Bee lovers are always looking for the best flowering plants to draw in pollinators. One of those that is especially delightful as an annual flower for bees is the sunflower. There are several varieties to choose from and each would make an incredible draw for all UK bees.
The sunflower is like gold for native bees, including honeybees, solitary bees, and bumblebees. Both find the yellow sundial of plants to be like a buffet full of nectar and pollen. Certainly, it is one plant you want every year.
Creating a special place for the bee population to thrive has become important since 97 percent of the bee and butterfly population has been lost in the UK since World War II. Sunflowers could be the salvation of bees in the UK.
Scientists are producing new studies indicating that plants like sunflowers and thyme could be extremely beneficial to UK bumblebee reproduction. Bumblebee populations dropped 17 percent in Europe over the past 20 years.
When Is Sunflower Season?
Sunflowers are late-summer bloomers with some starting to bloom in late July and remaining in bloom through October, depending on the zone you live in.
Those who live further north are going to see earlier blooms about mid-summer and the blooming season will be shorter. Sunflower blooming season only lasts two to three weeks in cooler climates where it can last eight to 10 weeks further south.
How to Grow Sunflowers
Fortunately, sunflowers are easy to grow in almost any area as long as you have good, solid daylight. They will grow in almost any type of dirt even more unfavourable areas that have a lot of clay, silt, or sand.
Sunflowers are a rare plant in that they don’t need fertilizer even if your soil is less than suitable. You still may want to consider some fertilizer if the soil is sandy or has a lot of clay. In that case, use a granular fertilizer that is slow release. That is important because flowers will be inhibited if there is too much nitrogen in the soil.
Larger sunflower varieties need their space so you should plant them two to three feet apart. The smaller variations can be planted six inches apart.
When to Plant Sunflower Seeds
The ideal time to plant sunflower seeds is after the last frost. That may present a problem for those with a short growing season. In that case, start the plants in pots indoors and then transplant them as the sun begins to warm the days.
One idea to get children involved in both planting and interested in creating a good bee habitat is to help them build a children’s grow bucket.
This all-in-one sunflower grows bucket will allow a child to see how the flowers grow and bloom as they care for them. The bucket can be started earlier in the year and moved outside as you head into late spring and summer.
Some sunflowers, particularly perennials, can be planted in either spring or fall. That depends on the amount of sun you get and when frost is expected.
There are plenty of places to buy quality sunflower seeds for your planting. plant
Be aware in the sunflower life cycle, the best pollen and nectar begins is created around 65 days after being planted. You will want your sunflowers out in a garden and growing well for the bees to enjoy by that time.
Most people think of the large yellow bloom plant, known as the Helianthus Tall Single, as the only type of sunflower, but there are several varieties to choose from for your garden.
The Helianthus annuus Garden Statement are smaller lemon-yellow double bloom flowers that make an excellent border. One of the best pollinators is the Helianthus annuus Ms. Mars. It is a single bloom but has a reddish centre with pink petals that fade in colour outwardly providing an interesting garden display.
Combining the combinations for a garden is fine and would make for interesting visuals for your property. It would be easy to mix these flowers with bee hotels for solitary bees to make their home. Setting aside a nearby area for beebombs will create the perfect bee garden.
Solitary bees are somewhat unrecognized because they don’t live in hives but lay eggs in small holes. They also don’t make honey and don’t sting as often because they aren’t defensive as hive bees are.
Yet, solitary bees are incredibly important to pollination. Creating a space with bee hotels among the sunflowers would be perfect for them.
Beebombs are natural balls of bee favourite wildflower seeds that can be scattered in any space. They are highly pollinating plants that are easy to grow and maintain and provide a lot of quality pollen for bees.
Do Sunflowers Need to Be Staked?
The taller varieties with larger blooms will need to be staked as their blooms are so heavy they can cause breakage. Some sunflowers can grow larger than six feet tall and become unstable at that height.
Experts state that growing sunflowers from seed directly in the soil will help them establish deeper roots and provide more stability. Even so, it’s better to stake them.
Staking should start when the plant is about three feet tall. Use soft cloths to tie your growing sunflowers to a stake. Tie it securely, but loosely around the plant so the cloth doesn’t dig into the stalk.
You will need to continue to stake higher up the plant as it grows taller and begins to bloom so the bloom doesn’t cause the stalk to bend too far.
How Much Water Does a Sunflower Need
Sunflowers have some drought tolerance but require heavy watering as they start to bud and bloom. They also need a lot of water for a short time post-bloom.
Do Sunflowers Close at Night?
No, sunflowers don’t close at night. They are highly active night-time plants, which makes them an unusual type of flower. Sunflowers, particularly young plants, have circadian rhythms where they greet the sun in the east in the morning and follow it west until dusk.
After dusk, the plant reorients itself back to the east so it will be ready for the sunrise.
Also, scientists found that sunflowers grow a lot at night. Their cells are highly reproductive in the evening hours. This is especially true of stalk growth.
How Long Do Sunflowers Bloom Before They Die?
A sunflower bloom will last two to three weeks. However, they will keep blooming if you deadhead them. Deadheading is simply cutting off the fading flowers. While this will keep your flowers blooming well for bees, it won’t serve other wildlife since that can happen before full seed development.
The seeds can be harvested or used for other wildlife.
Do Sunflowers Grow Back?
Most sunflower varieties are annuals so they do not come back year after year. However, if you allow their seeds to drop, they will self-germinate and grow in the same spot every year.
There are some perennial sunflowers and you can increase your colour, height, and look by including some perennials.
Perennials make up most of the sunflower varieties in North America but are uncommon in other parts of the world. Sunflowers consist of more than 50 varieties so you can be creative with different selections to create a highly lovely and pollinating garden.
Some perennial varieties include the Ashy Sunflower, which grows great in meadows, the Western Sunflower that is more like a daisy, and the Swamp Sunflower which can grow even in poor soil with a lot of salt.
What to Do With Sunflower Stalks?
Annual sunflower stalks should be cut down after harvesting the seeds. Those with perennials should trim the stalks to the ground in early winter. This is an important step that ensures tall growth next year. Sunflower stalks can be burned or composted to be used in gardens next spring. This not only helps the environment by improving the soil but also reduces trash.
Sunflowers have more colour and variety than most realize and using them as pollinators serves a good environmental purpose. Bees thrive off of them and sunflowers are known to help increase the bee population while providing a low risk of toxicity.
These flowers also produce seeds that both humans and other wildlife can eat. They add a lot of colour to any garden as well as create a distinctive character to a property. Plus, looking that them seems to make people smile. You can buy many varieties online from crocus here.