There are many summer-blooming flowers: birds of paradise, carnations, daylilies, chrysanthemums, roses and hydrangeas, to mention a few. However, the most loved summer bloom may be the sunflower. With hybrid breeding these days, you’ll find many varieties. Yet, you probably think only of the giants that can grow 6 to 10 feet high. The heirloom sunflower seed (Helianthus annuus) is a non-hybrid seed, which means it is original to nature. The seeds can be saved year after-year and you will still get the same results when they are planted, providing external conditions are similar.
1.Find heirloom sunflower seeds. Most seeds, if not all, found in local garden centers are hybrids. To purchase the original sunflower seeds, you will most likely have to purchase them over the Internet. The Internet is an easy way of finding companies that raise and sell heirloom seeds.
2.Plant the seeds directly into the ground, if you live in a region with a long growing season. The sunflowers will take up to 100 days to reach maturity. This would be in USDA hardiness planting zones 5 and above (see resources). For colder climates, it is necessary to start heirloom sunflower seeds indoors.
3.Fill planting containers with commercial potting soil, up to ½ inch from the top. You may use commercial seeding trays, peat pots, reused food containers or paper cups. Moisten the soil with a water bottle sprayer and then stir the soil. Do not wet the soil to the point of sopping.
4.Make a hole in the top of the soil in each container with the eraser side of a pencil. It should be about an inch deep. Drop a seed in each hole. Cover the hole with soil.
5.Place the containers into a tray. Cover the tray with a sheet of plastic wrap. Do not try to seal the plastic, the seeds need air. The plastic wrap helps keep the soil and seeds warmer, urging them to germinate (sprout).
6.Place the tray of containers near a sunny window in a warm room. A westerly window is best, if one is available, as it will get sunshine for most of the day.
7.Remove the plastic wrap when the sunflower seeds begin to germinate (10 to 14 days). Spray the soil with water whenever it begins to dry. Soon you will have seedlings.
8.Plant the sunflower seedlings outdoors, after the last frost in your area has passed. Prepare the outdoor planting soil by breaking it up with a shovel and mixing in a bit of compost. Sunflowers will grow in almost any soil, but will be healthier growing in a richer soil.
9.Use a trowel to dig a hole for each sunflower seedling, the same depth as the container, but a bit larger in diameter. Place the seedlings no closer than 2 feet apart. Remove each seedling from its container and place each one in the holes. Pour soil around the original seedling soil, until it is compact. Give your sunflower plants a good watering.
10.Feed your sunflower plants weekly, along with watering, using an all-purpose fertilizer, until they reach maturity (full seeded flower heads).