Grow Sunflowers As Big As Your Face!

June 29, 2014 | By | Comments (12)

Photo: Steve Bender

If you could grow a flower big enough to hide the scowling visage of TV harpy, Nancy Grace, would you? I would too! And I did, just by sowing a single sunflower seed this spring. There’s still plenty of time to grow sunflowers for fall. Of course, they won’t shield you from Nancy’s venomous voice, but just cover your ears and enjoy the blooms.

No flower is easier than sunflower to grow from seed. For one thing, the seeds are relatively large, making them easy to handle for even a clumsy oaf like Grumpy. For another, all you need to get them started is to press them into well-drained, loose soil in a sunny spot and water. Seedlings will sprout before Nancy’s back from commercial. And they grow fast.

Big Ones
When most folks think of sunflowers, they think of the giant ones that grow taller than my good friend, pro tennis player, Maria Sharapova (still looking  for that selfie we did at Wimbleton). The giants typically bear one massive yellow flower at the top of the stalk that eventually fill with edible seeds. If you don’t pick the flower, the birds will dine right on it. ‘Mammoth Russian’ grows 10-12 feet tall. ‘Sunzilla’ grows up to 16 feet tall and often terrorizes cities in Japan.

Not So Big Ones
Giant sunflowers grow too big for many gardens, so it’s good we have smaller sizes that top out at about 5 feet. Not only do they produce multiple blooms about 4-6 inches across, but they also come in colors of red, orange, and bronze in addition to the usual yellow. Some produce small, edible seeds birds like. Others produce no pollen or seed, which makes them good cut flowers.

Here are some of our favorites at Southern Living, your one-stop shop for volumes of incredibly important and inspiring information.


‘Pro-Cut Red/Lemon Bicolor.’ Photo: Ralph Anderson

‘Pro-Cut Red/Lemon Bicolor.’ Sure glad the flower is prettier than the name! Single-stalked plant; 5 to 6 feet tall. Pollenless, long-lasting cut flowers.


‘Moulin Rouge.’ Photo: Ralph Anderson

‘Moulin Rouge.’ Now there’s a sexy name I’m talking about! Branching plant with multiple blooms; 4 to 5 feet tall.


‘Maya.’ Photo: Ralph Anderson

‘Maya.’ Branching plant with multiple blooms; 4 to 6 feet tall. Goldfinches love the seeds.


‘Ring of Fire.’ Photo: Ralph Anderson

‘Ring of Fire.’ I fell into a burning ring of fire in my front yard the other day. This one is a branching plant with multiple blooms; 4 to 5 feet tall.

Seed Sources
Your best bet for finding sunflower seeds right now is in individual seed packets sold at garden centers. Don’t wait too long or they may get sold out. Follow the planting instructions on the packet. If your flowers produce viable seeds, always save some to plant in the garden next year.



  1. Steve Bender

    I think you need to start them in the spring, but before you do that, improve your soil. The biggest, tallest sunflowers grow in loose, fertile soil, not hard, compacted clay. This fall, work in lots of organic matter, such as composted cow manure and chopped leaves.

    July 31, 2014 at 12:48 pm
  2. Steve Bender

    My guess is some kind of rodent is doing it, either squirrels or chipmunks.

    July 31, 2014 at 12:45 pm
  3. ken covington

    My son in law & I always see who can grow the tallest sunflowers.i buy the ones that say up to 16FT.tall, but they only grow to about 8 feet.what can I do to get them to grow taller??i live north Atlanta clay!

    July 30, 2014 at 2:18 pm
  4. Cynthia Brown

    Thank you for letting us know that it’s OK to plant sunflowers right now for fall flowers! Will get right on it. Can you let me know though what it could be out there that digs up the seeds after planting them? Is it the squirrel, the rabbit, or the cardinals? Thanks so much!

    July 20, 2014 at 7:41 pm
  5. Steve Bender


    I would cover the flower heads with a bag or netting until the seeds are ready.

    July 17, 2014 at 3:25 pm
  6. Steve Bender


    Some sunflowers, like ‘Mammoth Russian’ produce large, edible seeds. Other produce small seeds too little to eat.

    July 17, 2014 at 3:24 pm
  7. Maura

    Do you have any suggestions for keeping the seedlings from being eaten by critters? Not sure what kind of critters; they’re very secretive.

    July 15, 2014 at 11:12 pm
  8. glenda

    how do you know which sunflower seeds are edible or do all of them produce edible seeds?

    July 12, 2014 at 12:22 am
  9. Steve Bender

    Go ahead and plant now.

    Lazy is good.

    Thanks for the correction.

    July 2, 2014 at 9:42 am
  10. barbwire

    Is it to late to plant some in Ohio?

    July 1, 2014 at 7:55 am
  11. Sandy Arhelger

    I got a great surprise this spring when sunflowers that I planted last year seeded themselves and I have six new plants this year! See, it pays to be lazy. I didn’t pull the dead ones up until after Christmas!

    June 30, 2014 at 12:52 pm
  12. Peggy

    It’s Wimbledon, not Wimbleton, Silly

    June 30, 2014 at 12:17 pm

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