The Q&A Archives: Growing Big Sunflowers

Question: I am 15 years old, and this is my fifth year gardening a 25x50 ft. garden. I would like to grow some "Paul Bunyan Hybrid" and "Mammoth Hybrid" sunflowers this year. I would like to grow them as large as possible for exibition at our local grange fair that is held in August. Could you tell me the planting time, soil requirements, location, and maximum care I should give to them? Thank you very much for your time!

Answer: What a great project! Sunflowers are warm season plants so you should plant them after all danger of frost is past and the soil is beginning to warm up (about the same time as local gardeners plant tomato and pepper plants). They grow perfectly well in average soil but should definitely be grown in full sun (at least six hours of sun a day). After they are up and growing, fertilize with a general garden fertilizer once a month. Don't be tempted to give them more fertilizer than the directions on the package, because it will cause the plant to produce more leaves, possibly at the expense of the flower.

In order to force a sunflower to make a huge flower, pinch off any side shoots that develop. And, be prepared to put up a substantial stake to support the plant. Since you are going to have a gigantic flower head, you may even need to be ready with some sort of support for the head itself. Have fun with this!

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