The sunflower is a very impressive plant to grow and an interesting addition to the garden. Almost everyone knows about sunflowers but not many people try to grow them and therefore few people know anything about sunflower care. Happily, sunflower care is not very complicated at all. But there are some elements you need to understand if you want to have a nice showing of flowers. Sunflowers are sensitive to the amount of sunlight they obtain, and how much water required to optimize their growth. Read further to learn more about caring successfully for your sunflowers. Also, gardeners often grow sunflowers for the challenge of creating the tallest plants for fairs or simply to obtain bragging rights. If you are interested in growing giants, you can visit our giant sunflower page for some tips that might inspire your giant sunflower aspirations!
Sunflowers are generally quite hardy to short dry or wet spells, but of note for the sunflower is the need to check that the sunflower does not get overwatered for an extended period. Too much water may result in the soil loosening and becoming far too unstable to support the weight of the sunflower head as it sways in the wind. Planting a larger grouping of sunflowers has the benefit of helping to stabilize the immediate area of soil and in addition, their proximity to each other helps to create some barrier to wind damage. Plus, this will help to hold moisture in the soil, as the sun is quite readily blocked from directly heating the ground by each large plant.
Even if the soil is quite hardy there is always a risk of the sunflower tilting over or simply snapping in the wind. If you are concerned, you can stabilize the sunflowers once they are large, especially in a small planting. Put a simple stake into the ground close to the sunflower stem and make sure that it stands strong and stable on its own. Next, you can tie small pieces of thick string, florist ties or velcro around the stake and the sunflower, thus helping them to support each other. You should see to it that the pieces of string do not cut into the stem of the sunflower as it sways in the wind. Having the sunflower cut down by your own stabilization efforts would indeed be unfortunate.
Now pruning a sunflower, you think, sounds like a questionable idea and you are right - cutting a healthy sunflower is a waste of a sunflower. Typically, sunflowers require absolutely no pruning at all. So how could pruning possibly be a means of improving sunflower care? The following only applies to groups of sunflowers growing together. Because the sunflowers are so sensitive to weight and the forces of nature you should never allow the grouping to be put in jeopardy for a single flower. If a sunflower is leaning against another it is better to cut the least healthy of them down instead of having them bringing each other down, or toppling maybe even more sunflowers in a domino-style event. If the sunflower you have had to prune out of the cluster has a flower head, you can still lay that head out next to a bird feeder or an out-of-the-way spot and nature will find uses for it.