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Episode 83: 5 Lessons I Learned from Growing Sunflowers This Year
2nd October 2017 • GREEN Organic Garden Podcast • Jackie Marie Beyer
00:00:00 00:17:58

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Originally published Sept 24, 2015 I am replaying this episode today!

So many of you who have been listening this year know that my challenge for 2015 was to grow 750 sunflowers and harvest 2000 blooms.


In 2010, I bought Lynn Byzanski’s book the Flower Farmer. The first year I tried to plant a flower garden like lynn lays out in the book, but I planted it in a pretty shady area and I didn’t water it enough and it just didn’t grow very well. After studying it for about 2 more years I finally planted 75 sunflowers in 2013. I was able to harvest 200 sunflowers. They were beautiful and I shared them with lots of friends as well as harvesting many for myself.

I chose sunflowers for a variety of reasons.

The seeds are large. I hate planting tiny seeds. Things like carrots! Just make me cringe. Those itty bitty tiny little seeds are so hard to spread out evenly and without putting 10 of them in a hole or if you have your row dug they just seem to all cluster together. I’ve tried those little seed spreading tools, but they seem to stick in there and get all clumped up and don’t want to come out very easily. The best things I’ve found for planting small seeds is to have my grandkids come over and plant them, they’re best for their tiny little hands. Radishes are a little better but are still fairly small. So sunflowers. Big seeds.


Another reason I planted sunflowers is that the book said they are one of the best flowers to sell to florists and supermarkets. Lynn said they are difficult to transport and therefore locally grown organic flowers tend to look so much better when you walk into the shop. They also have a large price per bloom. I think around 75¢ to $1.00. Which is a lot for a single bloom. I never sold any so I can’t really say. I did see a lot of bouquets in the store for about $9.99 that had around a dozen blooms so IDK.

I love to eat sunflower seeds on my salads. So having my own sunflower seeds to roast would be a bonus, and then Mike and I also spend a fortune on sunflowers every winter feeding the birds. We usually by 2-3 giant bags of the black oil sunflower seeds to feed the myriad of birds that come visit our home. We get chickadees, nuthatches, grosbeaks, western tanagers, wood peckers, magpies and blue birds.

So sunflowers seem like a good fit for me.

So this year I decided to multiply that x 10 since now we have water. I harvested a couple of dozen! Haha!

Here are the important lessons I learned:

  • 1. Read the packets. Know what you’re planting. Make sure you study the days to bloom and then the height. If they’re gonna be tall put them in early.


I thought I planted the ones that took the longest first. But I still think I should have planted all of them earlier. I planted them on Earth Day April 22.  Many I didn’t get in the ground until June and they barely bloomed. It seemed like almost all of my sunflowers bloomed within 2-3 weeks instead of thorough the summer and fall.


  • 2. Variety matters. Lisa Ziegler was just on the show a few weeks ago and she recommended Pro-cut organic sunflowers that are pollenless. They sell them in her store as well as other seeds she grows on her flower farm. Some of my sunflowers had 5 or more blooms on them but most only produced a single bloom. My sunflowers also wilted quickly after I put them in water and Lisa said that pro-cut’s lasted the longest time in a vase up to 2 weeks.


  • 3. Size matters. Also, the size of my blooms were a really varried. The smaller ones were actually the best to cut.


I planted a lot of bird seed flowers. They gave me the most I cut for my bouquets I brought in the house. I had plenty. I easily could have brought a bouquet in every 3 days most of the summer but I pretty much just left them to the bees and then hopefully they will go to seed for the birds.


I actually think the first ones I planted, my Martha Stewart organics that grew to be like 12 feet tall are the least likely to go to seed, they just took forever to bloom and they are huge blooms. The sunflower seed ones I think will make good seeds, many already have.


The prettiest blooms were the ones with the dark centers. They seemed to be the most attractive and prettiest single blooms. I didn’t really cut any of them. They came from a variety of packets that only had a few seeds in each. I don’t know if I would do those again.


This is the perfect time to cut a sunflower right before it’s about to bloom!

  • 4. Timing is Essential When you cut the blooms makes a big difference in how long they last in the vase. I should know this because I buy a lot of daffodils in the spring and I only buy the closed ones because I think the fun is bringing them home and having a big blooming bouquet on your table in the morning. I’ve given so many of these bouquets away each spring. You should cut them before they bloom, and I cut the ones that were bloomed already.


  • 5. Plant Earlier. Start the first week in April if possible. As soon as the ground can be worked. And plant some each week. Maybe every Monday. Lisa said they plant 1000 sunflowers a week for 26 weeks. I don’t know that I would plant them for 26 weeks here in Montana but probably all through April and May. Maybe June if I just wanted them for blooms. I have to pick a day and stick to it with a firm plan for what seeds are going to go where and when before summer starts.

My First Bloom of 2015

I will probably plant mostly my seeds next year whatever I can harvest but I’m sure I’ll be standing in the store and see some I just have to try. I also would like to try some colors besides just yellow like some oranges.

So those are the 5 things I learned about sunflowers this year.

  • Read the packets
  • Variety Matters.
  • Pay attention to size and planting time.
  • Cutting time for blooms is important.
  • Plant earlier!!!

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