Sunflower varieties to grow in Australia
Before you begin planting sunflower seeds, however, it’s important to choose the right variety for your needs. In Australia, the most common sunflower is the annual variety known as the ‘Russian Giant’ sunflower (Helianthus annuus). Given the right conditions, these flowers can grow up to 4 metres in height!
Smaller varieties that grow up to 2 metres in height, such as Eden Seeds Select Organic Sunflower Sunbird are a great option for gardeners with a small to medium-sized yard.
There are so many sunflower varieties to choose from. There are dwarf varieties such as Sunflower Dwarf Sensation (perfect for growing in pots), perennial varieties that flower year after year (Helianthus angustifolious, for example), pollen-free varieties developed by Copsley Ornamentals that won’t trigger your hayfever and varieties with fluffy blooms that closely resemble chrysanthemums (and are known as Sunflower ‘Teddy Bear’).
If you’re still unsure about the right variety for your garden, speak to a horticulturist at your local nursery.
Ideal growing conditions
As the name suggests, sunflowers love the sun. They love it so much that their blooms are famous for turning to follow the sun wherever it happens to be in the sky. Eight hours of full sun is ideal for most varieties. In addition to a full-sun position, sunflowers require moist, well-draining soil.
Sunflowers tend to be tolerant of light frosts but they will not survive in regions that regularly experience freezing temperatures. Sunflowers are best sown in spring or early summer, but can be grown at any time of the year if you live in a frost-free zone.
When do sunflowers flower in Australia?
Sunflowers usually flower in Australia during summer and autumn, from January to March.
Growing sunflowers from seed
- In a garden bed with well-draining soil, sow sunflower seeds 2cm deep and about 60cm apart.
- Gently cover seeds with soil and water in well.
- If you live in a hot climate, consider placing a light layer of lucerne mulch over the seedlings to help keep the soil moist and protect seeds from hungry birds.
- Sunflowers should begin to bloom within 6-10 days.
As sunflowers mature, their heads dry out and fill with seeds. Simply cut off the head and allow to dry out.
Once dry, use your fingers or a fork to pull out sunflower seeds. Then you can either plant them and continue your crop or bake them and toss them on top of your salads.
Growing sunflowers in pots
Dwarf sunflowers grow well in pots and containers. The amount of seeds you should sow in a single pot will depend on whether you can maintain a distance of 10-15cm between each seed.
- Select a pot with adequate drainage holes and fill with good quality potting mix.
- Plant sunflower seeds 2cm deep.
- Gently cover the seeds with soil and water well.
- Place pot in a full-sun position and wait for golden blooms to arrive.
Best sunflower varieties to grow in pots
Look for sunflower varieties with ‘Dwarf’, ‘Mini’ or ‘Compact’ on the label. Common dwarf varieties include: Dwarf Sensation, Sunflower Supernova and Lemon Bling.
Growing sunflowers indoors
If you’d like to grow sunflowers indoors, you’ll need to ensure it is placed in a position that receives plenty of direct sunlight. Indoor sunflowers will require about eight hours of unfiltered sunlight each day and regular watering.
Solutions to common sunflower problems
Staking - Sunflowers grow tall, so you may need to protect them from high winds and rain by staking them to a bamboo post.
Pests - Baby sunflower leaves and seedlings are a crowd-favourite for snails and slugs so spread some pellets or mulch early on to protect them.
Birds - As sunflowers mature, the heads start to dry out and will attract birds. Cover the flowers with netting sooner rather than later.