Sunflowers for cutting

March 17th, 2017 | Plant Talk with Graham Rice | 0 Comments

Sunflowers 'Taiyo' (left) and 'Velvet Queen' are both good cut flower varieties.

Sunflowers are not difficult to grow. In fact, if you keep the slugs off, give them plenty of sun and support the taller types, they’re easy. And, as you can see from every supermarket in the country in summer, they make superb cut flowers.

But why allow the supermarket to choose the colours and types that you can have in your home – there may only be one variety on offer – when you can choose from these twenty nine different varieties available from seed?

You can sow sunflowers in the open ground, where they’re to flower, and I usually have some self sow after I’ve left the last seed heads for the birds. But you never know what the seedlings are going to be like until they flower. I prefer to sow exactly what I want – so I’ll be pulling up any volunteers popping up in odd corners.

Seed germinates best when the soil is above 10C so the seed I’ll be sowing this weekend will be going in pots, just to be safe. I’ll sow more in the open ground later. But sunflowers have deep roots so it’s important not to allow them to get pot bound. I’m going to try them in deep Rootrainers this year.

Varieties that make medium sized, well branched plants, such as ‘Buttercream’ and ‘Hallo’, are ideal for cutting as are some of the taller types with medium sized flowers that branch less, such as ‘Copper Queen’ and ‘Velvet Queen’ (above right). For dramatic arrangements, large-flowered varieties such as ‘Taiyo’ (above left) that are tall and relatively unbranched give very long stems – but may topple your vase!

Cut sunflowers when the first petals are lifting off the central disk, always use flower food and remove any leaves that will be under water.

These varieties are specially recommended for cutting: ‘Buttercream’, ‘Copper Queen’, ‘Hallo’, ‘Infrared’, ‘Magic Roundabout’, ‘Santa Lucia’, ‘Soleo’, ‘Taiyo’ and ‘Velvet Queen’.

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Is one of our best known gardening writers. A graduate of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Graham was previously Gardening Correspondent of The Observer.
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