You are my Sunshine - Helianthus spp.


"Keep your face to the sunshine and you cannot see the shadow. It's what sunflowers do." - Helen Keller

Isn't Sunflower a fascinating and amazing work of nature? It is not only its heliotropism (tendency to face toward the sun) phenomenon that makes Sunflower such an amazing plant, but it is also the multiple purpose and usage we can develop from it. From the sight of Sunflower brightening your day up especially when it is in full bloom with all its colourful glory to as a consumer using sunflower in our oil, snacks and even for our pets in the form of birdseeds. Sunflowers truly deserve to be known as the "happy" flowers making them the perfect gift to bring joy to someone.

(Bloom small Himawari - Sunflower)

This month of October is a great time for us to celebrate this wonderful plant as Gardens By the Bay is running a "Sunflower Surprise" floral display till 21st Oct 2018 daily. It is located in the Flower Dome as you head into the conservatory (admission charge applies). There will be more than 10,000 sunflowers waiting for you with characters adapted from The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.

Image from Gardens By the Bay)

 

Ever-though of growing Sunflowers but never get around it for various reasons? Today, let's us explore how can we keep Sunflower, especially in our urban city lifestyle.

Grow from seeds or plants?

You can do both really. What really matters is what can you get near you. Does your florist or nursery stock Sunflower plant regularly. Since Sunflowers are annuals plant, they bloom once with a flower head and die off. Thus, many nurseries are reluctant to stock them up unless there is a major festival around the corner.
Sunflower seeds are however the opposite. It is commonly available and even sold as healthy snacks. Do take note that some snacks are actually packed with  Jerusalem Artichoke aka Helianthus Tuberosus which do not have a full flower head with petals. In recent years, with the popularity of superfood and microgreens, many people started growing sunflower microgreens as a part of their healthy diet. 

(Smile & Smile - Sunflower)

Growing Sunflowers

Sowing the seeds for Sunflower can be done indoor and they should sprout in a week or two. Just remember to keep the soil moist to promote the germination process. For microgreens, you will want to harvest it in approximately 2 - 3 weeks. Depends on your preference, some will harvest when the sprout is ard 4" while others will wait for the "true leave" to appear.
 
If you are planning to grow the flower, be prepared to allow the plant to grow to maturity in 80 to 120 days. Sunflowers do need a lot of sunlight thus if you are planning to keep them indoor throughout their lifecycle, do prepare to compliment with artificial lightings.
Sunflower is surprisingly easy with fertilizer. Many can grow without any but it is always a good practice to add some especially if there is little or low-quality soil or simply if you like large flowers.

(Mini Sunflower Cultivation Set)

Harvesting your Sunflower Seeds

When the underside of the flower starts turning yellowish to brown, you will notice smaller petals within the head start developing seeds. A small trivial, Sunflower's head is actually made of many smaller flowers. The yellow petals that gave them the sun look are known as ray florets which do not reproduce (no seeds). Only the small disc florets in the middle will develop seeds.

(Smile Sunflower Container)

 
Once you cut off the flower head, do store it in a low humidity area to prevent moulds and allow them to cure for a couple of weeks. When the seeds are dried, remove them from the head by brushing it with your fingers, most seeds should fall off easily. Collect the seeds and store them in an airtight container best kept in your refrigerator till you are ready to either consume them or regrow a new plant. This will give you an endless supply of sunflower plant!
(Plant Can - Sunflower)
Wait no more and start growing! 

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