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Gardening for Kids: Sunflowers With Large Seeds and Big Flowers

Updated on May 29, 2017
Beth Eaglescliffe profile image

Friends say I have "green-fingers" and the garden certainly seems to respond to my efforts. I enjoy observing wildlife and being outdoors.

The Common Sunflower Helianthus Annuus in Full Bloom

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Kids Love Gardening

I have fond memories of my time as a child in the garden. It was a chance for me to spend one-on-one time with an adult and get their undivided attention. In today’s busy world, sometimes the need for a child to engage with an adult in a quiet activity is forgotten. Quality time with children is as important to parents and grandparents as it is to their offspring.

There are lots of other reasons for kids to learn about gardening, too. They spend time out of doors in most weather conditions. They learn about nature, including germination, fertilization and the conditions plants need to grow well. They learn a useful skill which can help them eat healthily and save money when they become independent adults. They also learn about food and recycling.

Topsy and Tim Grow Sunflowers

Large Seeds, Fast Growing, Perfect for Young Gardeners

Sunflowers are ideal plant for a child to grow. The individual seeds are large enough for small clumsy fingers to hold. They have a good record of germination and, once planted, they grow very quickly. A young person can check the sunflower’s growth every day and notice a difference. The growth of individual sunflower plants can be marked onto a wood stake using a pencil or ball point pen. Plant breeders have developed hundreds of varieties of sunflowers so that there is one available for virtually every type of growing conditions. This means that you can choose sunflower seeds that are well suited to your region and climate.

3 Day-Old Germinating Sunflower Seedlings

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Getting Started Growing Sunflowers From Seed

Unless you are an avid gardener, it is best to buy your first sunflower seeds rather than harvest your own. Commercially produced seed packets are almost certainly going to germinate. This is important if you want your children to get the gardening “bug”. There is nothing more disheartening when after planting some seeds, watering them and nurturing them generally, no green shoots appear. A good variety to start with is Mammoth Sunflowers. They have huge seed heads and kids love watching them grow inches taller each day. Birds love them too. The seeds can be bought from any good gardening outlet and also online from Amazon.

Make sure you are buying fresh seeds that are intended for this year’s planting. There should be a “plant by” or “use by” date on the seed packet. If you find some of last year’s seeds in the back of your garden shed, they could still be used but their ability to germinate will be much reduced.

When and Where to Plant Sunflower Seeds

The exact month and temperature to plant seeds outside will depend upon where you live. However, you must wait until any chance of frost has disappeared. Daytime temperatures should be at least 60°F (16°C).

You can cheat nature a little by planting sunflower seeds under glass, for example, in a greenhouse, and this can enable you to plant about a month ahead of normal. If you don’t have a greenhouse then you can use a mini-plastic greenhouse. They can be bought online or at a gardening center.

Life Cycle of a Sunflower

When to Plant Sunflowers

 
Under Glass
Outdoors
Month in which to plant (Northern hemisphere)
April onwards
End of May
Outside temperature
n/a
at least 60°F (16°C) and no night frosts
Distance apart
2 inches and then "prick out" as seedlings
18 inches

Sunflower Competitions are Great for Kids (and Adults too!)

Because sunflowers are so easy to grow, they are often used for competitions. If you want to give a kid an extra incentive to nurture their sunflower plant, then check out your local agricultural shows or village shows for sunflower contests. If there isn’t already one in your locality, you could suggest that your local school or playgroup runs one.

The tallest recorded sunflower was grown in 2009 in Germany. It grew to a height of 8m (26ft).

Records from 16th century Spain state that gardeners grew a sunflower 7.3m (24ft) tall.

— Guinness Book of Records

A Child is Dwarfed by Her Sunflowers

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Planting Sunflower Seeds Is Easy

My favorite sunflowers are the single stem, one large flower variety. I like to plant them towards the end of May directly into the ground where I want them to flower. I plant them at least 18 inches apart. This gives enough space for their large flower heads. They normally grow to a height of 6 to 8 feet. They grow best where they can get a lot of sunshine, but not where they will be scorched.

If you are planting yours in April, you may prefer to plant three seeds in each large plant pot. Then when the seedlings are about 4 inches tall, you can “prick them out” into their final flowering positions. This means that you remove them from the flowerpot and then plant them 18 inches apart in the flowerbeds.

The video below shows how to fill the plant pots with soil and water. The sunflowers are grown quite close together until they are ready to be planted outside in the ground.

How to Grow Sunflowers

Sunflowers Like the Sun

Many people say that sunflowers are so named because they turn their heads towards the sun. On a day-to-day basis, they probably don't move very much. However, from personal experience, I can confirm that my sunflowers end up growing so that their faces turned southwards. (I live in the northern hemisphere).

When I first grew sunflowers I planted them next to a fence thinking I would be able to enjoy the flowers from my house. But once they got to the top of the fence, their flower heads turned towards the south, which meant that my neighbor got all the benefit of my hard work and I only saw the green rear-side of their magnificent yellow heads.

Why Sunflowers Follow the Sun

Tallest Sunflower

Have you ever won a tallest sunflower competition?

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Allow Kids to Take Responsibility for Their Plants

For the sunflower to flourish it needs regular watering and plenty of sun. The tall plants grow very quickly and it can be fun for a young person to take responsibility for watering the plant and measure its height each day. There's a real sense of satisfaction to be felt when finally the large flower bud opens to reveal the enormous sunflower head.

Sunflowers not only brighten up a garden but they also attract birds and insects. Bees love sunflowers and they will pollinate your other plants as a thank you. Some varieties of sunflowers produce seeds which can be eaten by humans too.

Bees Like Sunflowers Too

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  • ladybluewriter profile image

    ladybluewriter 3 years ago from United States

    I always grow sunflowers to start my God's garden. The things I reap in my garden are most unusual. I will always love the beauty of a Mammoth Sunflower.

  • jrpierce profile image

    Jaymie 3 years ago from Ellijay, Ga

    I love sunflowers and plant them every year. It started out as an activity with my children when they were young, but now it's all for me. They are stately, beautiful flowers that give a garden color and pizzazz. Great hub!

  • annart profile image

    Ann Carr 3 years ago from SW England

    I love sunflowers. When we go to France I look forward to the first sighting of a field full of these sunny plants - they never fail to make me smile.

    I totally agree with you that it's important to garden with children. They love learning new things, they love getting their fingers dirty and they love being outdoors - what more could you want?

    Great hub with plenty of practical information. Up, useful & interesting. Ann