The sunflower is an impressive summer bloomer with big flowers consisting of golden yellow, creamy white or reddish petals that radiate from a dark brown center. By the end of the blooming season, the centers are plump with seeds that are harvested or left to provide food for songbirds.

When planted in the ground standard-sized sunflowers can reach heights of 15 feet, depending on the variety. Too large for your patio or balcony. However, dwarf varieties are perfect for container growing. Try “Big Smile,” “Sundance Kid” or “Elf” dwarf varieties that top out at only 12 to 24 inches.

  • Fill a sturdy planting container about 1/2 to 1 inch from the rim with a good-quality commercial potting mixture. Avoid garden soil, which becomes compacted and prevents free flow of air and water.
  • Plant sunflower seeds in the container. A six-inch container accommodates one plant, while a gallon container will hold three plants. If you’d rather not plant seeds, purchase small starter sunflower plants at a nursery or garden center.
  • Water the seeds immediately after planting. Thereafter, water whenever the top of the soil feels dry. Check the sunflowers daily, because soil in a container dries out quickly.
  • Feed the sunflowers every week. A water-soluble fertilizer works best.
  • Pinch the growing tips of the branching stems to promote a bushy, more compact plant. Don’t pinch the plant if you want a single, large bloom.
Written by milbergers