What is it about these majestic beaming flowers that enchant and capture us? Maybe it’s that they can get to about 14 feet tall, towering over us with its sunny brilliance. Or that their golden wreathed faces follow the sun throughout the day because they’re Heliotropic. One thing for sure is that these lofty flowers are sun worshipers, so they need 6 to 8 hours of sun a day. They’re amazing as towering background flowers for your garden or as a natural trellis for other plants, such as beans and peas. Sunflowers should be a definite yes in your garden.
Planting Your Sun Worshipers
Take a look at your garden space and figure out what sun drenched plot would be best for your sunflowers. Soil rich with organic matter or compost is what these vigorous flowers desire. Sow these seeds directly into the ground after spring’s last frost. They do best with warm soil (50° or warmer). Don’t compact the soil, they need some wiggle room to grow those strong roots. You can mix in some fertilizer while sowing to boost root growth. Plant 1-1 ½ inches deep and 6 inches apart. When they get to be about 6 inches high, thin those babies, they’re going to get big.
Sunflowers are sturdy in that they’re pest resistant and heat tolerant. They need well-drained soil. When watering, give them a nice thirst quencher but do it infrequently. These annuals grow fast and have deep roots which helps anchor these giants on those windy days. But even so, make sure to plant them along a fence or someplace where they’re protected so that they don’t topple over.
These lion-esque plants' trademark color is usually a golden yellow color, but can come in a variety of warm hues of red and brown, and attract bees and birds with their seeds and sap to your gardens. The best time to harvest them is in the early morning. They make wonderful bouquets. If you change their water everyday, they should last close to a week.
Being a sunflower of course you’re going to have an amazing story in the pantheon of flowers. One such story is in Greek mythology, where a water nymph fell in love with Apollo the sun god. She would admire him as he moved across the sky. Unfortunately, he never took notice of her. But her heartbreak didn’t go unnoticed by the other gods, so they turned her into a sunflower, immortalizing her love.
In modern history, the sunflower made headway as a symbol of peace and hope. In 1996, after the Soviet Union collapsed, Ukraine returned to Russia 1,900 nuclear warheads it received from the former government. To celebrate, the US, Russia and Ukraine planted sunflowers in an old missile silo as a symbol of nuclear disarmament.
One reason this divine flower was chosen for this purpose was due to the fact that they are hyper-accumulators, plants that have the ability to absorb radioactive isotopes, helping to clean up toxic environments. Because of this, these flowers were also planted around Chernobyl and Fukushima sites after their nuclear disasters. Seeing a field of these round faces with their golden halos surrounding these traumatized places, does send a beautiful message of hope and peace indeed.