Hello farmers and gardeners in the Mid-Ohio Valley. June 21 marked the summer solstice, the actual first day of summer. Then the sun reaches its highest and northernmost point in the sky here in the northern hemisphere. Many gardeners can work well past 9pm in the cool of the evening because that is the case “Longest Day of the Year”which provides the maximum daylight hours for 2022.
A fun and beautiful addition to any garden is to plant sunflowers (Helianthus annuus). If you have kids or grandkids, plant different varieties of this plant (ornamental and oilseed producers) and watch them grow, some reaching heights of over 10 feet!
Native to North America, the sunflower comes in a wide variety of sizes, growth habits, and colors. It was used by Native Americans for food, dye, and medicine, and extracted the oil for ceremonial body paint and pottery. The Hopi believe that numerous sunflowers are a sign that there will be a bountiful harvest.
In fact, sunflowers are an important agricultural crop here in the United States and have many uses. Sunflower oil is considered a premium oil due to its light color and mild flavor and is sold in many bird seed mixes. Sunflower seeds are considered a healthy snack and are included in many trail mixes.
Depending on the variety, sunflowers flower around 55 to 75 days after planting (ornamental plants) – 60 days is a good average. Seed-producing varieties can take up to 90 days. Sunflowers can be broadly divided into those grown for the production of edible seeds and those grown as ornamental and cut flowers.
Ornamental and cut flower species, but you can grow the edible roast varieties for domestic use. Seed producing strains have some interesting characteristics. The heads consist of 1,000 to 2,000 individual flowers connected by a vessel base. The large petals at the edge of the head are actually single ray florets that do not develop into seeds.
Sunflowers naturally need full sun. Sow the seeds directly into prepared rows in the garden or landscape bed. The most important planting requirement is adequate moisture. Sowing depth should be 1 to 1.5 inches, leaving about 20 to 30 inches between rows. After sowing, keep the soil moist (watering lightly daily in dry weather). The only situations that are likely to severely limit sunflowers are poorly draining soil or soil that would prevent taproots from penetrating. Sunflowers can survive periods of drought thanks to their extensive taproots.
The sunflower is by far the best example and the best-studied plant that exhibits a phenomenon called heliotropism. Young sunflower plants follow the sun from east to west during the day and then turn east in anticipation of sunrise at night.
The light from the sun provides the solar energy that is used by every plant for photosynthesis. heliotropism or “Sun Tracking” is simply a plant that follows the movement of the sun during the day. Rooted in ancient Greek, “Helio” refers to the sun and “tropism” means a rotation or movement of a living organism toward or away from an external stimulus, such as light, heat, or gravity.
Young sunflower plants are all about efficiency, and heliotropism optimizes light uptake, increasing it by 10 percent or more. Increased light uptake improves plant performance with more leaf area and increased biomass.
Scientists have shown that sunflowers do this through the coordinated action of two mechanisms. Light signaling pathways set a basic growth rate for the plant based on the available light. The plant’s circadian or internal clock is affected by the direction of light, causing the stem to grow more on one side than the other. So the plant performs its daily dance from east to west every day.
In the final stage of flower development, called anthesis, sunflowers stop tracking the sun and rotate their flower heads to the east. These east-facing sunflowers warm up faster in the morning, making them more attractive to pollinating insects like honey bees.
Sunflowers range in height from 1 to 8 feet and also come in a variety of flower colors. There is a sunflower for every gardener’s taste and purpose. Giant sunflowers like Kong, the multi-branched Italian white, and the dainty teddy bear, a double producer with full-petaled flowers lacking any central disc, are a few examples.
Bright yellow will always be popular, but you can also choose from off-white, bronze, mahogany, rust, burgundy and orange. Some species produce flowers of more than one color. The center disk of the sunflower also contributes to the display, undergoing color changes as the flower matures and seeds form.
Sunflowers grown for cut flowers generally produce numerous flowers on a bushier plant than the types grown for seed, which generally produce a single, large head. The multiflowering habit makes these species more colorful and helps them fit better into traditional flower beds.
If you want to grow sunflowers for the delicious, nutritious seeds, make sure you choose varieties bred for seed production, such as sunflowers. B. Mammoth Russian – also known as Mammoth, Russian Giant and Gray Stripe. These tall sunflowers produce a single giant flower at the top of the plant. To grow a really big seed head, apply all-purpose fertilizer when the flower head starts to appear.
Are you looking for more information? Contact me at the WVU Extension Office at 304-424-1960 or email me at email@example.com with your gardening questions. Good luck and happy gardening!