When I think of the sunflower, I picture warm summer months, the song “Here Comes the Sun” by the Beatles, my favorite painting by Vincent Van Gogh, and road trips with friends through the mid-west.
With an exterior similar to the daisy and a bright elegance, sunflowers are among the most popular flowers to use in weddings and home decorations for summer and early fall seasons.
According to The Old Farmer’s Almanac, the National Bureau of Gardening has declared 2021 to be the year of the sunflower.
Gardeners residing within southern climates begin planting the seeds as early as March, but peak “sunflower season” is during the months of June to July. Having just a few sunflowers in the garden can bring a smile to peoples faces and the birds and the bees.
Now, let’s grow!
How Many Sunflower Seeds Do You Plant Per Hole?
Personally I always plant one seed per hole. When planting heavily and intending to thin down later I just make more holes spaced closer together. Depending on the type of sunflower you’ll space them differently. For sunflowers that you want spaced 12″ apart make a hole and plant seeds every 4″ about 1″ deep. Later, when the plants are around 6″ tall come back and thin plants down to around every 12″ apart.
For more on spacing different types of sunflowers check out “How Far Apart To Plant Sunflowers“.
Before you plant your seeds, do some planning. Maybe avoid purchasing fifty mammoth sunflower seeds if you live in a studio apartment with a balcony-your landlord would probably not appreciate seeing a sky-high sunflower forest growing out of the fire escape.
With this in mind, be mindful of the labels of the sunflower seed packets. In your planning phase, you may also need additional supplies.
If you intend to grow any type of giant sunflower, consider planting stakes alongside the holes to encourage the stems to stand up straight as they develop.
Giant sunflowers grow over 10′ tall regularly. The “American Giant” sunflower grows up to 16 feet. So these types of sunflowers could use some extra support, and not just emotional support from you, the gardener. Stakes can strengthen the stalks to their base so they can withstand the elements.
Just because sunflowers thrive in summer heat (even southern summer heat, which is a whole other animal compared to the Pacific Northwest, Canada, or New England) doesn’t mean they have immunity against storms, strong winds, and flooding.
Keep that in mind when deciding where to place them in the garden. If you are like me, living in the middle of Houston, dwarf sunflowers are a great option. They can be grown in pots or the ground, and only grow to be two to 3 feet tall.
Do You Plant Sunflower Seeds Point Up or Down?
Seeds should be planted with the pointed side facing downwards because that’s the side that the roots will grow from. If the seeds are faced pointing downward in the soil direction, they will find their way around and sprout out of the ground (no, sunflowers will not grow upside down if you plant the seeds faced down).
The direction of the seeds doesn’t really make a significant difference. There has been speculation that if planted up, the flowers have a head start to begin growing quickly but the process of how quickly the seeds grow is mostly determined by the soil temperature rather than the direction they are placed in the ground.
Germination typically happens faster in warmer soil temperatures and slower in colder temperatures.
Should I Soak Sunflower Seeds Before Planting?
It is not necessary to soak sunflower seeds before planting them. Some growers like to soak seeds before planting because they believe it speeds up or increases germination rates.
Personally I don’t soak any seeds before planting. If the seeds are good germination rates should be good and soil temperatures are the biggest factor for the speed of germination. In my experience soaking seeds doesn’t help much and can be detrimental but I know other gardeners feel differently.
The thought is that soaking the seeds softens the shell making germination easier and that it provides the seed with the moisture it needs to start the germination process.
Moisture activates catalysts within the seed that begin the germination process and combine with proteins and starches within the seed to form a soluble the the small plant embryo can use as nutrients to grow.
Watering the soil around seeds also supplies them with the moisture they need so soaking the seeds is not necessary.
If you want to soak your sunflower seeds soak them overnight or for 24 hours but not more than that. Use room temperature water.
Do You Water Sunflower Seeds After Planting?
Yes you do. As talked about above seeds need moisture in order to germinate. You should water the soil around sunflower seeds after planting them and again when the soil has almost dried out. Keeping the soil around the seeds moist will create the right environment for germination.
How To Plant Sunflower Seeds In Pots
To plant sunflower seeds in pots determine how many flowers you want per pot. Give each flower at least 3 gallons of dirt. So for a 10 gallon container you can plant about 3 sunflowers.
For large containers with multiple sunflowers you can plant in different shapes to keep whatever spacing you want between the flowers: a triangle, diamond, pentagon, hexagon, etc.
Plant sunflower seeds roughly 4″ apart and about 1″ deep. Thin them down to whatever spacing you want after the plants reach about 6″ tall.
How To Plant Sunflower Seeds In Raised Beds
Raised sunflower beds are a great option, as matured sunflower sprouts need adequate room to spread their roots. To prepare a bed for the sunflower seeds work the soil with a shovel or pitchfork 12-24 inches down, breaking up any compacted areas.
If there are weeds separate them from the soil and make a compost pile with them. Work the soil again right before planting to get rid of any weed seedlings that might be.
Please comment below with your own thoughts about starting sunflower seeds!