Basic Steps of Sowing a Native Sunflower Prairie
From attracting bees to helping your own ecosystem; to the seeds that (depending on the type of sunflower) are tasty for either you or the birds that call your land home; to the beauty of the cheerful blooms themselves, planting sunflowers is a great way to add functionality and beauty to your land.
Convinced? Let’s get down to the nitty gritty and talk about best practices and tips from The Old Farmer's Almanac1 for ensuring you've got a gorgeous field of sunflowers for many years to come.
The perfect site
This might go without saying, but sunflowers love sunshine. In fact, one of the most delightful things about sunflowers is watching their faces follow the sun as it moves across the sky. So, choose a sunny spot that gets at least six to eight hours of sun per day. They'll love you for it.
We’ve all seen hardy sunflowers growing in unlikely locations — like highway medians or cow pastures. But these cheery blooms have long roots that like to stretch out and do best in well-draining soil that isn't too compact.
All of that beautiful compost you've been cultivating courtesy of your chicken manure and food waste comes in very handy for sunflowers. They thrive in nutrient-rich soil.
To quote the musical Oklahoma!, wind does indeed go sweeping down the plains. For very large varieties with large faces, a strong wind can do real damage. Shelter your sunflowers, if at all possible.
This isn't just a matter of strewing seeds here and there. According to the Farmer's Almanac, you should be planting your seeds an inch to an inch-and-a-half deep and about 6 inches apart. Other things to remember:
- Give them room to spread out. Rows of larger sunflowers should be spaced about three feet apart. Smaller varieties can be closer together.
- Spread out your plantings, too. One fun tactic is to stagger your planting over five to six weeks. That way you'll always have new blooms.
- Combat birds. Oh, they'll try to dig up your seeds, guaranteed. It's the age-old lament of many gardeners. One tactic is to set out a feeder to give them easier access. Another is to cover your seeds with netting.
- Pick the optimal time. According to Burpee,2 the best time to plant sunflowers is late spring, when the soil is warm. A soil temperature of 60 to 70 degrees is ideal.
Tending your sunflowers
Your fledgling sunflowers need a watchful eye. Here's how to protect them as they mature:
Make sure your little guys have enough water, but that doesn't mean dumping H2O on the plant itself. Instead, focus on their root zone, which radiates about 3 to 4 inches away from the plant. Once a week should do it, unless your conditions are very dry or wet.
Sunflowers are hardy, so they don't require a lot of plant food. In fact, overdoing it with the fertilizer can cause their stems to break in the fall. A little goes a long way.
If you're growing tall varieties, staking them is a great way to give them support.
Combat deer and squirrels
They love sunflower seeds as much as you do. Outfox them with barriers or garden fleece that you can drape over the blooms.
Like what you're seeing? Subscribe to our Rural Living eNewsletter for monthly tips and guides about making the most of your rural lifestyle.
- Old Farmer's Almanac https://www.almanac.com/plant/sunflowers
- Burpee https://www.burpee.com/gardenadvicecenter/annuals/sunflowers/all-about-sunflowers/article10035.html