it's fun to grow original flowers: as a challenge, to unleash our creativity, show our personality or simply to have something to talk about. Many rare flowers are tropical and therefore quite delicate, but there are also some perennials very special. For gardens full of shade or sunny terraces, from rare vines to atypical potted plants, there is something for everyone.

  • Bat flower (Scientific name Tacca chantrieri), from the English Black Bat Flower

This flower of extraordinary beauty comes from jungle (you find it here ), and a tuber of this tropical plant can grow up to 90 centimeters, so you need to plant it in a large enough vase. Keep the plant in sufficient shade, and keep the soil moist but not soggy. The bat flower he loves humidity as much as he hates the cold. When we start to need sweaters, it means it's time to move it around the house.

  • Dichelostemma ida-maja, in English California Firecracker (in honor of the place it comes from), or Brodiaea coccinea

Originally from North America, in particular ofWestern California and Oregon (where it grows spontaneously), it is a flower withexotic look resistant to a fairly harsh climate, the important thing is that there is not too much rain. Formally known as Brodiaea coccinea, it is a plant that also resists the little amount of water and dry soils, with a very pleasant visual rendering, but unfortunately still not very common in Italian gardens.

  • Clerodendrum

L'Harlequin Glory Bower (Clerodendrum trichotomum), is a semi-perennial shrub (you find it here ) which can grow up to 3 meters and a half, if planted in the ground and where winter temperatures do not drop below 10 degrees. In any case, whether in the ground or in a pot, you must keep the plant moist and try to provide it at least half a day of sunshine. If you prefer climbing plants, look for the Clerodendrum thomsoniae, the perfect variety for pergolas and terraces.

  • Konjac

Scientifically known as Amorphophallus Konjac (you find it here ), it is also said devil's tongue (from English Devil's tongue) or Voodoo Lily. Native to the eastern subtropical area of ​​Asia, it is cultivated in Japan, China, Korea and Taiwan especially for food uses: konnyaku is produced from the root of konjac, an ingredient used in oriental cuisine.To make it grow and bloom, keep it in a partially shaded area, with rich soil, and protect it as much as possible from frost, it is quite delicate.

  • Snake head, scientific name Fritillaria meleagris (in English Guinea Hen Flowers)

Originally from South Africa, is a very special plant (you can find it here ), with unusual flowers, chessIt has been around since the 16th century, and is used for garden borders, isolated patches of color, and for growing in pots on terraces. It prefers sun exposure but moist soil, in arid soils, deteriorates quickly.

  • Wax flower, or Hoya carnosa

Native toSouth Asia,there Hoya carnosa (you find it here ) can be grown at home or in the garden, as long as you respect the temperatures tolerated by the plant, which in summer should not exceed 27 degrees and in winter not drop below ten. Flowering is spring, and should be kept in a bright spot but away from direct sunlight. The flowers are very fragrant and very beautiful.

  • Mexican Juanulloa

Also known as Gold flower, the Juanulloa it's a tropical shrub which can bloom all year round, widespread in Mexico and Latin America. It fears intense and prolonged frost, and needs a sunny or semi-shady place and a soft, rich and humid soil. It tolerates the lack of water, but it is preferable to water it abundantly during the summer months to improve its flowering.

  • Venus's slipper, (Cypripedium calceolus)

It is easy to see why gardeners and gardening enthusiasts are fascinated by this variety of flowers: they are beautiful, they resemble house orchids, they belong to the same family, but they are much more hardy, preferring shady gardens. However, some species of Cypripedium (you find it here ) are in danger of extinction, or varieties at risk, so it is important to rely on nurseries and not to pick specimens in the wild to plant them. Moisture, shade, and little manipulation, as well as a secluded location are important for these woodland plants.

  • Sensitive, or Mimosa Pudica

This plant (you find it here ) never fails to fascinate children and adults as when touched it seems to recede. The scientific name for the remarkable reaction of these plants to the touch is “tigmonastic movements”. Mimosa pudica was once thought to have animal-like nerves and muscles. It develops in small shrubs that they can reach 1 meter high, tends to expand throughout the available space but needs to be watered frequently, otherwise the pink inflorescences so characteristic remain closed.

  • Caracalla bean, or corkscrew

From the scientific name of Cochliasanthus caracalla, it is an easy plant to germinate (you find it here ) and easy to grow, also suitable for novice flower growers, belonging to the Fabaceae family, which includes beans. You just need to plant the seeds in a sunny area in medium rich and humid soil, and wait six weeks or less for fragrant and delicate, pink flowers with the characteristic shape of a snail. The warmer the area where it is planted, the more it grows.


Wild Quinine Cure

Once planted and established in proper growing conditions for quinine plants, quinine requires very little attention. There is no need to fertilize this hardy plant.

Minimal water is needed as quinine develops a thick taproot and can tolerate long periods without water.

There are no known pests or diseases of wild quinine making it a great addition to a chemical-free garden. Because its leaves are rough in flavor and bitter taste, bunnies and deer tend to skip wild quinine even in rainy gardens and flower beds.

Video: How to Grow Sunflowers in a Vegetable Garden: Around the Garden