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Sunflower Growing Guide

5 Steps to Sunflower Success

  • Choose a sheltered spot in full sun with well drained soil. Up against a fence or wall is ideal.
  • Plant in early spring, when the risk of frost has passed, through to summer. Sunflowers are frost tender.
  • Prepare your soil with organic matter like compost and sheep pellets.
  • Stake plants at the time of planting to avoid damaging the roots later.
  • Feed sunflowers once the first flower buds start to appear.

Follow our full guide below on how to grow bright, bold sunflowers.

Sunflowers are a symbol of lasting happiness with their bright bold flowers. They are not fussy about the soil they grow in, but full sun is a must-have to get the best from your sunflowers.

The seeds are highly nutritious and versatile - use them for oils, in baking and breadmaking, for roasting in salads, making smoothies or ‘nut’ butter. The flowers last for up to three weeks in a vase, or simply enjoy watching them follow the sun in the garden.


Before sowing seed or planting seedlings dig in generous amounts of Tui Compost into the garden bed to replenish the soil. If sowing seed directly into the garden, add a layer of Tui Seed Raising Mix to the top 3-5cm of the soil.

Plant in early spring when the risk of frost has passed as sunflowers are frost tender. Plant giant sunflowers as early as possible, they can take up to 90 days to flower. Dwarf varieties can be planted up until late January, they take 50-60 days to flower.


Varieties vary from tall giants that grow as tall as 3 metres plus, down to small branching dwarf varieties that grow approximately 45-50cm tall and so are perfect for pots and containers. Sunflowers come in shades of yellow, orange, cream, burgundy and chocolate brown, flowers can be single, double or pom pom types.

Classic Giant is a favourite, golden yellow flowers growing up to 3 metres tall, flowers are 30cm in diameter. Plant 40-50cm apart.

Shop Tui Sunflower Seeds - Classic Giant for a fast growing tall variety that can reach up to 3m in height.

Skyscraper grows 4-5 metres tall, the golden yellow flower heads are up to 45cm in diameter, give this one some space, plant up to 1 metre apart.

Moulin Rouge grows 1.5-2 metres tall, burgundy-red saucer sized flowers, space 30cm apart.

Vanilla Ice has stunning creamy white flowers that surround a dark centre with a golden halo. A multi-head branching plant grows to 1.5m in height.

Double Delight compact growing multi-branching plant with ruffled golden yellow double flowers, grows to a height of 50cm, great for pots and containers.

Moonwalker grows 1.2-1.5 metres tall, multi-branching habit with pale lemon flowers and dark chocolate centre. Easy to grow.


The best time to plant is in spring once the risk of frost has passed, through to summer.

Planting from seed

Seeds can be sown in seed raising trays on a sunny windowsill, or direct in the garden using a quality seed raising mix such as Tui Seed Raising Mix.

  • Sow approximately 1-2cm deep, and if sowing direct space 40cm apart. 
  • Keep seeds moist during germination.
  • If sowing in seed raising trays, once the seedlings have two true sets of leaves they can be hardened off and planted into a prepared garden bed.
  • Avoid disturbing the roots when planting.
  • Stake plants at the time of planting to avoid damaging the roots later.

Always refer to the seed pack for planting and spacing recommendations.

Planting in garden beds

  • Soak seedlings in a solution of Tui Organic Seaweed Plant Tonic before planting to reduce transplant shock.
  • Prepare beds by digging in generous amounts of Tui Compost to a spade depth (20cm).
  • Add a handful of Tui Certified Organic Sheep Pellets to each planting hole and mix into the soil.
  • Dig a hole twice the diameter of the original pot.
  • Gently remove the seedling from its pot with minimal root disturbance. 
  • Position the plant in the centre of the hole.
  • Fill and firm soil around the plant.
  • Water in well.

Transplant shock can cause stunted growth - it can take 30cm off the eventual height of the plant.

Planting in pots & containers

The best sunflowers for pots and containers are those that are multi-branching and grow up to 1 metre in height. 

  • Choose a pot that is 30-50cm in diameter.
  • Three-quarters fill the pot with quality potting mix such as Tui All Purpose Potting Mix.
  • Carefully remove the plant from its original pot with minimal root disturbance.
  • Place in the centre of the pot and fill and firm with the remaining potting mix, leaving a 3cm space at the top for watering.
  • Water in well.

Giant sunflowers are best planted in the garden. They can be grown in pots that are at least 50cm in diameter, although they may not reach their maximum height when grown in pots.


Feed sunflowers once the first flower buds start to appear.

For sunflowers growing in garden beds, feed with Tui General Garden Fertiliser every 4-6 weeks, or Tui Novatec Slow Release fertiliser every 12 weeks. If growing in pots & containers, feed with Tui Novatec Slow Release fertiliser every 12 weeks, or Tui Enrich Vegetable, Tomato & Herb Controlled release fertiliser which feeds for up to 6 months.

Liquid feed garden plants and container grown plants every 2 weeks throughout the growing season with Tui Seaweed & Fish liquid plant food.

Although sunflowers are relatively drought tolerant, water regularly throughout the growing season.

Protect plants from slugs and snails by applying Tui Quash. Reapply every 7 days, especially during wet weather.

If the seeds are hard to remove from their shells, soak them in brine to soften, pat dry with a paper towel and roast on a low heat, this makes the shells easier to remove.

Fun facts

Sunflowers are used to remove radio active material and heavy metals such as lead, arsenic and uranium from soil.

The tallest plant recorded was grown in Germany and reached 9 metres (30 feet).

Sunflowers inhibit the growth of other plants growing around them (alleopathic), including weeds.