Once in a while you have seen those happy looking flowers that just make you smile, as they sway in the soft breeze that comes with a summer afternoon.
Have you ever wondered if they can survive the winter?
Most Annual varieties of sunflowers cannot survive the cold let alone tolerate it.
They need a certain pH level in the soil, 6-7 in alkalinity, and a temperature of not less than 55 degrees Fahrenheit.
The variety and size of sunflowers depends largely on the type and spacing between the plants as they grow. For larger ones it’s best to support them by staking otherwise they may break under the weight of the head.
Let now find out exactly what happens to sunflowers during winter amongst other things you can do to help your sunflower grow.
Do Sunflowers Survive the Winter?
Frost and sunflowers don’t mix at all. It is best for you to plant them between April and May, just after the last fall. These flowers require lots of sun and they also need to be protected from strong winds.
You should make sure the alkalinity of the soil is at pH level of 6-7.5. You should also space out the plants at 30 feet to allow them adequate sunlight. Failure to do so and you might have plants competing for sunlight, causing them to grow tall prematurely; leading to poorly formed stems that bulk under the weight of the sizable heads.
Some varieties of sunflowers can come with different petal colors, sizes and growth patterns.
The bottom line here is that if you want your sunflowers to grow well, you may need to reconsider growing them in the winter.
These have to be replanted not unless a seed is fallen from it then may grow and mature on its own. This takes, on average, at least one year. The spacing for seed planting should be at 4 and 6 inches apart with the hole depth of 1 foot. Annual variety of sunflowers can be planted with other varieties depending on the size of your garden. You can have them in containers, a notable type called the ‘ Music Box,’ is commonly grown in a container.
Other larger types like the ‘ Russian Giant,’ can grow upwards of 10 feet tall and they have a head diameter of 12 inches.
Discover the Perennial
The root system is highly tuberous and sometimes it is considered a meal in some cultures. This variety is tall, bushy and has quite a number of heads on several stems clumped together. The Jerusalem artichoke is a good example of a perennial sunflower.
You should be careful when planting perennial sunflowers because they have a tendency to invade the space you plant them in.
So it is advisable that you get rid of any unwanted roots or tubers to avoid them growing continuously or without planning.
Perennial sunflowers are quite hardy with some like the Beach Sunflower having a hardiness of 8b according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The sweetness of the tubers is determined by the length of time they stay underground
You should only harvest after the first frost has passed.
To protect your sunflowers from frost you can add mulch on top of the foliage as it is still growing. This acts as an insulator against the unpredictable temperatures of the winter weather.
Sunflowers are most vulnerable to frost at the pollination stage in their cycle. Any temperature below 30 degrees Fahrenheit can be catastrophic. Unopened buds are, however, less affected than the opened flower heads.
When hard/ tough frosts occured, it is only the seed in the middle of head- inflorescence- that gets damaged. This is due to the fact
that it is the last to be pollinated.
For the commercial seed farmers you would be expected to take a Quality Reduction in Value on every plant, insurance policy in the event that frost comes early before your plants have reached physiological maturity.
Growing sunflowers indoors
Now that we have seen the challenges that can be faced when we grow sunflowers in winter, how about we explore the way to grow them in a relatively controlled environment.
You would want to go for a smaller sized variety like the Teddy Bear sunflower which has, at maturity, a height of roughly 5 feet and a head diameter of 6 inches. This is the ideal indoor sunflower plant for your living space.
For your indoor sunflower plant, you need a large container or pot, preferably one which has drainage holes. You will also need an earth saucer made of blasted/ baked clay, a watering can, some cloth strips to attach the stakes onto the stalk for support and finally the stakes.
As a plant that needs 6 hours of direct sun, artificial sunlight bulbs will be adequate for this venture. You can have a technician install them for you, just to make sure you get your setup right. You should put the fluorescent full spectrum lights on this.
In addition to avoiding stagnant water in your potting arrangements, a good potting mix will take care of that common indoor plant problem for you.
Always drain out the water in the on the earth saucer, and you should avoid watering the foliage. Keep your soil moist, not drenched in water. You should aim to water your plant at the very least, every 20 or so days before and after flowering.
Only use water soluble plant fertilizer following the instructions given to you by the agrovet. If you overdo it, you will have huge foliage but little flowers.
As a fibrous plant this dwarf variety of sunflowers is best kept away from wind because its roots don’t dig deep. You should try to keep it away from extreme winds.
Regularly add compost to the soil for additional nutrients and where you see the petals are to be pinched off, do it so that your plant looks good.
You can also mix a cluster of potted sunflowers just to add a colorful mixture to your indoor experience. But when you choose to use a single variety, make sure you leave room for it to grow; they do grow really fast!
Here’s a list of some indoor sunflower:
- Wide bloom
- Potted floral cluster
- Dazzling bloom
- Beautiful bouquet addition
The above named sunflowers are easy to maintain and add to the aesthetic value of your living space.
Managing your gardening tools
It goes without saying that your garden is as clean as the tools used to keep it that way. Have you ever considered that perhaps all the diseases and pests ravaging your sunflower garden are as a result of your poorly maintained gardening tools?
Well let us see why:
- Cross contamination can be a serious issue for your sunflower garden. When you use your tools on other diseased plants and reuse the same on your sunflowers you risk killing the whole lot by contamination.
- Unsterilized tools can harbour malignant fungicides that will prey on your sunflowers at whim. A simple alcohol rub, not bleach, will resolve this issue without corroding your tools.
These two factors can severely cause harm to your garden and or sunflower farm if you don’t keep them in check. And in addition to the above remedies, you can regularly dispose of old worn out tools in a proper manner.
By doing this you reduce the chances of pests finding refuge amidst the clutter only to pounce on your plants when you are not aware.
Dealing with dead sunflowers
So then in the event that a few plants unfortunately, were unlucky and died what do you do with them? You pull them out and burn them away from the healthy ones. Do not make the mistake of using diseased dead plants as compost. This will only spread the disease to the other healthy plants.
Reviving a dying sunflower
At the core of every gardener is the thought of how best to nurture and see the reward for your efforts. Sometimes, it doesn’t work out as planned. Wilting, stunted growth, petals dropping off- it can be overwhelming!
However, if you want to know what to do at this stage, read on.
As with all plants, when they are unhealthy they will tell you by how they look. When you notice any signs give attention immediately so that you may enjoy the whole cycle of your sunflowers season. Here are some tips for you:
- Water it regularly more than before. Be careful not to drench it.
- Recompost or boost it with a soluble water based fertilizer.
- Give it more sunlight where possible.
These tips should help you revive your sunflowers back to good health in no time.
Weather conditions are of great importance to the vitality and growth of any plant. Whether the plant be a hybrid or not, the environment it needs to thrive in is what will determine its value and versatility.
Sunflowers can grow in harsh areas but a little goes a long way in setting up your own garden for you to experience it every year.
The next time winter is around the corner, you now know how to take care of your sunflower.