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This is the perfect time for sowing a bit of sunny summer sunshine to brighten up your surroundings whilst attracting birds, bees and butterflies in the process.
Sunflowers always, but always, attract attention be they dwarf varieties – 12 inches or so in height – or giant, multi-headed ones, which can tower at an incredible 14 feet and more if growing conditions are optimum.

Seed sizes vary from surprisingly small to as big as your little finger nail; the small seeds are often those of the brown, crimson, red and cream shaded varieties and the large seeds are the more commonly seen brilliant golden yellow beauties. A packet of seeds costs approximately Rs 40 and usually contains quite a few; certainly enough for a small garden or for pot cultivation. Viable seeds can also be picked out of unprocessed packets of bird seeds and grown with success.

Sunflowers are not fussy about soil conditions and will grow in soil where other plants refuse to flourish as long as they have plenty of essential sunlight and some water now and then. However, if you want to have magnificent sunflowers, then mix plenty or organic manure into the area where they are to grow prior to putting in the seeds.

Seeds should be sown approximately one inch deep, and if watered, germinate within seven to 14 days and sometimes less. The plants grow rapidly with tall varieties shooting up in the proverbial ‘Jack-and-the-beanstalk’ way; as much as six to 10 inches a day until they reach flowering size when they stop and concentrate on forming blooms instead. Tall sunflowers will need staking to prevent them blowing over or snapping off in windy conditions. Dwarf varieties do not require any support.

Tall sunflowers are best planted next to a protecting wall but smaller ones are equally at home in a flower border or cultivated as striking pot plants.

– B Khan