phxmtngirl(9 AZ)June 19, 2005

Hi, I'm new at growing sunflowers, and need some help please. I purchased "Perry Morse" Mammoth Sunflower seeds. I planted them according to directions in early March. They are rather tall now, but the heads are all drooping.

My questions are:

1. Should I tie the heads to the stakes? If so, how tight?

2. How much water should they be getting now?

3. Bugs..... I have been trying to keep the bugs off of them, but am having trouble. I would say that I have on 3 sets of plants at least half of the bottom leaves are chewed through.

4. When will I know when their done?

Any suggestions or help would be greatly appreciated. I live on the West side of town (Litchfield Park).

Thank you


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Pagancat(Phoenix, AZ)

Hi Joy - I haven't seen you on the forum before, welcome!

I'll take on #4. Sunflowers act much like other flowers, just at a larger scale. It will slowly dry out, loosing it's petals and leaves, until it is a brown stalk with a dried head on top. Now, it's up to you what you do with the seeds - if you liked the plant, definitely take a few out to plant for next time. You might also want some for eating, although unless you like splitting the shells with your teeth they're not easily removed. You can also leave the head in place and allow the birds to come and feast - you'll make some good (and pretty!) friends for a good amount of time.

Sunflowers have been said to be plantable at just about any time of the year, so if you're going to let them go au natural and just dry up, you might want to plant seeds at intervals of a week or so, so there's always at least a couple blooming. The Cooperative Extension disagrees; they say to stop putting seeds in after August until the end of January - with a 90 day window to blooming.

HTH, welcome again!

    Bookmark   June 19, 2005 at 3:58PM
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phxmtngirl(9 AZ)

Thank you for the nice welcome. So when their done, there should be alot of seeds in the heads? Do you know if the 120 day gestation is about right?

Again, thanks for the welcome.


    Bookmark   June 19, 2005 at 5:41PM
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frangipaniaz(z9 Az)

I have mammoth sunflowers growing in my backyard and had to stake them because they are all 12-16 feet tall (I'm in the Phoenix area)... When I tied them I did it relatively close to the flower and not tight at all, you're just helping it stand up more, not cutting the life from it... I hope this helps, let me know if there is more I can do...

    Bookmark   June 19, 2005 at 5:45PM
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Pagancat(Phoenix, AZ)

Sure, probably around a hundred or so seeds. I'm sure that also depends on what kind of sunflower you're growing - some have much larger seed head than othes.

I'm not sure what the issue is with the drooping - I have a sunflower that is completely upright except for the head. Luckily the stalk is tough enough to stand without staking like Brittany's (above - Hi Brittany, welcome to the forum!) It's also near a leaking faucet, so it may be too much water, or the fact that it's between two buildings, so it only gets about 4 hours of noon to three or so sun.

Gestation.... you mean sprouting? That should be from plant to sprout, maybe a week or outside, two. Growth to bloom is the 90 days I mentioned. The blooms last fairly long (for Arizona!), I'd say about a week or so. The one I have growing is strange - it gets a few smaller buds along the stalk as well.


    Bookmark   June 19, 2005 at 7:13PM
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Padron4km(8/9 Chandler,AZ)

1) if you want. I don't tie mine up, mostly because I don't have stakes tall enough. I did tie a couple up last year because they were growing by the house and I was able to put a nail in the awning and tie them to there. (yeah they were as tall as the bottom of the roof on the house)

2) I give mine a deep watering once a week.

3) I let the bugs eat. I'd rather have them on the sunflowers than the tomatoes & peppers. It doesnt seem to bother the sunflowers as much, and gives the birds that visit something else to eat.

4) I leave them in until the birds have eaten all the seeds. Then I pull them, hack them up, and throw them in the compost pile.

    Bookmark   June 20, 2005 at 2:07AM
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zinniazen2(z9 AZ)

You can also leave the sunflowers in the ground to dry out naturally when you're ready to stop watering them (after they've bloomed and the blooms are spent) then cut off all the leaves, but leave the branches and stalk. Use this as a trellis later for sweet peas, beans, or other vines to grow up on.
I also save the thickest of my sunflower stalks and have used them as stakes. I even used a sturdy one this year to support a drooping sunflower head.

Hope that helps :)

    Bookmark   June 20, 2005 at 9:53AM
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I don't stake mine. They will support themselves until they start forming seeds and then the head will bend the stock over as the seed heads get heavier. By this time the flower is usually spent any way so it doesn't matter to me. I'll tie it up if it's in the way, other wise I just let nature take it's course. This makes it harder for the birds to get at the seeds and the seeds will disperse beneath the plant for the future generation. I you plan to harvest the seeds, I recommend that you tie a paper bag over the head and secure it with a rubber band. This keeps the birds off, but lets the seeds dry naturally. The seeds are ready when the shells are showing the black and white markings and the shells are dry. If you pick too early, the shells are normal but the seeds inside will be small and of little use for eating. I "made sunflower seeds" for the neighborhood kids this weekend and just one of the medium size heads had over three hundred seeds. I planted over a dozen plants all over the yard and depending on water and sunlight they all bloomed at different intervals. The plants that received sun all day and daily watering have the largest flowers and seed heads 12" to 16". The plants that received all day sun and water every other day are the tallest (16Â) and had flowers 10" -12". Almost all the other which received a combination of shade and sun averaged 6Â tall with the flowers averaging 8" to 10".

    Bookmark   June 20, 2005 at 11:13AM
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Has anyone tried Maximilian Sunflowers? They are one of my favorite and are a perennial - dying down to the ground in the winter, but sprouting again as soon as warm weather arrives. The clumps get larger each year and can be divided to share with friends.

This sunflower is a little different in that it blooms in the fall with brilliant yellow flowers that appear all along the stalks (which can grow 8 feet tall). I always let mine dry up for the birds. The verdin and finches go crazy over the seeds which are pretty small.

Several of the nurseries carry this sunflower now and it is grown locally by Mountain States.

I've posted a photo in the gallery.

    Bookmark   June 20, 2005 at 12:14PM
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frangipaniaz(z9 Az)

Mine only started drooping when the flower heads became to heavy... I also had three huge blooms on the same plant that weighed it down to the ground... once they were spent and I cut them off they perked right back up again and continued ot flower.. I also let the bugs eat them, it has kept they off of my tomatoes and eggplant and such...

    Bookmark   June 20, 2005 at 5:08PM
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phxmtngirl(9 AZ)

Wow, thank you all for your advise, it is much appreciated. Now I understand that the heads are suppose to droop, and the leaves on the head are suppose to fall off.

On all mine, about 15 plants the heads are drooping, but there is no sign of the shells yet, so I guess I just wait.
Just so you can get an idea of where I planted mine. They are in the full sun all day. My smallest plant is 4 feet, and my tallist is about 15 feet. The adverage is around 9 feet. Also, these seeds are for me, not my birds. I feed 5 varity of birds, about 100 in all. If mama quail will bring the babies over to visit again, I just might share some of my seeds when they are ready, but I am going to take your advise jkochan, and put paper bags over the heads when the seeds get ready.

I read somewhere on "gardenweb" site, not az garden, but the general web site, that I was suppose to deep root water the plants for the first 60 days, then water lightly, every day as needed. They are suppose to take up to a gallon of water per day, per plant at maturity??

Just another question, can we grow sweet peas here in the summer? A couple of you mentioned that you let your pease climb the used stalks from the Sunflowers. I actually have not even attempted to grow anything here in the summer.

Again, thank you everyone for you much needed advice.


    Bookmark   June 20, 2005 at 8:24PM
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Pagancat(Phoenix, AZ)

Nope, I think that sweet peas are actually a winter crop here - probably plant in fall and harvest in spring - oops, are you talking about the flowers? Actually, the schedule is about the same for either, I believe. I haven't tried to grow them since moving up to Phx from Tucson.

I tend to think the once a week deep water is good - the above post is from someone who does a lot of farming, so.... mine is getting more, but not on purpose! I typically torture my plants, once a week is as good as it gets around here.

Great idea, Zinniazen... my stalk last year nearly got overtaken by my passion flowers.

You're so welcome again, thank us by posting often!

Here is a link that might be useful: Veggies & such calender

    Bookmark   June 20, 2005 at 10:28PM
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OhioMichael(Zone 5 - Ohio)

Someone posted earlier that they leave the old Sunflower stalks up to use as stakes for peas, beans etc.

I am not sure that this is really good practice. I read on the Burpee Seed site that...

"Sunflower seed, leaves and stems emit substances that inhibit the growth of certain other plants. They should be separated from potatoes and pole beans. Where sunflower seeds are regularly used as bird feed, toxins from the accumulated seed hulls eventually kill the grass below. Harmless to animals or people, the toxins eventually biodegrade in the soil."

Is Burpee wrong about this?

    Bookmark   June 30, 2005 at 8:51PM
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Pagancat(Phoenix, AZ)

No, Burpee is right - sunflowers are actually plants that exhibit allelopathic properties, meaning that they exude substances that often deter the growth of other plants, sometimes only their own species. Creosote bushes are allelopathic, as are Walnut trees, some Oak trees, rice, sorghum, Trees of Heaven, broccoli .... the list goes on.

In the little I've read about it, it seems like many plants that have these properties will also have a number of other plants that are immune to it, but if you have a plant that is next to a Sunflower and is mysteriously failing to do well, that may well be the cause.


    Bookmark   June 30, 2005 at 10:02PM
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desertrubble(z9 AZ)

I think we're growing the one from the dollar store here, you know for 99 cents, I think they have them everywhere, yep, everywhere. Good Luck with this.

    Bookmark   April 23, 2006 at 9:43AM
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