Few plants herald the summer quite like the sunflower. They have an attainable nature that makes them a common sight in many communal gardens and allotments. They can also produce immediate impact and draw the eye within a garden space with their bright colour and towering growth.
The sunflower got its name from the fact that its flower will often point itself towards the sun. Ancient Greek mythology tells us that this is because sunflowers were created from Clytie, a jealous nymph who betrayed Apollo the god of the sun for finding another love. She was buried and was reborn in the form of a sunflower. Her love for Apollo carries on, hence why she still watches him as he arcs above her in the sky.
The scientific truth is more to do with how the stem elongates when exposed to sunlight, therefore revolving the head of the plant with it. This repositioning of the plant is beneficial too, as it warms up the many florets in the flower head and helps draw in potential insect pollinators.
As mentioned previously, sunflowers are a relatively easy plant to grow and require little in the way of maintenance. Even the seed sowing directions shown above can be skipped and the seeds can be sown straight into prepared soil where you wish them to grow. The advantage of initially growing in pots is that you can better monitor your seedlings and they are safe from pests such as slugs that may wish to snack on your planting efforts. So, if planting into the ground consider using cloches to keep your seedlings safe.
Once your sunflowers have established, they will benefit from lots of watering and feeding. Sunflowers can require more nutrients than other plants to reach their full potential height so make sure soil is dug in with compost or well-rotted manure before planting and give liquid feeds once a week if you really want an impressively tall plant.
Staking should not be necessary, as many sunflowers bred for height will have a thick stem to allow it to carry the full weight of the flower head. If, however you feel the young plant may need a little help from windier conditions a length of bamboo placed in the ground next to your plant and some twine loosely attaching the two together should suffice to make sure it does not break before achieving its bloom.