Plant in sunshine
As their name suggests, sunflowers grow best in locations which get between six and eight hours of direct sun. They prefer long, hot summers to flower well, making Durban an ideal place to grow them.
Although they seem to be able to grow wild from discarded seeds alongside roads and scattered seeds thrown out for birds, sunflowers actually prefer well-dug, loose, well-draining soil. They do best in a properly prepared bed which has been dug down about a metre deep and about one and a half metres across to ensure the soil isn’t too compacted.
Again, they do best in soil with a pH of between 6.0 to 7.5, but are not very fussy and will often thrive even in soil that is less than optimal. However, they are heavy feeders so the soil needs to be nutrient-rich. Make sure to add a lot of organic mater or composted manure which has been properly aged, or use a slow release granular fertilizer about 10 centimeters deep into the soil.
While they are sturdy, it is helpful if they can be sheltered from areas of your garden where there is a lot of wind, so planting them alongside a fence or next to a wall makes a lot of sense.
Nurture from seeds
It’s best to sow sunflower seeds directly into the soil allowing plants plenty of room, especially for low-growing varieties that will branch out.
Plant the large seeds about 4 centimeres deep about 10 centimetres apart in rows. Make sure to plant the rows of the flowers about half a metre apart, although small varieties may be planted closer together.
If you are using seeds you haven’t used before, you can always plant multiple seeds and thin the plants out later when the plants have grown and started to show which are the strongest. A light application of fertilizer mixed in at planting time will encourage strong root growth to protect the new plants them from being blown over in their early seedling stages when they first break the surface of the flower beds.
If you have never planted sunflowers before, experiment with plantings staggered over a few weeks to keep enjoying the various stages of the plant’s growth and continuous blooming as the different week’s plantings mature.
It is important when planting to keep birds away from your newly planted seeds, so if you see birds scratching for the seeds, spread some netting over the planted area until the seeds have germinated.