If you could grow a flower big enough to hide the scowling visage of TV harpy, Nancy Grace, would you? I would too! And I did, just by sowing a single sunflower seed this spring. There's still plenty of time to grow sunflowers for fall. Of course, they won't shield you from Nancy's venomous voice, but just cover your ears and enjoy the blooms.
No flower is easier than sunflower to grow from seed. For one thing, the seeds are relatively large, making them easy to handle for even a clumsy oaf like Grumpy. For another, all you need to get them started is to press them into well-drained, loose soil in a sunny spot and water. Seedlings will sprout before Nancy's back from commercial. And they grow fast.
Big Ones When most folks think of sunflowers, they think of the giant ones that grow taller than my good friend, pro tennis player, Maria Sharapova (still looking for that selfie we did at Wimbleton). The giants typically bear one massive yellow flower at the top of the stalk that eventually fill with edible seeds. If you don't pick the flower, the birds will dine right on it. 'Mammoth Russian' grows 10-12 feet tall. 'Sunzilla' grows up to 16 feet tall and often terrorizes cities in Japan.
Not So Big Ones Giant sunflowers grow too big for many gardens, so it's good we have smaller sizes that top out at about 5 feet. Not only do they produce multiple blooms about 4-6 inches across, but they also come in colors of red, orange, and bronze in addition to the usual yellow. Some produce small, edible seeds birds like. Others produce no pollen or seed, which makes them good cut flowers.
Here are some of our favorites at Southern Living, your one-stop shop for volumes of incredibly important and inspiring information.
'Pro-Cut Red/Lemon Bicolor.' Sure glad the flower is prettier than the name! Single-stalked plant; 5 to 6 feet tall. Pollenless, long-lasting cut flowers.
'Moulin Rouge.' Now there's a sexy name I'm talking about! Branching plant with multiple blooms; 4 to 5 feet tall.
'Maya.' Branching plant with multiple blooms; 4 to 6 feet tall. Goldfinches love the seeds.
'Ring of Fire.' I fell into a burning ring of fire in my front yard the other day. This one is a branching plant with multiple blooms; 4 to 5 feet tall.
Seed Sources Your best bet for finding sunflower seeds right now is in individual seed packets sold at garden centers. Don't wait too long or they may get sold out. Follow the planting instructions on the packet. If your flowers produce viable seeds, always save some to plant in the garden next year.