In a sea of flowers, this bloom’s yellow, vivid petals always stand out. The sunflower, scientifically referred to as Helianthus annuus, is an annual plant that is derived from the Greek words helios, which means “sun” and anthos, which means “flower.”
They are known for being heliotropic, which means they follow the sun’s movement through their flowers in the early stages of their growth.
Aside from yellow, sunflowers also appear in red, purple, orange, and brown, depending on the variety.
Ideal growing conditions
Sunflowers grow best in warm weather. Since they are sun-loving plants, planting them during the wet season is not encouraged. This means that sunflower seeds are best sown outdoors during the summer, whether in the ground or in containers, because they flourish in full sun.
They must be planted one to one and a half inches deep and six inches apart. They have delicate roots and dislike being disturbed, therefore direct sowing is strongly advised. It takes about 119 days after transplanting for sunflowers to reach their reproductive stage.
Avoid watering the plant straight on the blooms as this could cause the flowers to droop. Instead, water three to four inches away from the plant, around the roots.
Tall varieties or species of sunflowers need assistance to grow and bamboo stakes are a good option for this.
Sunflowers can be stored in water at room temperature for up to a week. If you’re making indoor bouquets, cut the main stem before the flower bud opens to promote side blooms. Make sure to harvest the flowers in the morning to prevent wilting. Handle sunflowers with care and change the water daily to retain its freshness.
Harvesting sunflower seeds
The best time to collect the seeds is when the blooms have dried and gone brown. Cut the plant approximately six inches below the flower head using a pair of sharp scissors or pruners.
Simply rub your palm over the flower head to pry the seeds from the foliage. Tapping the back of the flower is sometimes done as well.
When harvesting seeds for roasting, wrap the seeds in a light cloth and secure them with a rubber band to protect them from birds. If you’re keeping seeds for later planting, put them in an airtight container in a cool, dry place.
The information provided above was discussed by Michelle S. Terrenal, an agricultural technician of the High Value Crops Development Program (HVCDP) of DA Region 3, during a webinar by ATI Central Luzon, titled, “Seeking the sun: Blooming through productive sunflower cultivation.”