Enjoying an incredible sunflower display this summer and wondering whether it will be back again next year? Do sunflowers come back every year or are they annuals? Let’s find out.
Do Sunflowers Come Back Every Year?
The classic sunflower with its huge flower head is an annual plant and will not come back every year. There are some perennial sunflowers but these look quite different.
So, the traditional sunflower does not come back every year, but other types do. If you want the big showy sunflowers with huge flower heads then you will need to grow them from seed every year or alternatively let them self seed.
If your sunflower looks like this with the huge flowering head then it will be annual. There are no perennial sunflowers that I know of that produce this huge flower head.
Most of the perennial sunflowers have a much smaller flower and look more like a daisy. They also tend to be a lot more compact plants in general, although some types do grow large.
So what do these perennial sunflowers that I keep mentioning actually look like? Well, let’s have a look at some of the more popular ones.
Commonly called the Maximilian sunflower this perennial sunflower has bright yellow flowers but with a much smaller centre than a classic sunflower.
They grow tall, up to 2.5m and produce a lot of these smaller flowers. They are a gorgeous plant and great for adding height to the back of borders.
Sunflower x laetiflorus
Another perennial sunflower, again though you can see what I mean about the flowers, although beautiful, they are what you would call a sunflower.
There are obviously a lot more perennial sunflowers than just these two that I have listed above, however, I think this gives you a good idea of what is out there and what perennial sunflowers look like.
What To Do With Sunflower Seeds?
One way to get annual sunflowers to come back again next year is to grow some new plants from the seeds on your spent sunflower.
This is really easy to do, and there are two options you have. You can just leave the sunflower to die and it will naturally disperse its seeds around where it was growing, you will also be providing a great source of food for hungry birds.
The way to do it though if you want to make sure you get some good healthy plants is to take the seeds off the sunflower, store them over winter and then grow new plants next spring.
Wait until the plant begins to yellow and the flowers fade on the head. You can then scrape the seeds off the head by hand or shake them loose.
Shake or place them into a brown paper envelope and store them until next spring. It is a good idea to dry the seeds before storing them if you get the chance, just lay them out in a sunny but sheltered spot like a windowsill for a couple of weeks.
If you end up with a bumper harvest you can also eat the seeds or use them as bird feed.
How To Sow Sunflower Seeds
So you have successfully stored your seeds over winter, now comes the exciting part, growing new sunflowers.
Sow into small pots, sunflowers get big quickly so can soon outgrow seed trays which is why I like to use pots.
You can sow them undercover from April, the earlier you sow the sooner you will get flowers. You can also sow a few plants every couple of weeks to get a successional display all summer long.
Sow a single seed per pot and just push them under the surface and then cover. Just use multi-purpose or potting compost, whatever you have.
The only thing you need to worry about with sunflower seedlings is slugs and snails so keep them in a sheltered spot and up high on a shelf if possible.
Only plant them out into the garden when they have established themselves and can fend off slug attacks. If they outgrow their pots you can pot them on into something larger before finally moving them into their final spot.