Big, beautiful sunflowers brighten area summer gardens
I have seen some beautiful sunflowers this summer. Big and small, short and tall. There are over 60 varieties of sunflowers. They are native to the Americas and were exported around 1500. The common sunflower is Helianthus annuus.
USDA figures for 2014 show that there were 1.7 million acres of sunflowers planted in the United States that year with the most in North Dakota. The most common uses for sunflowers and their seeds are sunflower oil, wild bird food and livestock forage. They also act as a natural decontaminator of soil. They remove toxins such as lead, arsenic and uranium. They have been used at environmental disasters such as Chernobyl and Fukushima.
Many people think it is a myth that sunflowers turn to face the sun throughout the day. The fact is that this only occurs at the bud stage. The process is called heliotropism. Once the flower is in full bloom it no longer turns.
I have seen many claims regarding the record for the tallest and largest sunflower. According to the National Sunflower Association, the record for the tallest is 25 feet, 5.4 inches. The largest sunflower head is 32 inches. Both records are sourced to the 2004 Guinness World Records.
Sunflowers are easy to grow. They like fertile soil and adequate moisture but otherwise adapt to most growing conditions. They like space, the further apart you plant them the larger the stem and flower will be. They are best started in the ground rather than in seed trays. This is because they make a central tap root that likes to grow straight down and they grow better when undisturbed. Plant a few weeks beyond the average last frost date in the spring. You can continue to plant throughout the summer up to 75 days before the average first frost date. A good source for information and seeds is sunflowerselections.com.
I hope everyone enjoyed the crape myrtle festival. Remove faded flowers now to encourage a second blooming.
The Natchez Downtown Farmer’s Market is open from 8:00 a.m.-noon on Saturdays on the 100 block of South Commerce. There are fresh goods including peaches, carrots, blueberries, microgreens, eggs, lettuce, mushrooms and more. There are also baked goods and arts and crafts from local vendors.
Email your questions or comments to me at email@example.com.
Karen O’Neal is an Adams County Master Gardener. She writes a monthly column for The Natchez Democrat.