Distinctive, blue-green circular leaves are held up on fleshy stems. These annuals come in a variety of types ranging from compact bushes to long-spreading vines. They make an eye-catching addition to any garden. In addition, they have large attractive blooms that range in color from palest yellows, pinks, and apricots to deep, rich yellows, oranges, and burgundy. The vining types are great in hanging planters, window boxes, or for use on trellises and fences.
Ease of care:
How to grow:
Plant in full sun to partial shade in average to poor, moist soil.
By seed in late spring. They’re large and can be planted individually where the plants are going to grow
Aphids love nasturtiums, so be on the lookout for them.
Fresh leaves and flowers-salads
Fresh flowers-floral arrangements
Unripe seeds and flower buds-pickled for salads
Pickle unripe seeds in vinegar and use them in salads.
I know the song that the bluebird is singing, Out in the apple-tree where he is swinging; Brave little fellow, the skies may look dreary; Nothing cares he while his heart is so cheery.
Hark! how the music leaps out from his throat, Hark! was there ever so merry a note? Listen awhile and you’ll hear what he’s saying, Up in the apple-tree swinging and swaying.
“Dear little blossoms down under the snow, You must be weary of winter, I know; Hark, while I sing you a message of cheer; Summer is coming and spring-time is here!
“Little white snowdrop! I pray you arise; Bright yellow crocus! come, open your eyes; Sweet little violets, hid from the cold, Put on your mantles of purple and gold; Daffodils! daffodils! say, do you hear?— Summer is coming and spring-time is here!”
Home gardens can be as elaborate or as carefree as you would like them to be. Some can survive in blend into the natural landscape of your area or dress up a garden to prove a sense of awe and wonder. Here are a few gardening approaches to get your creative juices flowing.
To turn your garden from boring to extraordinary and self-maintaining is to xeriscape. Xeriscaping means to use native and water-wise plants and in arid areas or during times when rainfall is limited, or water restrictions are in force. Xeriscaping plants make gardening easier, once established, because Xeriscaping plants are adapted to the local area and or are more drought resistant because they need less water to provide lush flowers and foliage. Most Xeriscaping plants are perennials, so, they will continue to flourish with minimal care for several years without having to replant.
Formal gardens convey a sense of artistry, symmetry, and power over the environment. Formal gardens use of carefully trimmed hedges and symmetrical layouts and elegant pathways. Formal gardens were popularized during Elizabethan times. Formal gardens require considerable work, but the overall effect can be visually spectacular.
Woodland gardens use plants that can tolerate shade, and partial sunlight of being undergrowth or grow when desidius trees have lost there leaves in the fall, winter, and early spring. The concept is to mimic and enhance the characteristics of the forest floor and encourage wildlife. Embankments, walkways, streams, and ponds can be augmented by adding or rearranging stone or wood, fencing, bridges, mulch, to accentuate desired areas. The idea is to work with space and terrain and make a Woodland Garden to convey a sense belonging to place and time.
If your space is minimal, you can still create spectacular visuals with a container garden. Container gardens can be useful in an urban setting, or a small backyard, courtyard, balcony, or patio. Container gardens can con variety the differing colors, sizes, and shapes of containers creating a kaleidoscope of textures and colors. Container gardens can create stunning visuals on very little space, especially, when potential vertical garden opportunities have been incorporated.
Wildflower gardens can create a wonderfully natural wash of color across the seasons with minimal care in addition to providing food for the native species in your area. Wildflower gardens recreate the mix of flowering plants one might find in a natural field or meadow, rather than the classic, highly groomed, pure green grass lawn. Sowing wildflower seeds can be as simple as just casting handfuls of wildflower seeds around your garden area or in small prepared patches within the existing lawn or garden. You may also want to consider planting some within easy reach of your walkways, in case you get the urge to pick a few to put in a vase in the house. Wildflower gardens will attract bees, birds, and butterflies, to entertain and add activity to your yards and garden.
Lots of money is not required to get started creating your own extraordinary garden spaces. Mostly creating an inspiring garden space requires some creativity, research, planning, and tender loving care (TLC). If in doubt on how to get started, you can always contact your local agricultural extension office of guidance and literature to help you along the way.
Admittedly, my garden has been neglected this year. Normally,
by now I would have mostly transitioned my fall garden and have started
planting my spring garden. However, this year I’m behind schedule, but when I
went out into the yard today to look at the garden and yard, I discovered that
my yard was flowering. So, here are some
quick pictures of the variety of plants which are kind enough to be flowering
in my back yard and garden.
Today, I was pondering on harvesting some Bok Choy and adding it to my favorite cabbage and green bean recipe. However, when I looked out my window I got a surprise. My Bok Choy which I had inter-planted with my carrots had bolted and gone to flour during the week. I, actually, have never seen Bok Choy flour before. I guess I have always harvested and eaten it before the weather warmed up enough for it to bolt. This really demonstrates just how much bok choy is a nice cool weather crop. It has only been intermittently warm, and by warm I mean high 70s low 80s, and consistently for a couple weeks.
By the way, if you happened to notice the native on one of the flowers in the picture, have no fear, the poor bee was just on motionless by the cool low 50s weather this morning. When the weather warmed up the poor thing just flew away.
Sunflowers seem to have the ability to lift the spirits,
creating a feeling of inner happiness. If you’d like to welcome this vivacious
summer flower into your garden this year, then this home gardener’s guide on
how to grow sunflowers can show you how.
In this home gardeners guide on growing sunflowers you will
The meaning of
Sunflower origins and
Best ways to grow
Sunflower pests and
How to harvest and
store your sunflower seeds
Sunflowers have long been a children’s favorite, the sheer
size that some varieties can grow to make them fun and exciting. They are
perfect for a little bit of friendly competition to see who can grow the
tallest flower. They are also great for creating a striking floral arrangement
or to add height to the back of a flower border, where they are best grown in
groups. Other than their beauty, sunflowers also provide nutritious seeds that
you can eat or feed to birds and other animals.
The large yellow flower heads of sunflowers with their
bright yellow petals, which so much resemble the sun, are fittingly called
“rays.” There are lots of varieties to choose from, varying in size
from small to giant, and all are fairly easy to grow even for a novice gardener.
Why Sunflowers Follow the Sun, their Meaning and
Not only are sunflowers very beautiful, but they are also fascinating. There is some confusion about whether or not sunflowers follow the sun and the reason for this may be because they only display their sun following behavior for part of their life and not when they are blooming.
Why Sunflowers Follow the Sun
Young sunflower heads follow the sun across the sky. This
phenomenon is known as “heliotropism.”
Sunflowers contain auxins, which are growth hormones
sensitive to sunlight. Auxins don’t like sunlight and naturally migrate to the
shadiest parts of the plant. As the sun moves, the auxins are continually
driven around the stem causing it to grow a little in each area that they
settle. This causes the head of the sunflower to move, making it appear to
follow the sun.
As the flower heads develop and bloom, they become fixed
facing east, but the heliotropism still makes the flower heads rise up to face
the sun as it rises, which also helps to maximize photosynthesis. Facing east
helps the flower to warm up quickly and attract more pollinating insects.
When the sunflower matures, and seeds start to develop, the
plants no longer display heliotropism and finally droop down due to the weight
of the seed.
Sunflowers are a flower of happiness. They symbolize loyalty, devotion, honor, integrity, sincerity, and longevity. It is thought much of this meaning comes from the sunflower’s namesake, the sun. The sun shines down energy in the form of heat and light, while sunflowers provide us with energy by lifting our spirits, and from their nourishing seeds and oils.
An ancient Greek myth about Apollo and the woman who loved
him named Clytie, tells of Apollo spurning Clytie and turning her into a sunflower.
Despite this, she continued to love him which is why sunflowers are symbols of
adoration and loyalty in many parts of the world.
In China, sunflowers symbolize long life and good fortune, due to their imposing size and vibrant color they also symbolize vanity.
In the Native American culture, sunflowers mean harvest and
bounty, because they provide food in the form of seeds & also color
Today sunflowers are prized for their beauty, seeds, and oils, which can be used for beauty and food products. But these large yellow flowers have been the focus of many a famous artist, probably the most famous being Vincent Van Gogh, but Paul Gauguin and Gustav Klimt have also featured this beautiful plant in their paintings.
The name “Sunflower” or correct Latin name “Helianthus”
comes from the Greek words “Helios” which means sun and “Anthos” which means
Sunflowers have been purposefully grown from around 3,000BC, which has been discovered from sunflower seeds being found at archeological sites. In the United States, sunflowers were cultivated by Native Americans in the Mississippi river valley for their seeds, oil, and fiber and also as a medicine.
When Europeans started to settle in the United States, they
prized the sunflowers they found there and sent seeds back to Europe.
Sunflowers became popular as an ornamental plant in many English cottage
gardens as can be seen in the paintings from Van Gogh’s and his counterparts.
Sunflowers also gained great popularity in Russia, because their oil could be eaten without breaking their strict religious dietary laws. Russian growers in the 20th Century started to breed selectively to maximize the plants’ oil content and make it more disease resistant.
By the 1960s specially selected sunflower cultivars were
being grown commercially in the United States on an industrial scale, mostly to
produce vegetable oil.
Sunflowers remain a popular commercial crop in many parts of
the world, as the oil has many uses, from cooking and cosmetics to biofuel.
How to Grow Sunflowers
Sunflowers are a hardy plant and will grow even in relatively poor soils. They can tolerate a soil pH of between 6.0 and 7.5 quite happily and are drought resistant due to their ancestry growing on the vast American prairies. They do not however like waterlogged soil, so if you are in a heavy clay area you may have to do some soil modification to prevent this problem.
There are a vast number of sunflower varieties for you to
choose from. Sunflowers don’t just come in yellow either, there are also other
color options available to try too. Here are a few varieties to illustrate
Skyscraper – A very large sunflower with petals of around 14 inches in length. It can grow to 12 feet in height and has a large seed head.
American Giant – really lives up to its name featuring a large seed head and growing to heights of around 15 feet it can also span up to a foot in width!
Russian Mammoth – Is an easy to grow specimen with large seed head, which is popular at county fairs because of its height of 12 feet.
Dwarf sunflowers are generally more popular for garden ornamental displays of for flower arrangements. They grow to a maximum height of three feet and look great in bunches.
Little Becka – This sunflower could also be classed in our next category of colored sunflowers, but it is also a dwarf variety growing to only one or two feet in height. It has deep orange petals with yellow tips and will add a vibrant splash of color to any garden or arrangement.
Sundance Kid – Was one of the first sunflower varieties to be domesticated. It is unusual as it has multi-layered petals with a small seed head. It stands at about one to two feet in height.
Sunny Smile – Is a perfect miniature of one of the larger sunflower varieties, with a large seed head for its size it can grow from 12 to 15 inches in height. It has particularly stout stalks and can take abuse from pets and children in the garden.
Hybridizing sunflowers has created some amazing colored
varieties, perfect for adding a splash of color to your flower arrangements or
Earthwalker – features a golden halo around its large seed head, which turns to deep reds.
Terracotta– has colors perfect for fall, ranging from burnt orange, golds and deep yellow.
Ms. Mars – has beautiful red and purple hues that graduate to subtle yellow at the tips.
The best way to grow sunflowers is by planting the seeds
directly into the soil where they are to be grown. The seeds can be sown as
soon as any danger of frost has passed in the spring, or you can start them
indoors in individual pots. The small peat pots are useful for this purpose as
they biodegrade. Ideally, the outdoor soil temperature should be between 55-
and 60-degrees Fahrenheit before planting.
To plant the seeds outdoors:
Make a shallow trench
in the soil of about 1 ½ to 2 inches in depth. If you are going to be growing
several rows, then the rows should be around 2 to 3 feet apart to allow the
plants to gain maximum light as they grow.
Place a seed
approximately every 6 inches if you are growing the larger headed seed
varieties. For smaller varieties, used for flower arranging or decorative
planting, space them closer together a minimum of 2 inches apart.
Place the soil back
over the seeds and water gently so you don’t wash them away. The soil should be
kept lightly damp, not wet, you can test this by digging your finger down
alongside the seed trench to make sure the soil is damp and not dry or wet.
The seedling sprouts
should appear between 7 and 10 days after sowing.
Once the seedlings have
acquired their second set of leaves, they should be thinned out to 2 feet for
larger headed plants and 1 foot for smaller ones.
Depending on growing
conditions and seed variety, the plants will mature in 80 to 120 days.
If you wish to prolong
your sunflower season, sow a new row of seeds every two to three weeks until
the first frosts in the autumn. By doing this you can enjoy beautiful flowers
throughout the summer months.
If you want to start your seeds off indoors, fill your peat pots or seed trays with multi-purpose compost and sow an individual seed into each one. Keep moist, not wet. When your seeds have germinated allow the seedlings to grow their second set of leaves then transfer them into larger pots. Keep them in a warm sunny place and when they reach 12 inches you can plant them in the garden or put them into large ornamental pots to place on a patio or deck. Make sure that the pot you select will be big enough to allow the root ball to grow sufficiently, or you will stunt the growth of your sunflowers.
Unless your soil is of particularly poor quality, your sunflowers shouldn’t require fertilizing. If you do want to give them a boost, it is best to add a slow release granular fertilizer to the soil. Over-fertilizing can cause a delay in blooming.
The root ball will spread quite widely, which helps make the
plant stable and fairly drought tolerant. Because sunflowers hate having their
roots in waterlogged soil, it is best to water deeply every two to three days,
giving the soil time to drain in between.
If you have particularly heavy clay soil, you may need to add soil amendments in the form of organic matter. Clay soil is generally nutrient-rich, so fertilizer shouldn’t be necessary. Another option is to create raised beds where you can use compost and grass trimmings to create a light, nutrient-rich soil.
Adding a layer of mulch to about 2 to 3 inches in depth
around your sunflowers will help discourage weeds and helps retain moisture
lost through evaporation. This can be useful in warmer areas or in sandy soils
where the soil becomes dry quickly.
Sunflower do not generally require staking, but if you live
in an area that is prone to wind, then it can be advisable as a precaution,
particularly if you are growing very tall varieties with large seed heads.
If you are growing sunflowers for their height, there is no
need to pinch them out. If however, you are growing them to use in floral
arrangements, pinching out will stunt the growth of the plant and cause it to
produce a lot more blooms, which can be beneficial. Pinching out is the process
of removing the growing tip of the plant when it reaches about 8 to 10 inches
in height, you can do it by pinching the tip with your thumb and forefinger.
As your sunflowers start producing seeds, the local wildlife
will take full advantage. That is unless you take precautions to prevent this.
If you enjoy watching the birds and squirrels feast on the bounty provided by
your sunflowers that’s fine, but if you want to use the seeds for yourself you will
need to cut the heads off when they droop and allow them to dry before removing
Deer can be a big problem as they are rather partial to the
tasty young leaves on a sunflower. You can use chicken wire supported by sturdy
6-foot bamboo stakes to deter them.
As the sunflowers heads droop and no longer turn upward to
face the sun and the underside of the flower head turns from green to brown,
they will be ready to harvest.
Remove the seed head leaving a foot of stem still attached.
Hang them somewhere warm and dry and ensure they have plenty of ventilation.
Hanging them helps prevent rodents from reaching them. Allow them to dry out
for several weeks and when they are completely dry you will be able to easily
remove the seeds by rubbing two sunflower heads together, you can also use your
fingers or a kitchen fork. Spread the seeds out on a tray and allow them to dry
for a few more days before storing them in airtight containers. Glass mason
jars are perfect for this purpose. Keep them in a cool dark place to retain the
oils and flavor of the seeds.
Be aware that all parts of the sunflower give off growth
inhibiting substances that can affect other plants. For this reason, keep them
away from pole beans or potatoes.
Pests and Disease
Sunflowers are quite hardy, but they can sometimes become
infected by fungal disease including rust and mildew.
Mildew – The oldest leaves are generally the first to become infected. The mildew appears on the underside of the leaves causing them to turn mottled and pale before withering and eventually dying. Warm humid days combined with cool damp nights are the favorite conditions for mildew. It spreads its spores in soil, wind, and rain and can also contaminate garden tools.
Rust – This
disease causes yellow or white spots that gradually turn dark brown or black.
The spots appear on the tops of the leaves. It can spread to the entire plant
and can be contracted from weeds, including shepherd’s purse, wild mustard,
lamb’s quarters and pigweed.
To get rid of these diseases keep a careful eye out as
catching them early is preferable. Treat by spraying with a garden fungicide
and follow the directions given on the label. It is best to burn badly affected
plants to stop the disease from spreading to healthy ones. Ensure you disinfect
your garden tools, this can be done by dipping them in a mixture of 4 parts
water to 1-part household bleach. Ensure you don’t cross contaminate plants
with your hands or garden gloves, keep them clean.
Sunflower Moth – This small grey moth will lay its eggs on the developing sunflower blossoms. The caterpillars are a yellow-green color with 5 brown stripes across their backs. They will feed within the flower head and this destroys the seeds. Remove any caterpillars you find and squash them before disposing of them. If the plant has become infected, you can dust it with a product that contains Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) this is a bacterium that kills the caterpillars. Bt is destroyed by sunlight and rain so it can be necessary to treat the plants several times. Follow the directions given on the label.
Growing sunflowers can be great fun and these beautiful
happy blooms give pleasure not only when they are flowering but also afterward
with their seeds and oil.
Sunflowers can be grown to give height in a garden border, or to create a colorful focal point. They are good for using in floral displays and with the colored varieties, you can now find even more sunflowers to fit your color scheme.
The main reason for sunflower growing around the world is
for their seeds, oils and plant fibers which have great commercial value.
Whatever your reason is for growing sunflowers I hope that
you enjoy it and have great success in your endeavors.