Yard & Garden News

Sunflowers for Midwestern Gardens

Tuesday, May 19th, 2020

Bagatelle SunflowersSunflowers are traditional in the typical Midwestern garden, but modern hybrids have greatly expanded the palette of choices. Whether you want short, medium or tall; yellow, burgundy, bronze or brown; seed for the birds; or just pretty to look at, there’s a sunflower for you.

Gardeners will find two different types of sunflowers available from garden centers and online catalogs: Those grown for their edible seeds, and those grown primarily as ornamentals. Traditional sunflowers are generally quite tall (over 5 feet) with bright yellow blooms. Modern cultivars now offer a range of orange, gold, lemon-yellow, bronze, amber, mahogany-red and even white.

Another new development is more highly branched plants that may carry numerous smaller flower heads, rather than one large head. Some cultivars have been bred to fill the center with additional rows of ray-type flowers, giving a fuller, double-flowered appearance. And for smaller gardens and containers, you’ll find sunflowers ranging in height from dwarf types (1-2 feet). Many of the newer garden types are intermediate height (3-5 feet).

Sunflowers are also popular as a cut-flower crop, and breeders have responded by creating new hybrids that bloom without producing pollen. These new floral cultivars solve the problem of pollen stains on fabrics and also extend the vase life of the cut flower.

Sunflowers are easy to grow in just about any type of garden soil and climate. Choose a sunny location for best flowering. Sunflowers are generally considered to be a warm-season crop plant.

To harvest sunflower seeds for eating or for feeding the birds, cut the head when at least two-thirds of the seeds are mature; the outer shell of the seed will be hardened, and the back of the head will be brown and dry. You may need to protect your harvest from the birds by covering the maturing head with cheesecloth, netting or a paper bag. Cut the head from the plant, leaving 1-2 feet of stem attached. Hang the heads in a paper or cloth bag to catch the falling seeds, and place in a warm, well-ventilated area for a few weeks to cure.

Selected cultivars of sunflower:

Dwarf

Bert
Big Smile
Firecracker
Little Becka
Smiley
SunBuzz
Sunny Bunch
Sunny Smile
Teddy Bear

Intermediate to Tall

American Beauty
Buttercream
Chocolate
Jade
Lemonade
Moulin Rouge
ProCut series
Ring of Fire
Sonja
Soraya
Starburst
Sunbright
Sunrich
Zohar

Giant

American Giant
Kong
Mammoth
Pike’s Peak
Treasure Mountain

Pollen Free (for cut flowers)

Bert
Buttercream
Copper Queen
Dafna
Gold Rush
Helios Flame
Moulin Rouge
ProCut
Strawberry Blonde
Sunbright
Sunrich
Zohar

Yard & Garden Calendar for June

HOME (Houseplants and indoor activities)

Indoor plants will require more frequent watering and fertilizing as they increase their summer growth.

You can move houseplants outdoors to a shady location, but pay close attention to their watering needs.

Cut garden flowers for indoor beauty. Recut the stems again just before placing in water. Add a floral preservative, and change the solution frequently.

Root cuttings of houseplants and garden plants to increase your collection or share with a friend.

YARD (Lawns, woody ornamentals, and fruits)

Prune spring-flowering shrubs after blooms fade.

Apply fungicide to prevent and control black spot on roses.

Water newly planted trees and shrubs. Water deeply every seven to 10 days when rain is lacking.

Remove faded flowers and seed pods on lilac and other spring-flowering shrubs.

Many fruit trees experienced freeze damage to flower buds, but a few trees may still have some fruit set. In a normal year if there is a heavy crop, don’t be alarmed by a June drop of some fruit. It is a natural thinning process for most trees to prevent excessive loads, although there might not be as much to thin this year. If your trees did manage to set a heavy crop, thin the remaining fruit or prop up heavy branches to avoid breakage. Most fruit should be spaced 6 to 8 inches apart on a branch.

Mow grass regularly but mow high. Unless excessive, leave lawn clippings on the lawn.

To keep the lawn green and growing, water as needed to supply a total of 1 to 1.5 inches of water per week. If left unwatered, lawns will turn brown and become dormant during extended hot, dry spells, but will green up again when conditions are more favorable.

GARDEN (Vegetables, small fruits, and flowers)

Discontinue harvesting asparagus and rhubarb around mid-June to allow foliage to develop and store carbohydrate reserves for next year’s harvest. Fertilize after last harvest and water as needed to promote healthy growth.

Mulch to control weeds and conserve soil moisture after soil has warmed. You can use many materials, including straw, chopped corncobs, bark chips, shredded paper, and grass clippings.

Blanch (exclude light from) cauliflower when heads are just 2 inches in diameter. Tie leaves up and over the developing head.

Control weeds. They’re easier to pull when they are still young.

Start seeds of cabbage, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, and cauliflower for fall garden transplants.

Plan now for your Halloween pumpkin. Determine the days to harvest for the particular cultivar you want to plant (usually on the seed packet) and count backward to determine the proper planting date.

Harvest spring plantings of broccoli, cabbage, and peas.

Remove cool-season plants, such as radish, spinach, and lettuce, because they will bolt (that is, form seed stalks) and become bitter during hot summer weather.

Continue planting carrots, beans, and sweet corn for successive harvests.

For staked tomatoes, remove suckers (branches that form where the leaf joins the stem) while they are 1 to 1.5 inches long to allow easier training. No need to remove suckers on caged plants.

Remove the spent blooms of peony, iris, delphiniums after they fade.

Pinch the shoot tips of chrysanthemums, impatiens, petunias, and coleus to promote bushier growth.

Remove the tops of spring-flowering bulbs only after they have yellowed and withered.

Continue planting gladiolus for a succession of bloom.

Pick strawberries from the garden or a U-pick operation (check with the farm for COVID-19 U-pick protocols.)

Protect ripening strawberries from birds by covering with netting.

Supplement natural rainfall (as needed) to supply a total of 1 to 1.5 inches of water per week to the garden.

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Author: B. Rosie Lerner, rosie@purdue.edu
Editor: Charles Wineland, cwinelan@purdue.edu
Category: Extension, Horticulture & Landscape Architecture
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