Growing and caring for Sunflowers in a balcony garden

Nothing screams “Summer” louder than a Sunflower plant in your balcony garden. So how do you plant these summer flowers in planters? And how long do they take to bloom? Find out answers to these and questions alike. This blog will take you through details of growing and caring for sunflowers

So, if you are wondering what these flowers are all about, let’s get into specifics: Sunflowers or the Helianthus annuus is an annual plant with large daisy-like flowers. These flowers are found in large varieties in terms of color and size.

The colors they come in a range from red, orange, maroon, brown, and of course yellow. The bright yellow and orange are more common in balcony gardens all over.

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These big bright flowers have a brown center filled with seeds that can be harvested when after maturing all is left behind are heavy heads with seeds.

Can you grow sunflowers in pots?

Sunflowers are a lovely addition to any landscape as they add a bright hue to the place, they are planted in. This being said they can also be planted in containers and added as part of balcony gardens.

As these plants grow tall most balcony gardeners prefer the dwarf variants more. But you can also plant the mammoth variants in your balcony garden are care for them with ease.

How can you grow sunflowers in pots?

Growing and caring for sunflower plants in pots is fairly simple. These plants are easily available as saplings online or at local nurseries, they can also be grown easily from seeds that are store-bought or harvested from the previous yield.

Smaller variants of the sunflower plant grow up to 4 feet and can be easily cared for in containers if you are planning on planting other variants opt for larger pots. Mammoth variants would require at least a 5-gallon pot to row well.

Once you have the pot ready it’s time to fill in the right potting mix. as these plants are not fond of a sloshy mix adding a layer of draining agents like pebbles, pieces of broken clay pots, or sand is important.

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You can then add a mixture of compost and regular commercial soil or a potting mix available in the market. Fill the pot up to the top leaving about an inch from the brim. 

These plants do not require fertilizers and other food but adding compost and quality soil will benefit the bloom. Once the pot is ready and the seeds sown place them in a sunny spot and you will see the magic. 

Tip: these plants get top-heavy once they bloom hence it is necessary to invest in pots of good quality. You will also need larger pots to be sure that the plant receives enough water.

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How to plant sunflower seeds?

Planting sunflower seeds is simple. If you are planting it in germinating trays they can be sowed and then transferred to pots when the stem is strong enough or when they are about 4 to 5 inches tall. When planting in pots directly sow them about 1 to 1 1/2 inches deep.

These plants require plenty of room to grow hence do not plant too many in one pot. while sowing the seeds we recommend you add a little fertilizer and compost as this will ensure that the roots are strong and healthy.

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Strong roots will protect the plant from strong winds, particularly windy days.

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Should you soak sunflower seeds before planting?

Soaking seeds before planting is an old trick that most gardeners are unaware of. Seeds are naturally designed to be tough as they have to face nature animals and literally everything under the sun.

This has made them evolutionarily tougher. Soaking them before sowing helps break down these natural defenses and helps them germinate faster. 

The process is fairly straight forward but there is a risk of oversoaking seeds. Seeds need to be soaked for 12 to 24 hours and not more than 48 hours. To soak them right take a small bowl and fill it with warm to hot water.

Most seeds cannot tolerate boiling water. After the bowl is full drop the seeds in the water and lets them be. After about a day they will be ready to sow. 

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How often do you need to water sunflower plants?

Growing and caring for sunflowers is as simple as taking a walk in the park. These plants are easy to maintain and are quick to grow. They love the heat and sun and hence thrive in Summer when they are usually found. 

These plants like to be kept hydrated and hence it is necessary to water them regularly.

On hotter days they will need to be watered more than once. Make sure that the soil is well-drained as these plants do not like soggy soil.

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How long do sunflowers take to bloom?

Sunflowers are fast-growing plants and bloom in about 80 to 90 days depending on the variant.

While growing and caring for sunflowers balcony gardeners need to pay attention to the variant as this will determine both the time they will require to bloom as well as the height they will reach.

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If you have planted a tall variant prune them regularly to keep them at a manageable height, that is compatible with your balcony dimensions. 

These plants are heliotropic which means that they turn their flowers and follow the sun’s movements through the day. This happens while the flowers are blooming and the movement gets restricted as the flowers get heavier.

They follow the sun-facing east to west and then return to face the east at night.

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How to grow and care for sunflowers?

As sunflowers are not very fussy plants growing and caring for them is fairly simple. While the plant is small it is important to water the root zone hence focusing on watering the entire planter instead of concentrating only on the plant.

Once the plants are bigger and stronger you can water them infrequently depending on the region you live in.

This will promote deep rooting as the plant will try to reach out for water. This is good for the plant as it’s sturdier and can withstand the wind on your balcony. 

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Be careful not to overwater the plant, it may seem impossible but overwatering can cause serious damage to the plant. If you find the lower part of the stem turning brown or rotting stop watering.

Overwatering goes hand in hand with soil that does not drain well. this causes the excess water to remain in the pot itself leaving it soggy.

In such cases, you will need to replant the damaged plant in another pot that contains well-draining soil and drainage holes at the bottom of the pot to get rid of the access water.   

Like overwatering, overfeeding the plant can also damage it. when overfed the stems of this plant can break. These plants do not require additional fertilizers to grow. If you choose to add a little opt for the one soluble in water.

Avoid adding fertilizers near the plant’s base; use them to build a circle around the plant. In this way, the plant will use only as much fertilizer it requires and is not force-fed.

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What pests and diseases affect the sunflower plant?

As discussed earlier this plant is relatively free from pests and diseases this makes growing and caring for sunflowers easy. This being said there are instances where small grey moths can lay eggs in the blossoms.

If this is the case you can pick the worms from the flower. These do not harm the flowers or humans so you do not need to worry. 

On the other hand, Downy mildew, rust, and powdery mildew can also affect the plant. The best part about these diseases is that if spotted early which is common, they can be treated easily using a general garden fungicide. 

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As maintenance, you could also spray insecticides on all plants in your balcony garden once in a while to keep them insect-free.

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How to harvest sunflowers?

Sunflowers make excellent cut flowers and last long in vases. Here are a few tips on how to harvest sunflowers: 

For bouquets that are to be used indoors, cut the main step just before the bud has a chance to open. This will encourage side blooms. Secondly, cut stems in the early hours of the day. If flowers are cut in the afternoon they tend to wilt faster.

Sunflowers are long-lasting flowers; they can last for a week when kept in water at room temperature. They also need to be handled gently as the stems are soft and delicate.

When arranging these flowers use tall containers as they provide good support for their heavy heads. 

Tip: change the vase water every day, this helps the flowers last longer. 

How to harvest sunflower seeds?

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Now that you have successfully accomplished growing and caring for sunflowers all summer through. The flowers have been an addition to a number of bouquets and you are completely satisfied with the crop. It’s time to harvest the seeds. 

The seeds of the sunflower plant make a nutritious and tasty snack. The oil extracted from the seeds is used for cooking. But as the quantity is not sufficient when cultivated in balcony gardens. 

In order to use the seeds, let the flowers dry on or off the stem until the back of the head turns brown.

If left on the tree let the foliage turn yellow and let the petals die down. When the seeds look plump and somewhat loose, they are ready to be harvested. 

With sharp scissors or pruners cut off the flower heads and place them in a container. After you finish collecting all the flowers lie them down on a flat, clean surface and separate the seeds from the heads using your hands (simply rub the sunflowers and the seeds will fall off) or a fork.

The seeds can then be roasted and stored in an airtight container. They can also be baked. You can add spices just before bottling them.

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If you are planning to replant the seeds do not roast them, simply collect them in a container and store them in a cool dry place. 

Recommended variants of sunflowers

  • Mammoth – these are traditional giant sunflowers, that can grow to more than 12 feet tall. If you have a large balcony and good sunlight these are the best plants to grow. The seeds of this variant are excellent for snacks as well as bird feeders.
  • Autumn Beauty– these plants have flowers that grow to about 6-inches and flowers in shades of yellow, bronze, and mahogany on branching stems. They can grow up to 7 feet tall and hence are recommended for bigger balcony gardens. 
  • Sunrich Gold: These flowers make a great addition to bouquets and arrangements. The plant grows to about 5 feet and can be planted in small balcony gardens. The flowers are about 4 to 6-inches wide that have rich, golden-yellow rays and green-yellow centres.
  • Teddy Bear: these tiny 2 to 3 feet tall plants are cute and the perfect summer plant for small balconies as they grow in containers without any effort. The fluffy, deep-gold blossoms grow about 5 inches wide and last for days in a vase.

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In conclusion 

No plant is as heat-tolerant and pest resistant as the sunflower. They make lovely cut flowers and the seeds make a healthy and tasty snack.

The seeds of the sunflower plant are a rich source of proteins. One ounce of sunflower seeds contains about 6 grams of protein and 14 grams of oils.

The fats in these seeds are almost entirely unsaturated with 9 grams of polyunsaturated and 3 grams of monounsaturated fats per ounce (NSA). The oil from these seeds is high in linoleic acid and is a good source of vitamin E.

As seen in this blog growing and caring for sunflowers is not a herculean task and can be managed easily even if you are busy with commitments throughout the day and week. Happy gardening!