by Adam Pasco

Thousands of children up and down the country sow sunflowers in spring, no doubt hoping to grow the tallest and enter the Guinness Book of Records.

SunflowerWhat a tremendous pleasure it is to grow sunflowers from seed. Thousands of children up and down the country sow sunflowers in spring, no doubt hoping to grow the tallest and enter the Guinness Book of Records.

My sunflowers will never do that because I go for the dwarf ones - stocky, short varieties - which are perfect in pots. This one is 'Little Dorrit'; its flowers, with golden rays bursting out from a dark centre, are daintier than the giants. Seed catalogues offer varieties with double flowers and in shades of orange to burnt amber, but to me a sunflower should be brilliant gold.

In the past I've often left the old sunflower heads on the stem to ripen and set seed, providing home-grown bird food. However, many new varieties lack pollen, and are therefore infertile, which means they won't set seed. They're bred to be pollen-free, so you can bring them indoors without pollen dropping all over your window sills. New varieties are introduced each year, like 'Peach Passion', which is not only pollen-free but also multi-stemmed.

I want my pot displays to last for as long as possible, so I snip off faded flower heads just above the leaf nearest the top of the stem. This will (hopefully) encourage side shoots to develop that will (hopefully) produce flowers later in summer. After these glorious flowers have done their work they'll get the chop, then fingers crossed for more in a couple of months. And all from a packet of seeds costing just pence.

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Gardeners' World Web User 12/07/2008 at 22:15

My sunflower got black spots due to weevil, shall i pull it out of the pot shake all the soil off and re-pot it to save it?

Gardeners' World Web User 19/07/2008 at 19:37

The squirrels managed to eat all my sunflower heads last year apart from one which I cut and put in a vase. I discovered they preferred the heads of the larger varieties.

This year I'm growing Little Dorrit and watering them with dilute garlic to keep the slugs/snails off. I hope this works with the squirrels as well.

Gardeners' World Web User 28/07/2008 at 12:46

Can you keep sunflowers indoors, by the window? I turn them everyday. Been growing them for about 1.5 months now. They also seem to go to sleep every night wilting surprisingly a lot, but come morning, they are perky again. No water added. Is this typical behaviour?

Gardeners' World Web User 29/07/2008 at 22:33

Can someone help me I have a Yucca I think its a recurvafolia, it grew to big for pots so about four years ago I put it in the ground its obviously flourished, this year it produced a huge red spike which turned into lovely cream coloured flowers it ended up about 7feet high.

Unfortunately the flowers are now dying off, the problem is when all the flowers have died do I have to cut the spike off or do I leave it to fade naturally I think I could have difficulty cutting it its about 5 inches round. Really need help don't want to kill my plant by doing or not doing the right thing.

Gardeners' World Web User 06/08/2008 at 10:46

My sunflower doesnt have a flower. can you tell me why

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