How to Grow the Biggest Sunflowers in Pots

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Does any plant say summer more than a Sunflower? I don’t think so!! Sunflowers are easy to grow and a fun activity that you can do with your kiddos. I am often asked “Can you grow Sunflowers in pots?”

Sunflowers CAN grow in pots or containers. You will need to make sure that you are providing them with a container that is the right size for the variety that you are growing. The easiest way to do this is by reading the back of the seed packet.

Dwarf varieties are a good choice when planting sunflowers in pots or containers. You can grow other varieties of sunflowers in pots but will need to make sure that the pot or container is big enough. A good option for this is to grow your sunflowers in grow bags that come in many different sizes.

Now that you know that sunflowers can grow in pots there is nothing stopping you from growing them. Let’s take a look at how to plant them in pots, some show-stopping varieties, and how to grow the biggest sunflowers.

Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase. 

How to Plant Sunflowers in Pots?

Sunflowers do best in soil with the same pH range as what’s preferred for growing most vegetables, between 6.0 and 7.5, though they’ll cope if the pH is as low as 5.5.

Before sowing, fill the pot up to two-thirds of its height, re-moisten the growing medium and compost mix, and let any excess water drain out of the holes.

Then, carefully place the seeds at an appropriate distance – four inches apart for dwarf varieties, or one seed per 12-inch diameter five-gallon pot for mid-size single-stem types.

If you like, plant two seeds in each space and then thin to the strongest seedling when they reach three or four inches tall.

Cover the seeds with about half an inch to an inch of the same growing medium, following the instructions on your seed packet. Tamp the soil lightly with your clean or gloved fingers, and water the seeds in.

They will germinate within one to two weeks, and you should keep the soil moist but not waterlogged that entire time. If they receive too much water, the seeds will rot.

If you are starting your sunflower seed outdoors, you may want to place a row cover over them once all the seeds in the container have germinated, to discourage birds and squirrels from snacking.

how to grow sunflowers

While the plants are still small, also make sure to check if they’re receiving enough sun, and adjust their location if they’re not.

If you plant a sunflower variety that will grow over four feet tall, it will need support early on.

Bamboo stakes are one good option, we like to use these four-foot bamboo stakes that you can find on amazon.

Beyond staking, you will want to ensure that your sunflower is getting enough sun and the soil doesn’t get too dry.

Ideally, the rain will provide some water, but you’ll quite likely have to supplement. Water deeply but infrequently, giving the soil a chance to dry out to at least an inch down in between watering.

Water the seedlings about four inches away from the main stem, starting when they sprout. This will help prevent disease.

Take particular care that your seedling receives a watering about 20 days before flowering so the roots will grow strong, able to help the plants support their blooms. You can find out this information by reading the seed packet.

sunflowers in containers

Show Stopping Sunflower Varieties

The sunflowers that are somewhere between 12 inches and three feet tall, are ideal for pots/containers. They don’t usually need any support, and you can grow one plant in a six-inch pot, or three in a gallon-size container.

Here are some of my favorite varieties to grow in pots: Sunny Smile, Sungold Dwarf, Teddy Bear, and

How to Take Care of Potted Sunflowers

Learning how to grow sunflowers isn’t difficult – they almost grow themselves. And once sunflowers begin to grow, they grow quickly. Sunflower care only requires a few basic growing tips.

Although sunflowers require a lot of water to germinate, they only require an inch of water per week during the growing season. Use a watering nozzle to easily water once a week until the top 6 inches of soil is moist.

If you prepared your soil with compost and/or manure, you shouldn’t need extra fertilization during the growing season. If you feel your plants require better nutrition, you can work a balanced, slow-acting granular fertilizer into the soil surrounding your sunflowers. Sunflower fertilizers are available in a few garden centers, but a basic fertilizer is really all you need. We love Plant Tone by Epsoma.

Control Weeds
One of the greatest sunflower challenges is weed control. Weeds compete with sunflowers for moisture and nutrition. Unless you want to till, hoe or pull weeds by hand, you’ll want to put down a generous layer of mulch to fight weeds. Add up to a 4-inch layer of organic mulch to your sunflower garden. Leave an area of bare soil around each sunflower stalk to help deter pests and disease.

Manage Pests and Disease
Although many pests love sunflower plants, the damage is usually minimal. In most cases, insecticides are not necessary unless damage is severe. Most sunflowers rely heavily on insect pollinators, so care should be taken to limit any use of insecticides during pollination. Some pests you may encounter are sunflower moths, cutworms, weevils, caterpillars, grasshoppers, wireworms and the sunflower maggot.

Disease is a big risk, but it mostly affects farm crops. New varieties of sunflowers have resistance to many diseases. Once disease occurs, the only option is to remove and destroy the affected plants. Verticillium wilt, sclerotinia rot, rust and downy mildew may occur. Your best prevention is proper plant spacing in well-draining soil.

When growing seeds for harvest, birds can become an issue. Scarecrows, owl decoys and shiny metal pie plates can help deter birds. You can also plant certain oil-rich cultivars, such as Black Peredovik, to keep birds away from your seed sunflowers.

how to grow sunflowers

Do Potted Sunflowers Come Back

While most varieties of this bright beauty are annual sunflowers, meaning they will not come back the following growing season, they may self-germinate from dropped seeds if you leave the heads on the plants throughout the winter. The perennial Maximillian sunflower features small blooms in late summer and early fall. It can be grown as a perennial up to hardiness Zone 3.

Sunflowers are a garden staple in our garden and we love to use them in our cut flower arrangement to learn more about growing sunflowers for cut flowers be sure to check out Everything Sunflower.

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