Growing sunshine: A guide to growing sunflowers (and what to do if you don’t have time!)

Sunflowers are a sure bet to brighten your day and your garden! They are surprisingly easy to grow and now is the time to get your seeds in. Below is our guide to growing sunflowers in the garden, but if you’re short on space, no problem. Sunflowers will even grow indoors in a pot, just put them near a north facing window.

Sunflowers grow well in Australia, but the world’s tallest was grown in Germany, measuring 9.17m!

How to grow sunflowers

  • Choose the right location: Sunflowers love full sun, so select a spot that receives at least 6-8 hours of direct sunlight each day.
  • Choose the right varieties: There are various sunflower varieties to choose from, including giant varieties that can reach higher than 3 metres with flowers up to 50cm wide or smaller, more manageable ones. Pick a variety that suits your space and preferences.
  • Prepare the soil: Sunflowers prefer well-draining soil. Give your sunflowers the best chance by adding compost or well-rotted manure to the soil before planting.
  • Planting: Sow sunflower seeds directly into the ground once there’s no chance of frosts, typically in late spring. Plant seeds about 2cm deep and 60cm apart, but we recommend checking the packet as depends which variety you go with.
  • Watering: Keep the soil, especially during the early growth stages. Once established, sunflowers are relatively drought-tolerant but appreciate regular deep watering.
  • Support tall varieties: For giant sunflowers, provide support with stakes or a trellis to prevent them from toppling over.
  • Fertilise sparingly: Sunflowers are pretty tough and don’t require much fertilisation. A slow-release fertiliser during planting should be enough.
  • Enjoy the show: Be prepared for a burst of colour when they bloom, which should last up to 10 weeks.
  • Harvest seeds: When the flower heads droop and the back of the head turns yellow, it’s time to harvest seeds. Remove the heads and let them dry for a few weeks before extracting the seeds.
Jenny and Russell Jenner from Kalbar Sunflowers. In 2021 when the drought was hurting, they planted sunflowers, which require little water, and the Kalbar Sunflower Festival was born (see main image from this year). The 2024 festival will be dedicated to Russell who has since passed away from cancer. It will also raise funds for cancer care.

Visit a farm to pick your own sunflowers

We know not everyone has a green thumb and that doesn’t mean you should miss out. More and more farms are opening to the public for a pick-your-own sunflower experience. A great way to not only walk among thousands of sunflowers, but also meet the farmers who grow them.

Location and the weather does have a hand in when they bloom, but keep an eye out from December to March for farms that open their gates to offer pick-your-own (noting some farms have blooms beyond these months). Many of these are ticketed, so make sure you check first.

Most of these farms are just an hour or two from capital cities, making it a great day out. Remember to only enter farms that allow it. If you come across a sunflower crop not connected to a pick-your-own, please take your photos from a distance and don’t enter the paddock.

Zoe, Maddison and Elsie Ryan at The Barns Freeling where the inaugural “pick a sunflower” venture in 2022 raised more than $14,000 for charity in two weeks. 

Here’s a list of some pick-your-own farms, but please comment with any others you know about!

Pick Your Own Dunnstown – Vic

The Farmgate Shop – Vic

Glenbernie Family Farms – NSW

Majura Valley Farmgate – ACT

Shimmering Pines Farm – SA

The Barns Freeling – SA

Kalbar Sunflower Festival – Qld

The Sunflower Route – Qld

Mount Gnomon Farm – Tas

Stacey Davidson

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