Sunflowers bring to mind thoughts of golden coloured petals, dark-brown or black centres and tall stems. While several sunflower cultivars mature to heights of 10 feet, dwarf cultivars of this sunny flower exist, making it possible to keep a sunflower garden in areas where 10-foot towering flowers are not ideal. Some dwarf sunflowers adapt well to container gardening. Gardening with dwarf sunflowers provides home gardeners the opportunity to harvest sunflower seeds for personal use or to feed garden birds.
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General Sunflower Culture
All sunflowers, including the dwarf types, grow best when planted directly from seeds. Plant sunflowers just after the last threat of frost passes. For sunflower garden beds, sow seeds directly into the soil. Use a rake to work the seeds gently into the soil. For container-grown, dwarf sunflowers, use a pot about 8 inches in diameter, recommends Christopher J. Kline of the National Gardening Association. Fill the pot with garden soil and insert the seed about 1/2 inch into the soil.
Most dwarf sunflowers reach a respectable height of about 2 feet, making even the smaller versions show-stopping garden flowers. The Music Box sunflower features multiple branches with flower colours ranging from yellow to gold to bronze. Sundance Kid Dwarf sunflowers grow about 18 inches tall with 5-inch wide blooms in a wide array of colours. Big Smile is an early blooming dwarf sunflower with large centres and yellow-gold petals. Ring of Fire dwarf sunflowers feature the iconic gold petals surrounded by a ring of brownish-red colours. It reaches about 3 feet high with 4- to 5-inch wide flowers. Pacino sunflowers feature medium gold flowers, with dark gold centres. It tops out at just less than 3 feet with flowers about 4 inches in diameter.
Dwarf sunflowers work well in container gardens, as small hedges or as bordering plants. Combine several types of dwarf sunflowers into a planting bed for a sea of sunny colours in the summer garden. Throughout the summer, dwarf sunflowers make good cut flowers. Gently snip off to display in cut flower arrangements. Harvest dwarf sunflowers seeds for personal use by covering seed heads with a paper bag when the seeds become visible. When the back of the sunflower head turns from green to yellow, cut off the head. Hang in a dry location for several weeks and seeds will fall into the sack.
Growing dwarf sunflowers also helps attract wildlife to the yard. Some sunflower cultivars attract butterflies while others attract birds. Rather than harvesting seeds in the autumn, allow the sunflowers to go to seed naturally. This will keep the garden busy with bird and squirrel traffic, as they harvest the seeds for food. From harvested sunflower seeds, store dried seeds in airtight containers. Throw into the yard or use to fill bird feeders.
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- Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center: Native Plants Database: Helianthus gracilentus
- North Carolina State University; Agritourism; Ornamental Sunflower Varieties Tested in 2001; Dr. Jeanine Davis.
- Alabama Cooperative Extension System; Sunflowers Provide Color in Fall; Ginger Layman and Mary Beth Musgrove.
- National Garden Association; Sunflowers: A Complete Guide to Selecting and Growing; Dr. Christopher J. Kline; 2007.
- University of Illinois Extension; Home Hort Hints; Harvesting and Handling Sunflowers; 2001.