Annual Overview: Sunflower



Cheery, showy sunflowers not only spruce up a vegetable garden with a splash of color, they work well as companion plants to several vegetables.  But the vegetable garden isn’t the only place where these bright flowers work well.  Though big, yellow, showy flowers adorning sky-high stalks come to mind when you think of sunflowers, they actually come in a wide range of colors, flower types, and heights and fit well in almost any type of garden.



At a Glance

Botanical Name: Helianthus annus

Common Name(s): Sunflower

Height: Up to 12 feet

Bloom Time: Early spring

Soil Conditions: Well-drained soil of average fertility

Sun: Full sun

Starting from Seed

Sunflowers generally flower just as fast when sown directly in the garden, but if you want to start them indoors, start seed at 70°-80°F four weeks prior to the last frost.  Plant one seed per peat-moss cup.

When to Plant

Sunflowers can be sown directly into the garden following the last frost.

Where to Plant

Sunflowers require full sun, and well-drained soil.

Plant Spacing

Space three feet apart for most varieties.

Care and Maintenance

Once established, sunflowers are nearly maintenance free though they do benefit from regular watering.  They love the sun, but do require moist soil to thrive.


Aster yellow, downy mildew, gray mold, powdery mildew, root and stem rot, rusts, and verticullium wilt.


Aphids, carrot beetle, foliage feeding caterpillars, glassy-winged sharpshooter, leafbeetles, leaf hoppers, spider mites, sunflower stem weevil, thrips, plant bugs, stink bugs.

Companion Planting with Sunflowers

Some plants are beneficial to others, while others are detrimental.  In the case of sunflowers, do not plant with pole beans.

Cucumbers do well when planted next to sunflowers.

Melons do well when planted next to sunflowers.

Did You Know?

Sunflowers have long been grown and used by Native Americans.  They not only consumed the seeds for nutritional value, they ground them into meal to use in gruel and cakes.  They also roasted the seeds and ground them to make a drink similar to coffee.


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