Gardening

How to plant sunflower

Helianthus annuus

The sunflower is a plant native to North America that normally reaches 1 m to 4 m in height, although there are cultivars with smaller size and cultivars that can reach greater height, which can reach almost 8 m. Its large floral chapters make it a plant appreciated in gardens and as a cut flower, with a good number of cultivars for these purposes (there is more information on ornamental sunflower cultivation in garden.info). Dried fruits (cypselas) contain seeds that can be eaten raw or roasted, and can be used to make flour or to extract vegetable oil. Ligulas (sunflower petals) are edible and young flower buds can also be eaten lightly cooked. The seeds, the bran resulting from oil extraction and the foliage can be used to feed birds and other animals.

Climate

The minimum temperature during the cultivation cycle should not be less than 5 ° C, and it is best not to be below 10 ° C. Sunflower also grows well with high temperatures, and can tolerate even temperatures close to 40 ° C. The ideal temperature range is 20 ° C to 26 ° C. Strong winds and storms can cause damage to plants, decreasing productivity.

Brightness

Grow with direct sunlight. This plant needs to receive direct sunlight for at least a few hours daily.

Ground

The soil must be well drained, deep, fertile and rich in organic matter. This plant is very tolerant of soil pH, but ideally it should be between 6 and 7.5.

Irrigation

Irrigate as often as necessary so that the soil is kept moist, but without remaining soggy. However, well-developed plants can withstand brief periods of drought.

Planting

Although the seeds of any sunflower cultivar are edible, one must choose a cultivar according to the purpose of planting. For example, for the production of vegetable oil, one must choose cultivars appropriate for this purpose, which have a higher oil content in the seeds. Ornamental cultivars are often less productive and have smaller seeds than cultivars selected for agricultural production.

The seeds are usually sown directly at the final location, at a depth of 2 to 4 cm, as sunflower seedlings generally do not tolerate transplantation well. If they are sown in seedlings or in cups made of newsprint, transplant them as soon as the seedlings can be handled without suffering damage, but before the roots occupy the entire volume of the container. The seeds will normally germinate in a week or two.

The spacing between the plants varies depending on the cultivar and the local growing conditions, but a spacing of 80 cm between the planting lines and 40 cm between the plants can generally be used. For small ornamental cultivars, 20 to 30 cm between plants is enough, and for giant cultivars, spacing of up to 1 m between plants may be necessary.

Sunflowers can be grown in large pots, but in this case the ideal is to plant only ornamental dwarf cultivars or smaller ones.

Cultivation

Remove invasive plants that are competing for resources and nutrients at the beginning of planting.

Depending on the region and the size of the plantation, it may be necessary to put some protection against the birds, as they can feed on the seeds and reduce or even ruin the harvest.

Harvest

Harvesting can generally be done 70 to 90 days after planting, although this can vary with the cultivar and cultivation conditions.

Manual harvesting of floral chapters can be done when they are light brown in color. It is possible to delay the harvest, but it must be taken into account that the consumption of seeds by birds and other animals can lead to significant losses.

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