Did you know?
Sunflowers can grow to astounding heights – the world record for the tallest stands at a staggering 30 feet.
There are over 70 different varieties of sunflower including the Russian mammoth, the elf, the teddy bear and the moulin rouge.
Sunflowers have many uses. The seeds provide food for us and wild birds, under-threat British bees love the pollen and nectar – and sunflower oil is extracted for cooking and use in beauty products. Native Americans used certain types of sunflower medicinally for respiratory ailments.
Plant sunflowers and attract wildlife
The brightly coloured petals shout “Oi! Over here!” to bees and other pollinators like hoverflies, directing them to the central spirals of the sunflower.
These are formed of many hundreds of small tubular flowers, packed with nectar and pollen.
The insects get covered in pollen as they feed. Pollination by wild bumblebees, especially ones with longer tongues helps the plant produce more quality seed.
7 top tips for growing sunflowers
- You don’t need a garden Sunflowers will grow in pots but need space, as well as – yep, you guessed it – plenty of sun.
- Try growing different varieties Different bees like different sunflower varieties, so try out a few different ones. Red sunflowers aren’t thought to be so attractive to bees.
- Keep a sunflower diary with your children You could include notes, drawings, paintings and photos. How much has your sunflower grown this week? Which bees like your sunflower the best? This makes a fun activity at home or at school.
- Try pollinator-friendly varieties Two varieties recommended by the Royal Horticultural Society’s Perfect for Pollinators plant list are the common sunflower (Helianthus annuus) and the cucumber leaf sunflower (Helianthus debilis).
- Consider flowering times Bees need food all year round. Early sunflowers, generally dwarf varieties, come out in late June. Others, like the perennial sunflower, bloom later in September and October.
- Leave flowers to turn to seeds in autumn and winter Let the birds feast on them.
- Cut and dry the stems Use the stems to create a bee hotel once flowering is over. And leaving the roots in will return nutrients to the soil.