Sunflowers have a rich history.
They are native to North America but originally found their popularity in Russia. According to the National Sunflower Association, sunflowers were a common crop among American Indians, who used the seeds to make flour and squeezed them for oil. Sunflower oil, high in vitamin E and low in saturated fat, is a healthy addition to diets, according to the American Heart Association.
These flowers are appropriately named, not just for their sunlike appearance but because the heads of sunflowers actually track the sun over the course of a day.
Sunflowers have inspired artistic ventures as well — William Blake’s “Ah, Sunflower!” and Vincent Van Gogh’s Sunflowers series honored the cheerful bloom.
These flowers are fairly easy to grow and maintain, according to Barbara Wolff, assistant manager at Ooltewah Nursery. She offers some helpful hints.
1 Sunflowers can be planted in the ground or in containers. While they can grow to be 10 feet tall, dwarf sunflowers grow to a more manageable 2 feet.
2 Sunflowers can thrive in many soil conditions. Wolff recommends using a hard rake to soften soil before planting the seeds. They need only be topped with an inch or so of soil, she said.
3 Like their name suggests, sunflowers like the sun. Plant them in a well-lighted area.
4 Watering is fairly simple — once a day, lightly, until the seeds germinate, and then less often, just making sure the soil doesn’t dry out. Overwatering, Wolff said, could cause the flowers to rot.
5 Sunflower seeds are easy to harvest: When the back of the head has turned brown, snip it off the stalk and rub the seeds out by hand.
Holly Leber is a reporter and columnist for the Life section. She has worked at the Times Free Press since March 2008. Holly covers “everything but the kitchen sink" when it comes to features: the arts, young adults, classical music, art, fitness, home, gardening and food. She writes the popular and sometimes-controversial column Love and Other Indoor Sports. Holly calls both New York City and Saratoga Springs, NY home. She earned a bachelor of arts ...