You may have noticed a sun looking plant that attracts your attention every time you walk past it in your garden. It may have been a gift from a bird that dropped its seed or, you could have planted it a while ago.
Sunflowers are foremost the most hardy and most rewarding plants to have in your garden and they can be annual or perennial in their growing cycle. If you are keen enough, you may know the exact type you have; it’s not that hard to differentiate between the two.
For you to learn more about sunflowers and how they grow, what pests you should look out for and other related facts and marvels of this plant, just read on.
Also check – why Are My Sunflowers Closing Up?
Do sunflowers come back every year?
Sunflowers can be seen in winter and fall depending on the type you have. The annual sunflower grows only when replanted using the same seed. The perennial sunflower doesn’t need to be replanted and can come back every year on its own. There are very distinct differences between the two as we can see below:
- Growing patterns – Perennial sunflowers grow in clumps that are observed to have many stems protruding from the ground in squished clumps. Annual ones on the other hand grow mostly from a single stem- they are spaced out from the ground.
- Germination- Here, the annuals tend to be outpaced in the time they take by their perennial counterparts that grow rather quicker.
- Root system- The perennial sunflower has deep roots compared to the annual that has shallow thread like roots.
- Flowering- Annual sunflowers take just one year to bloom when planted from the seedlings whereas perennial sunflowers that are grown from the seed can take not less than two full years to bloom.
- Seeds- Perennial sunflower has fewer seeds and it usually spreads through its roots. In addition the seeds tend to be generally smaller. Annual sunflowers have a different approach. They spread through their larger seeds which are larger in number too. Through modification perennial sunflowers have more seeds on the flower heads.
Are sunflowers easy to grow?
Sunflowers are generally heat tolerant and that makes them one of the easiest and rewarding plants to have in your garden. The fact that they’re heat tolerant makes them ideal for your home garden. You need to take care of your garden by weeding and pruning the plant and generally keeping your garden clean. This also helps you keep your sunflowers safe from unwanted pests. With the two types described above, you can decide which one suits you.
Managing pests on sunflowers
Every home garden enthusiast encounters a pest or two trying to wreck havoc on their garden- an absolute nightmare if left unchecked. It is safer to plant them in late June and July. These are the times when they get the required amount of sunlight naturally. Organic pesticides are much safer to use in your garden also.
Sunflowers are a plant and they also have pests that prey on them. But with the right knowledge you can mitigate this before your sunflowers are destroyed. Here are some pests to look out for and how to handle them:
- Grasshoppers- These can cause a decline in the foliage and if they are in large numbers, you can imagine the damage that can be witnessed. A broad spectrum pesticide, organic, will help get rid of them.
- Borers- These go straight into the stem and feed on it, causing permanent damage to the stalk and other areas of the plant; the large numbers can really be a challenge for your plants.
- Cutworms- Although they may seem harmless, when you’re dealing with an infestation of this particular pest, your plant may have wilting and or notches as the worms nibble on the leaves leaving holes.
- Beetles- They can be a nightmare for younger plants. This is because they feed on the leaves. In serious cases a whole plant can be destroyed by these insects.
Pest management requires a proactive approach. Whereby you have preventive measures put in place before it happens. You can pre-spray the intended space you want to plant your seeds in and also maintain the area by keeping it clean as best as you can.
Sunflowers rarely get diseases but one of the most distractive ones is Sclerotina stem rot- white mold in gardening circles. This can cause rotting of the roots and head, permanently damaging the plants. By practicing crop rotation on a regular basis, you can manage and reduce the chances of this happening to your plants.
Black oil sunflowers and their seeds
Sunflowers can come in different sizes and colors and this makes for a variety of products you can get from them. From bird feeds to oils. Here we take a look at the black sunflower and it’s products.
The sunflower has the petals that are actually it’s leaves and the inner head which contains the seeds or flowers.
Sunflower oil is low in saturated fats and doesn’t have a dominant taste which is a good alternative for health conscious people. Black sunflower seeds hold the most amount for oil and they’re the go to breed for commercial sunflower oil farming. The Black Peredovik sunflower is widely used for this purpose.
The U.S Fish and Wildlife service has stated that this sunflower is the leading food supply for wild birds. Especially during winter, the oil keeps them buoyant and warm when they spread it onto their feathers. Squirrels also beef up their calories with the seeds.
Drooping in young sunflowers
Disease and infestation of pests can damage the health of a young sunflower as it grows. Diseases will attack the core of the plant whilst pests- seemingly harmless- can in huge numbers ravage an entire crop yield. Caterpillars have been known to cause yellowing of the young plants causing death.
By using a mild insecticidal soap, and removing clutter that can harbour pests is an effective way to deal with any infestation or disease.
Fungal diseases can cause damping off. Wilting of the leaves and stunted growth are some of the signs to look out for. You can reduce the chances of this happening to your sunflowers by watering your plants only when the upper ½ inch part of the soil is properly dried out. In addition, good sowing practices protect the seeds. Sow seeds in warm, 2 inch deep, soil. Another reason for drooping sunflower plants is just because of the sheer size of some of these plants. They can grow quite big with accompanying large sunlike heads resulting in a drooping sunflower. In this case let it be.
If you seem to be concerned about the stalk being able to bear the weight of the head, just tie up the head to nearby support.
Sunflowers can droop due to dehydration. So you must have a regular schedule for watering them. You can also boost them with some fertilizer. It is best to seek advice on the correct amounts from your local agrovet.
The Case of The Teddy Bear Sunflower
If you like sunflowers but you find that you have limited space to grow them, then the Teddy Bear Sunflower will work just as well to bring you the same, although smaller sized, reward of having your own sunflower garden. As with all sunflower types, sunlight is crucial to their wellbeing and growth. You want to keep away pests and make sure it is getting adequate sunlight. Definitely it is not a winter flower because frost will be a challenge for your plant to grow in.
You should prepare the soil by adding enough compost or rotting matter. At Least 6 to 8 inches of the soil is where you can mix in the organic matter.
At a depth of ½ inch sow the seeds in clusters of 3 or 4 seeds at a go.
Watering the soil for this sunflower should only be done to keep the soil moist and not drenched.
When the plant is established, it is important to water it from the base and not from the top. Doing so ensures it is adequately hydrated. Sunflowers, once established, are drought resistant. So when you are watering them, keep in mind the soil should be drained well.
Sunflowers are quite a gem to have in your garden. Whether it’s for personal use or you want to go commercial with your plant. The benefits of working on growing and nurturing this plant far outweigh the challenges involved.
As with all things worth doing, with the arsenal of information that you have gained, you can confidently go about setting up your sunflower garden with ease but more so with the added assurance that your efforts will be rewarded.
Sunflowers have also been known to have a therapeutic effect on people who grow them. This is reason enough to set up a garden and let the ‘sun’ add value to your home and life in general.
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