Radiant Sunflowers

    • Potatoes like to grow in the cool weather of spring. Plant them as soon as possible.
    • Tomatoes can be set out with protection. “Season Starter” will protect them down to 20°F and will give them a warm environment during the day.
    • Lettuce, cabbages, broccoli, onions and other cool-season vegetables can be set out with no frost protection. They will give you a delicious early harvest.
    • Gladiolus bulbs come in every color of the rainbow. Plant them this month for beautiful flowers this summer.
    • Lily-of -the-valley is a sweet, shade-loving perennial that can be planted now from “pips” available at the nursery.

Enjoy Radiant Sunflowers this Summer

Sunflowers, with their warm yellows and spicy reds, add a touch of sunshine to any flower bed. With a variety of sunflowers in your garden, you can enjoy their colorful blooms from mid-summer until frost.

The common sunflower is native to North America and grows 6 to 8 feet tall. But there are many varieties that have been developed from it ranging in height from 18-inch-tall dwarfs to 5-foot-tall multi-flowered varieties to the 12-foot giants.

Of the giant sunflowers, ‘Mammoth’ is the best known. It is a giant heirloom sunflower with enormous flowers. The large yellow flowers bloom atop 9-12 ft. tall stalks and yield heavy loads of edible seeds. Fast and easy to grow, ‘Mammoth’ sunflowers are great for creating a sunflower forest for kids or a tall annual hedge or screen. Each plant produces one flower 12 to 20 inches across that hangs its heads with the weight of its seeds.

The bountiful crop of edible seeds, high in healthy fats, protein, fiber, minerals, and vitamins, are loved by people, birds and animals. You can begin to harvest sunflower seeds as soon as the center flowers turn brown or the backs of the heads turn yellow.

You can start sunflowers indoors right now, and plant them out when danger of frost has passed. Or they can be seeded directly in the ground and protected from late frosts. They are simple to grow in ordinary garden soil. They grow quickly and are fun for children to watch.

Sunflowers love the sun. The faces of the flowers follow the sun, from east to west, each day. So plant them where you can enjoy their colorful flower heads. Remember that they will grow very tall, so don’t put them where they will shade other sun loving plants. Be prepared to stake them if necessary.

‘Sunspot’ is a dwarf sunflower with a large, 10-inch, nodding heads of seeds on bushes only 2 feet tall. Bright, golden yellow petals surround brown centers which are filled with tasty seeds.

‘Teddy Bear’ makes big, rounded, fluffy, golden yellow sunflowers, 5 inches across, on sturdy 3-foot stems.

Another group of sunflowers make 5- to 6-foot-tall, branching plants that make great cut flowers. ‘Autumn Beauty’ has 5- to 8-inch flowers in deep yellow, gold, brick-red, burgundy and bicolored flowers. It has multiple flowering branches that bloom over a long period.

‘Orange Mahogany’ is a striking bicolor with large single flowers that are dark mahogany at the center.

‘Lemon Leopold’ is a lush plant producing a good sized flower with lemon petals and dark centers.

Mexican sunflower, Tithonia, makes a big bush 5-6 feet tall and 3-4 feet wide. Bright orange-red flowers are about 3 inches across are loved by butterflies, especially Monarchs. The variety ‘Goldfinger’ grows to only 3 feet tall.

Besides a bounty of blooms, the ripening heads of sunflowers draw lively goldfinches, colorful towhees and friendly blue jays as long as the stalks stand. So light up your summer beds with colorful sunflowers.

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