I’m convinced sunflowers are one of the happiest flowers to grow. There isn’t a person alive who upon being gifted a bouquet doesn’t light up immediately. Why there aren’t more gardeners out there making space for these garden beauties is beyond me.

6 Reasons to Grow Sunflowers | Kelly Orzel

So, to do my part in painting the world’s gardens in sunflowers, I’m going to share 6 reasons why—and how—everyone should grow sunflowers in their own backyard. 

Sunflower Reason #1

Easy-Peasy to Grow! 

Get a jump on your sunnies in early spring by sowing in 3” pots, then transplanting 2-3 weeks later, after the danger of frost has passed. OR, simply direct sow your seeds in the garden. Space 6-18” apart depending on the variety. Smaller heads can be planted closer together, whereas larger-headed and branching sunflowers need more space for proper development. 

And remember to pinch ONLY the branching varieties. Single-stemmed sunflowers will become no-flower sunflowers if pinched. Check out my post on How to Pinch Plants for more details.

Sunflower Reason #2

They Make a Table.

Tall and gorgeous, sunflowers will brighten up and elevate any kitchen table. Bringing with them happiness and good feelings into whatever room they’re placed. 

White Lite Sunflowers | Kelly Orzel

With a vase life of 6-12 days, these blooms will not disappoint. Cut at a 45º angle, strip all but the top leaves and pop into water asap for the longest vase life. 

If you find yourself with too much yellow pollen on your tables, search out pollen-less sunny varies including anything from the ‘ProCut Series’ line, ‘Strawberry Blonde’ and ‘Moulin Rouge.’ 

Sunflower Reason #3

Draw the Eyes UP!

Sunnies are a quick and inexpensive way to get some vertical height and add some architecture to the garden. Not only do their big, bright, yellow heads make a fabulous focal point, but you can add them easily to the garden by direct seeding. 

Sunflowers | Kelly Orzel

Sow 2-3 seeds every 6-18” to create a wall of sunflowers. Which also makes a great backdrop for other garden flowers. 

‘Russian Giant’ and ‘Mammoth’ are both great choices that are 10’ tall with giant heads.  ‘Original Sun’ is a good 10’ tall branching sunflower variety.

Sunflower Reason #4

They’re Phytoremediators and Hyper-Accumulators

Big words that means, these flowers leave your soil healthier than what you started with. Detox your soil with sunflowers! Absorbing heavy metals and poisonous chemicals like arsenic, cadmium, chromium, copper, lead, manganese and zinc, these blooms pull up contaminants and remove them from the soil. Plant sunflowers in big masses to maximize their detoxifying ability!

Whether you’re rehabilitating an urban plot or just want to work on detoxing your backyard, sunflowers are one of the few flowers to leave your garden in better shape than when you began.

Sunflower Reason #5

Pollinators and Birds.

Sunflowers for the birds | Kelly Orzel

Attracting a wide variety of pollinators and birds, sunflowers will definitely bring those high-flying friends to your garden. Especially the buzzing kind! Branching sunflowers are ideal for attracting birds, bees and butterflies as the pollen-filled center is more fully exposed, making it easy for nectar-seeking critters to enjoy and their thin-shelled seeds easier for birds to munch on. 

Personally I’m a big fan of fluffiness of ‘Panache’ and ‘Teddy Bear’ sunflowers. ‘Jade Green’ is a pollen-free favorite with a lovely light color, and I grow ‘Ring of Fire’ for its dark red center that bleeds out to yellow at the edges.

Sunflower Reason #6

They’re yummy!

How many flowers can you enjoy as a healthy, high-protein snack? Roasted sunflower seeds are delicious! Choose large-headed sunnies for the biggest bang for your buck.

Once harvested, de-shell them. I find the easiest way is to pour about 1/2 cup of seeds into a ziplock bag in batches, laying the seeds in a single layer and sealing. Use a rolling pin to gently roll over the bag, the shells should pop off easily. Then, pour the seeds into a bowl of water. The shells should rise to the top, making it easy to separate them. Rinse and drain the seeds. Spread the seeds in a thin layer on parchment paper or sheet pan for roasting. Salting is optional. Bake at 300ºF for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until golden brown. And voilá!

Sunflowers in the Garden | Kelly Orzel

Remember what Helen Keller said,

“Keep your face to the sunshine and you cannot see the shadow. That’s what sunflowers do.”