The typical British summer doesn’t always deliver as many sunny days as we would like – but one sure-fire way to bring some sunshine into your garden, no matter what the weather, is to grow sunflowers.

This easy-to-grow, endlessly cheerful and giant-sized bloom is rated as one of the nation’s best-loved flowers. With those big, yellow heads that stretch up into the sky, they can bring on a smile even in the gloomiest of days.

And the good news is that they are super-easy and quick to grow, producing their giant flowers within about three months of planting the seeds.  For that reason, they are always popular to grow with young chldren taking their first steps into gardening.

Evening Sun
Evening Sun

They can also encourage a bit of friendly competition among family members, neighbours or village show gardeners, all vying for the title of “Tallest Sunflower”.

Depending on the variety, they take an average of 11-18 weeks to flower from seed. With that in mind, it’s a good idea to sow sunflower seed every couple of weeks, so you’ll have a constant supply of cheerful blooms throughout summer.

Mexican Torch
Torch Mexican

While the sunflower is best known for having yellow flowers, there are also some varieties that produce orange, rusty red, green or even white blooms.  They can often reach towering heights of up to 3 metres and their dramatic flowers are long-lasting, making them an excellent choice to use in bouquets and vase arrangements.

Record breakers

Claret Sunflower

If you are aiming for a tallest sunflower crown, then you’ll have to beat the current record, which stands at a whopping 9.17 metres (just over 30 feet).  That monster was grown by German grower Hans-Peter Schiffer in Nordrhein Westfalen, as verified  by the Guinness World Records on 28 August 2014. It seems that Hans-Peter is an expert with tall sunflowers, having held the record twice previously.

Here in the UK, the green-fingered Fortey family from Cwmbran, Wales, hold the record for the world’s heaviest sunflower head. At a hefty 6.44 kg (14.21 lb) that was about equal  in weight to three bricks, two newborn babies, or the most-commonly selected size of bowling ball.

Honey Bear
Honey Bear

The superlative sunflower was a “real surprise” for 44-year-old Kevin Fortey, who grew it with the help of his brother Gareth, son Jamie, and mother Marjorie.

The giant head – which was so large it had to be weighed at the local post office – grew far bigger than any of their other sunflowers in 2022.

Apparently this family of super gardeners also use a variety of supplements to boost the health and growth of their plants from green manures and compost tea to a high-potassium guano (bat excrement) blend.

Mammoth Grey Stripe
Mammoth Grey Stripe

As a rule, the best time to plant sunflowers is between May and June, once you can be sure the last frost has passed. Sunflowers need warm soil to germinate, so ensure the soil temperature is at least 50-60°F (10-15°C) before planting.  Alternatively, start them off in pots indoors.