Dwarf Sunflowers: All you Need to Know

Dwarf Sunflowers (Helianthus annuus) are small sized sunflower plants. You can grow them in your home garden. These vibrant colored plants are easy to grow and add beauty to your home landscape. You can grow them either in your flowerbeds or in pots. They need less maintenance and grow to the height of one to two feet.

The dwarf sunflower plant has bright yellow flowers which are four to six inches wide. You will at times find butterflies on them. These plants grow in the US through agricultural hardiness zones 2 through 11. This makes them a popular choice for people all across the country. Dwarf sunflowers need readily available gardening resources to grow.

You may want to grow dwarf sunflowers for your home. It is an easy process. These plants last for a period of seven to ten years. There are a few things to keep in mind while you start growing dwarf sunflowers at your home. We bring to you an all-you-need-to-know guide on dwarf sunflowers. This guide will help first timers and experienced sunflower cultivars grow dwarf sunflowers.

Dwarf Sunflowers

Dwarf sunflowers are a popular choice for gardening enthusiasts. They are available in Helianthus annuus ‘Elf’ and Helianthus annuus ‘Little Becka’ varieties. The elf variety has four inch yellow colored flowers. The Becka variety has six inch red & yellow bicolored flowers. Dwarf sunflowers bloom during the summer season and carry on flowering till autumn.

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The sunflower plant is a native of the North Americas. People cultivate sunflowers for their edible fruits and oil. The sunflower seeds are a common bird feed. The sunflower plant has an erect, hairy stem. The sunflower leaves are broad, rough and mainly alternate. The sunflower ‘flower’ is the flower head of several five petaled, individual flowers. It is also called a pseudanthium. Regular sunflower seed has up to 1200 seeds.

Our ancestors have used the sunflowers in sun-worship and as an aphrodisiac. They have also been a source of yellow dye. The plant is a common cattle feed. Sunflower seeds are useful in both in growing new plants and as a snack. It is rich in oils.

Sunflower has several uses in our daily life. The sunflower oil extracted from sunflower seeds is a popular cooking medium. It can also be useful for making butter. Sunflower oil is also used to make biodiesel and margarine. The husk after extracting sunflower oil is useful as cattle feed.

Sunflowers are instrumental in extracting harmful elements from the soil. People used sunflowers after the Chernobyl disaster and Fukushima Daiichi disasters. This was to reduce radionuclides in soil from the surrounding areas.

Apart from the rumors, dwarf sunflowers are safe for pets. Cats, dogs and other pets are not harmed upon consuming sunflower plant parts. In fact, the dwarf sunflower plant is perfect for human consumption. The seed sprouts and eaten for zinc, Vitamin B and C. People use the roots of dwarf sunflowers to make tea. The young stalk and leaves are popular in salads.

Advantages of growing dwarf sunflowers:

You may like to know why you should choose dwarf sunflowers over the other varieties. There are several advantages of growing dwarf sunflowers in your homes. The main ones are:

They are easier to manage

The dwarf sunflower grows to a height of two to three feet at the most. This makes it easier for most home gardeners to manage them on their own. Taller sunflowers will need staking and pro care.

Sturdy and disease resistant

Dwarf sunflowers are sturdy and disease resistant. This translates to the fact you need to invest less time caring for them.

Need lesser resources

Dwarf sunflowers need lesser nutrients and water them. This makes it inexpensive and less laborious on your part to manage them.

For indoor use

Due to their shorter height, people grow dwarf sunflowers in pots for indoor use. If you look after them, they are as bright and colorful as the other variants.

Grown over almost anywhere

As per the US Deptt. of Agriculture, dwarf sunflowers can grow from hardiness zones 2 through 11. So you can grow it almost anywhere.

How to grow dwarf sunflowers:

Growing dwarf sunflowers is easy. Anyone can grow dwarf sunflowers in their garden. You can also grow them in small pots. We list below the steps towards growing dwarf sunflowers at your place.

Where to grow

You can grow dwarf sunflowers outdoors or indoors. Choose a place where the plant will get bright sunlight. Even though dwarf sunflowers grow to a height of one to two feet, it is best to place them away from strong winds.

When to grow

It is best to start during the spring season. Sunflowers grow best during the summers. You can either grow dwarf sunflowers from seeds or get a small plant from your local nursery. Ensure that your stock is free from any type of disease. You can even get seeds from your neighbors. This way you can ensure healthy seeds.

Type of soil

Sunflowers need fertile, light soil. Avoid clayey soil as they keep water. Add compost to the soil to enrich it. If you are planning to pot the sunflowers, you can also use premixed soil. It is available at your local nursery. Choose the one suitable for growing sunflowers.

Sunlight and humidity

Sunflowers need at least six hours of sun per day. Sunflowers can live in low water conditions and are usually drought tolerant. Potted sunflowers need more watering. Water sunflower plants in flowerbeds once a week. If you find that the leaves of the sunflower plant are drooping, it is a sign that you have overwatered them.

How to plant your sunflower plant

You can follow these points to grow your first sunflower.

1. Select the right spot

Select the right spot in your garden to plant your sunflower. Or choose a pot with a 12 to 16 inch diameter. Make sure that it has a drainage hole in the bottom.

2. Prepare the soil

Use topsoil and add organic manure to it. The soil pH should be between 5.5 and 7.5. Add sand or gravel if your soil is clayey. Keep the soil for a week or so.

3. Plant the sunflower seeds in the soil

Push the sunflower seeds in the soil. Plant them one inch deep and four inches apart. Ensure that each seed or sapling has a free radius of four inches. Cover outdoor seed planting with a net or a basket. This is to keep away the birds.

4. Water the seeds daily

Water the seeds on a daily basis. Make sure that the soil remains moist and well drained. This is important during the seed germination period. If you underwater the seeds, the plant will have thin stems later on. The seeds germinate within 10 days. Continue to water them daily.

Caring for your sunflower plants:

Once you have started your dwarf sunflower plants, you will need to take minimal care for them to grow. By following the guidelines as below, you can ensure a long life for your dwarf sunflowers:

Fertilizing

Adding fertilizers improve the plant colors. If your sunflower is bright and vibrant you don’t need to fertilize it. Otherwise start with a high nitrogen supplement. Then switch over to a high phosphorous supplement when buds start blooming. You can use liquid fertilizers mixed in water for easy application.

Sunlight

Dwarf sunflowers need six to eight hours of direct sunlight a day. So choose the planting area accordingly. For potted plants, shift them to the terrace or in any other open space. This is true for the winter seasons. Since dwarf sunflowers have heliotropic heads, they will otherwise turn to direct sunlight. This can at times, damage the stems.

Watering

Water the sunflowers two to three times a week during the dry spell. During winters, as per your location, you can reduce the watering frequency to once a week. Since sunflower roots like well-drained soil, you can use raised beds. This ensures correct soil moisture. Use a water spray bottle to freshen up your potted sunflower several times a day.

Staking

Sunflowers may not be able to stand tall once they reach their best height. So use any wooden or metal stick to support the plant. For potted plants, do not anchor the stake in the pot. Try to tie the top of the plant to any nearby wall, pipe and any other anchoring support.

Disease

Sunflowers are disease resistant plants. You may yet need to watch out for stem rot or white mold. It is a fungal disease that causes wilting of leaves and stems. In extreme cases, it can cause root rot and head rot. Other common diseases include rust and powdery mildew. Avoid excess water and keep the surroundings clean.

Pests

Sunflower beetles attack the flowers for their young leaves. Cutworms leave notches and holes in the leaves. Sunflower borers enter the plant stem to feed. Sunflower moths lay eggs within the flower. Once the eggs hatch into larvae, it feeds on the flower destroying the whole plant. You can use symptom specific organic insecticides to treat your dwarf sunflowers. Or broad spectrum insecticides for the same.

Birds

Birds like sunflower seeds. Cover your sunflower bed with a net to avoid the birds from destroying your plants. You can even try using a scarecrow to keep them away.

Pruning

Dwarf sunflowers do not need pruning. Since they reach to a height of two to three feet, pruning will not help them grow any taller. You can do away with the dead, decaying or pest infested leaves. Cutaway and dead flowers as well.

Saving sunflower seeds for the next set of plants

Once you have a healthy bed of sunflowers in your garden, you may like to have more plants in the future. Or it is possible that you like to give away the seeds to your friends and family. You can use the seeds from your present dwarf sunflowers for this purpose.

Let the flower die on the stem. The seeds will dry and ripen on the flower itself. As and when the back of the flower head turns brown, the seeds are ready. You can collect the dead flower by cutting it from the stem and placing it in a container. Dust the flower for the seeds to fall off in it. Collect the dry seeds and put them in a clean plastic bag.

If you need to store the sunflower seeds, put the packet in your refrigerator. If you are waiting for the flowers of the outdoor sunflowers to dry, cover them with a bag. This will keep the birds at bay. Sunflower seeds are edible. As a rule of thumb, black or grey seeds with a white stripe are usually edible. If you have plenty of seeds, you can even look for some delicious recipes on the internet. The seeds are full of energy and nutrients for both young and the old.

Conclusion

Dwarf sunflowers are a popular home garden option. They are easy to grow, need less time and care. Once they start blooming, they add beauty to your garden. The bright yellow flower with green leaves is a treat to the eyes. You can plant them in pots for the interior or plant them in your flower beds.

Dwarf sunflowers are low maintenance, sturdy plants. They can grow over a wide range of places. They need sunlight, fertile soil and moderate amounts of moisture to thrive. You can plant them once and enjoy their beauty for a long period of time. So roll up those sleeves and get going. All the best!

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