Sunflowers all over the place

Every year I want to plant flowers that are favoured by our bees, but one thing I’ve learned is that despite my best efforts to grow them, they just can’t compete with self-sown.

This is particularly noticeable with Sunflowers.

This year I sowed Sunflower ‘Giant Single’ and the shorter more bronze-coloured Helianthus Annuus ‘Autumn Time’. I sowed these in pots in March and April respectively, but by the time that I could plant them out, they’d grown leggy, twisted, and seemed to be doing all that they could do to avoid growing upwards. This is not the first year this has happened.

By the time they’re able to go out, they look like very poor specimens, and most are very quickly destroyed by slugs :(.

Standing, beautifully upright, and lush green, and far taller of course are the self-sown sunflowers of an unknown variety. These are the result of feeding the garden birds for most of the year, and have survived all conditions to become far better than anything that’s been tended and nurtured.

Of course, they’re completely in the worst possible location – always right in the middle of my netted raised bed, and as they put on their extra-ordinate growth each day, they progressively destroy the netted ‘cage’ that i put up to stop the cats destroying the entire raised bed contents. So they HAVE to come out, dead or alive.

A row of sunflowers after being transplanted.
The sunflowers (variety unknown) after being transplanted and a lot of water.

Transplanting sunflowers

This year, i carefully attempted a transplant before the flower heads began to form, and was pleased to see that I managed to successfully move all of them the required 2 feet away, to along the edge of my shed. There’s a trellis on this shed (which obviously they won’t be using), but damned if i can persuade ANYTHING to grow up it.

The sunflowers collapse in a very short time after being transplanted, but with a lot of water and a day to recover, they were back up, and they didn’t let me down.

A row of transplanted self-sown sunflowers in the sunshine
The sunflowers had multiple flower heads and brought bees (and lots of colour) into the garden.

For 2019, the self-sown sunflowers lasted far longer, and looked far more impressive. Despite this, I will continue to try to grow them from seed, but perhaps sow them later in their sowing season to avoid any tangled reluctant plants.

Packets of sunflower seeds
My packets of sunflower seeds.. i’m optimistic at least.

For 2020, I will continue to try growing them, and will try again with the Heliantus Annuss ‘Autumn Time’ and with the Sunflower ‘Giant Single’, but I’ll also give Sunflower ‘Irish Eyes’ a try too. They’re a dwarf variety, so might help add some mid-height colour to my borders and patio.

As for the self-sown sunflowers, I suspect that they’ll continue to appear in all the wrong places, but now that I know that I can transplant them, it’s going to make it easier and more colourful.

Now that the season is over, the heads have gone to seed, and as intended, the birds have found the seed heads and begun using them as a food source.

A sunflower seed head in winter
A Sunflower head in winter is packed with seeds for the birds to feast on.

Nature’s cycle continues.

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