When we plant a sunflower, we can't help hoping it'll be the tallest sunflower on the street, in our child's class – yes – in the world! We don't mind admitting, we get competitive. But we're often disappointed. We grow a runt and then the snails get to it.
So, we asked Gardeners' World Magazine to help us compile this step-by-step guide. By following a few simple rules, we can all get our sunflowers off to a good start this year.
Planting sunflowers: need to know
When to plant
You can plant most varieties of sunflower seed indoors in March, April or May. Check the seed packet just to make sure. Plant out (transfer the seedlings to a bigger pot outside) after the last frost – from around May.
Where to plantStart seeds off on a sunny windowsill indoors. Bear in mind you’ll need to move them outside at some point. Some varieties will outgrow even a balcony. If you live in a flat, see if you can pop a pot in a sunny spot outside the building. This flower will bring smiles to everyone who passes by.
You will need
- Sunflower seeds (e.g. Russian Giant)
- Egg carton (or small pot)
- Multi-purpose peat-free compost
- A lolly stick
- Plastic bottle
How to make an egg box planter
Simply fill the cups of an egg box with compost.You can use all 6 as a tray (and plant 6 seeds). Or, snip off however many you need.
TIP: If the wall between each pair of cups is shallow, keep them in pairs at this stage so you can add enough compost to each cup. You can snip them apart when you’re ready to move the seedlings to a bigger pot.
How to plant sunflower seeds
Prepare the pot. Ask your child to fill the egg box cups or a small pot with the compost. Tap the pot gently.
Poke a hole in the soil with a finger – to approximately 1cm (or your child’s first finger joint.)
Plant the seed. Ask your child to drop a seed into the hole – only use one seed per pot.
Ask them to cover the seed gently with some more compost and pat gently, as though they’re tucking it up in bed.
Make a lolly stick plant label. Give your child pens and a lolly stick to draw or write the name of their plant on. This is a good thing to get into the habit of doing. When you’re growing more than one type of seed, you need to remember what’s in each pot! Plus, kids love to personalise their seed projects.
If it’s cool where you live, you might want to try a homemade plastic bottle cloche to keep the seeds warm.
Water the seed. Make sure the watering can has a rose attachment so you can gently water the newly potted seed. It’s best to help little kids. We had a few pot/seed casualties from over-enthusiastic watering! Give them a small amount of water each day, don’t let them dry out.
Move your seedlings to a bigger pot. The first shoots should begin to appear in one to two weeks. When they are a few inches tall, move them to a bigger pot filled with multi-purpose compost. If you’ve made an egg cup planter, you can plant it straight into the soil, where it’ll break down.
Once the shoots grow tall, tie the stalks to sticks using soft string.
Now carry on growing green fingers with these 10 tips for gardening with children from Gardeners' World Magazine.
This is a great way to get kids interested in the natural world. Monitor the sunflowers’ growth together and take pictures as often as you can. Once your sunflower has reached its full size, you can look back on its growth journey together. Maybe show them some photos of them as a baby – how much have they grown since then? How big will they be when they’re 8, or 15 or 76?!