Tips & Techniques for Growing Sun Flowers
Growing Sun Flowers
Varieties of Sun Flowers
Sun flowers are grown for different reasons.  Some people grow them for their beautiful flowers, to attract birds, to feed wildlife or simply to eat the seeds.  Many ornamental varieties have been developed of various colors.  Sunflowers grown for their flowers tend to be shorter with smaller seed heads than the ones grown for their seed.  Some pretty dwarf varieties include the Teddy Bear, the Bashful and the Elf.  Several colorful varieties in the 4-5 foot range include the Indian Blanket, the Baby Bear, the Florenza and the Ring of Fire.  Sun flowers in a slightly taller range, measuring 6-8 feet, include Soraya, Velvet Queen and Cappuccino.  Giant ones can grow as high as 12-14 feet with very large seed heads.  They include Mammoth, American Giants, and Kong. 
Preparing the Soil
Sun Flowers can be grown in about any type of soil.  You may want to raise just a few plants.  If so, you can plant a hill or two anywhere in a row or at the end of several rows.  If more is desired, planting them in rows should work.  Prepare the soil for planting by tilling and marking off rows.  If you plant the large variety, you may need to make the middle on each side of the row a little wider than for other garden plants.   In that way, you will be able to till a couple of times before the plants get too big.  Sun flowers grow fast and can have large leaves.  Sun flowers are compatible with most garden plants.  However, they require a lot of sun.  Select a location for them where the plants will get full sun and will not shade other garden plants that also require a lot of sunshine.
Planting Sun Flowers
Sun flowers can be planted early in hills about 3 feet apart for the large variety and less for the smaller ones.  Simply dig holes and place several seeds in each of them.  Cover the seed with about an inch of dirt.  For extra early sun flowers, you can start them from seed in containers and transplant them after the last frost.  This is not really necessary since they do well from seed planted directly in the ground and grow fast.  Once the plants push through the ground, you will need to pull up all but one healthy plant in each hill. 
Weeding & Plant Maintenance
Sun flowers are easy to maintain.  You simply till the middles and hoe out the weeds in the rows about 2 or 3 times.  The hoeing is easy since the plants are far apart.  Tilling and hoeing should work until the plants get large.  After they are too large to till, you will have to resort to hoeing and pulling weeds.  There should be no other care necessary unless you encounter problems with pests. 
Controlling Diseases and Insects
Not all insects and wildlife that visit sun flowers are harmful.  The blossoms attract bees, butterflies and hummingbirds looking for nectar.  Once seed heads form, birds and squirrels may start eating them.  If you raised the sun flowers for them, then there is no problem.  However, if you want to harvest the seed yourself, you may want to either pick the heads or protect them.  Placing a mesh bags over each head can serve as a bearer against birds.  For specific details on controlling diseases and pests, click on the "Gardening Resources" tab and go to the Sources of Information on Vegetable Garden Diseases and Pests.
Once the seed appear to be mature, the heads changes color and most of the petals have fallen off, it is time to harvest the seed heads.  If you wait too long, seeds may start disappearing.  Birds like finches and sparrows love sun flower seed and will help themselves to them. Remove the heads by cutting them off the plant and place them in a protected area to dry. They make a good food source during the winter for your backyard wildlife, such as squirrels, cardinals and other birds. Of course, you can roost them and eat them yourself as a nutritious snack.