Sunflowers are the lifeblood of summer, loved by growers all over the world. There’s nothing quite like seeing the sunny heads bloom! Twitter’s Sunflower Challenge 2022 has been sweeping the internet, and there’s still time to enter and win amazing prizes. Here, we share some top tips for growing sunflowers – whether you’re at the sowing stage or already have plants on the rise!
Organised by Olga (@lovely_plot), Kelly (@DirtyGardenH0E) and Paul (@pvt_ak), the #SunflowerChallenge2022 has taken over Twitter in recent months. There are so many categories you can enter, from the most flower heads to the shortest sunflower (see the full list below). Search #SunflowerChallenge2022 on Twitter to get involved.
Whether you’ll be growing sunflowers in pots or in your flower borders, we’ve got some tips and tricks to help you along this season. But do remember that every sunflower is special, successes and failures aside – and with categories which celebrate the setbacks (will your sunflower be eaten by the most slugs?), there’s no wrong way to grow!
Pick a suitable location
Sunflowers love a sunny, sheltered site. Sow seed in a border, on a patch or in containers, but bear in mind that sunflowers are likely to grow even taller in the ground (if you’re going for that category, that is).
Have the right soil
Free-draining and fertile soil is the best match for sunflowers. Make sure the earth has been raked to a fine tilth prior to sowing and remove any weeds. Nourishing the area with compost will give things a boost, too.
Watch out for slugs
Young sunflower shoots are delicious treats for slugs and snails, so protective measures should be put in place if you want to see your plants thrive later on. Picking the pests off as and when you see them can work for smaller populations, but prevention is often better than cure.
As with fruit and veg crops, companion planting is always an effective option. Slugs hate the smell of mint, garlic and other members of the Allium family, so try to position your young seedlings around these crops if you have them.
Rough surfaces can also work. Create a moat filled with bark, sand or gravel around your sunflowers to make it difficult for slugs and snails to reach them.
Or, recycle a plastic bottle by placing it over your young seedlings. Just cut the top off and pop it over the top.
Many sunflower varieties have a habit of growing up fast, and before you know it, you might be dealing with a very tall plant indeed. When your plant grows tall enough to lean or bend, it’s time to stake it. Pop the cane close to the stem and tie it loosely to the plant using a piece of string.
Growing in pots
Sunflowers grow well in containers, but bear in mind that they’ll probably need more water. Keep an eye on moisture levels to make sure they never go thirsty.
Don’t waterlog your plant, though. A sunflower living with root rot is unlikely to be a happy one. Make sure any pots you use have good drainage, and prop them up on pot feet if necessary.
Wondering if and when you should feed your sunflowers?
Sunflowers need plenty of nutrients to grow and flourish. Feed the plants just before they begin to flower – a general purpose or tomato feed works just fine. Then, feed weekly with a high potash feed. Many experts recommend digging a 10cm-deep moat around each plant to which feed and water can be applied. This should be 45cm away from the stem.
Feeling inspired? Search #SunflowerChallenge2022 on Twitter to find out more. As always, we’d love to see your progress on social media, so do send us photos of your sunflowers. Good luck!
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