Growing sunflowers is a staple of the children’s garden. There is a certain type of magic with growing a sunflower. How something from such a small seed can end up as a plant that can be up to 3 metres tall!

Growing Sunflowers – The Basics

Growing Flowers

What you will need:

  • Pots
  • Multipurpose compost
  • Sunflower seeds – some varieties for you at the bottom of the page
  • Watering can
  • Something to label your pots with

When should you grow sunflowers?

Sunflowers are best grown in spring. You can sow them any time from March.

Can you grow sunflowers in pots?

Sunflower Growing Stages

Most definitely. This is the best way to get them started and means that you can plant them out when the last frost has passed.

This really is a great activity to do with the children for a number of reasons.

  1. The seeds are a good size and great for smaller children to handle.
  2. Sunflowers have a great germination rate and grow relatively quickly.
  3. There are many different varieties of sunflower that you can plant into the garden with some that reach to over 3 metres high. And others that create multiple flowers that can be used in the house for decorations.
  4. If you grow a number of them, the seeds can be used as bird feed through the winter months.

We’ve put together a small visual step by step guide beneath so that you are able to get your sunflowers growing this year.

Step by Step guide to grow sunflowers in pots

1Set up the pots that you are going to be planting in

Pots for sunflowers

Set up the pots that you are going to be growing your sunflowers in. Ideally, you will want to start them off in 7.5cm pots. If you are reusing ones from the previous year, make sure they are nice and clean.

2Fill up the plants with some compost

Add compost to pots

Put some multipurpose compost into the pots. You will want to make sure that you leave enough room at the top of the pot (1cm) for additional compost later on. Just below the lip will be fine.

3Insert the seeds into the compost

Put seed in pot

Insert a sunflower seed into the soil. Pointy edge down. Give it a gentle push with your finger so that it goes beneath the soil. Add a sprinkle of compost on the top.

4Water the pots

Water Sunflowers

Finally, give your sunflowers a good watering before putting them back in the tray.

5Place the pots on a windowsill and watch them grow

Sunflowers Growing

With the pots on a nice warm windowsill, it won’t be long before you see the seedlings coming through.

Once the risk of frost has passed outside, you simply need to plant them where they are going to flower. Then it is time to watch the magic!

Growing sunflowers in the ground

Growing sunflowers in the ground is equally as easy as in pots. Some gardeners favour this way over growing them in pots but then you lose out on growing them indoors with the children whilst the weather is still cooler outside.

You will want to sow your sunflower seeds when the soil has warmed up and the risk of frost has passed. This is going to be around mid April to May – although there can be late frosts even then.

Sow the seeds around 2cm deep into the soil leaving approximately 15cm in between each plant. You can sow more seeds than that but you will need to thin them when the plants are around 15cm high. This will ensure that they have enough space to grow.

Keep the seedlings well watered until they are established and provide support for the plants. You may want to consider netting when sowing directly into the ground as birds or squirrels may take the seeds as a tasty snack!

Growing and caring for Sunflowers

Sunflower growing with supports

Where do sunflowers like to grow?

Sunflowers like to grow in a position that gets full sun. They are not too fussy on the soil type either. One thing that you should be careful of is that the soil is not waterlogged. However, with sunflowers being a plant that grows in the summer, this is not that likely.

Sunflowers, when established, can tolerate short periods of drought. However, to maintain good healthy plants, you are going to want to keep them watered.

How often should I water my sunflowers? 

Sunflowers, will require regular watering if the weather is dry. Generally, for established plants a deep watering once a week will suffice. If you are experiencing  heat wave, it is best to increase the frequency. When growing the sunflowers for seeds, make sure that they are watered slightly more 2 weeks prior to flowering.

If your garden has quick draining soil in it, ensure that you work compost into the ground in the area that the sunflowers will be growing. This will help with moisture retention.

How easy is it to grow sunflowers?

Easy. Sometimes it can be tricky to get the plants established but once they are in the ground growing and supported, the plant will look after itself if it is kept watered.

Some different types of sunflowers that you can grow

Sunflower Russian Giant

Russian Giant

Height: Up to 3 Metres

This variety of sunflower really does live up to its name. Grown in the right conditions, you will have a plant that is 3M tall and flowers that are up to 30cm in diameter. This sunflower will get any child excited about growing in the garden.

Buy yours now from Amazon or Thompson & Morgan


Teddy Bear Sunflowers

Teddy Bear Sunflowers 

Height: 45cm

These sunflowers are just lovely. You wouldn’t actually know that they are sunflowers if you hadn’t come across them before. They look great in borders and in containers.

Buy yours now from Amazon or Thompson & Morgan


Sunflower ‘ Earth Walker’

Height: Up to 270cm

These sunflowers will reach heights of between 6 to 9 ft, making them ideal for children. Rather than the traditional yellow colour, these will produce multiple heads off one plant in a bronze/orange colour. Perhaps something to give a go this year?

Buy yours now from Thompson & Morgan


Sunflower ‘Elite Sun’ F1 Hybrid

Height: Up to 120cm

If you are short on space in the garden, this sunflower could be the one for you. It has a very large head on it but will only grow approximately 4ft high. Great for beds and borders but can also be grown in containers.

Buy yours now from Thompson & Morgan


Sunflower ‘Van Gogh’

Height: 150cm

The iconic Van Gogh sunflower. A great medium sized sunflower that will produce many flowers. They are an absolute favourite for the birds and the bees that come into the garden. Children will certainly not be disappointed when growing these in the garden.

Buy yours now from Thompson & Morgan


How can children get involved in growing sunflowers?

Sunflowers really are a great plant for children to grow. The rate of growth along with the wow factor when the flowers come out is just somewhat magical. It is great to have a couple of varieties growing in the garden; a few giant sunflowers (great for a competition) and also some multi flowering varieties for cut flowers and appearance.

Sowing the seeds

Oh the fun of sowing the seeds. What’s great about sowing sunflowers is the size of the seeds. They are very suitable (with adult supervision) for younger children to plant sunflower seeds. Also, because you can literally take a seeds and then poke it into the soil, it’s a great starting plant as you don’t need to know the technical information about gardening.


It’s always a sad moment when the sunflowers finish for the year. However, for the bird lovers amongst you, the seeds from the sunflower plant can be used for bird feed. You will need quite a few of these but if you have the space it is a great autumn activity too.