Hartley Magazine

All the latest news, hints, tips and advice from our experts

Grow Sunflowers for Ukraine

Honey Bee Sunflower. C. Martin Mulchinock

Sunflowers are the national flower of Ukraine, sow some, grow some to add some garden sunshine and support those caught up in the conflict.

I can’t think of a happier garden flower than the sunflower, so it seems rather ironic that the humble sunflower is the national flower of Ukraine. These fabulous sunny faces light up the gardens and fields wherever they are grown and given the current situation in war torn Ukraine, we all need some sunflower love in our hearts.

Growing sunflowers probably won’t help the people of Ukraine, not unless you grow en masse and sell the cut flowers to donate to the cause, but they will help us remember their plight and appreciate how very lucky we are to live where we do.


Potting Up Sunflowers. C. Martin Mulchinock

We can grow sunflowers as an act of solidary to the Ukrainians. Get the kids sowing and growing sunflowers to fill the garden. Set them a project, get the whole street involved or set up a competition to grow the tallest. You could even do a Sponsor a Sunflower to raise funds for Ukraine. Whatever you choose to do, remember to explain to those involved why it is important to stand with Ukraine and what it means and ask them to find other ways to help. You’d be amazed at the ingenuity and kindness of children in particular. In recent weeks sunflowers have become a symbol of solidarity and I am sowing and growing them to plant around my plot and share with friends and neighbours.

Sunflower Power

Sunflowers are grown en masse in Ukraine. The Ukraine is the world’s biggest supplier of sunflower oil. Sunflowers are grown over 16 million acres across the country. I can’t imagine how big that area is, or how fantastic they would normally look, but that does explain why it is such an important plant and flower. The plants are sown in April and harvested in September.

Sunflower seeds. C. Martin Mulchinock

The young, developing flowers actually track the daily movement of the sun (called heliotropism) so that the immature flowers face the sun, hence the name sunflower.

As the flowers mature, their ability to follow the sun reduces and they tend to face the east to greet the morning sun.

Insects and Birds

Sunflowers need insects to pollinate their flamboyant flowers. That’s why their bright yellow petals resemble flags and are so prominent in the garden. It’s a visual message to butterflies and bees, inviting them to a rich banquet of pollen and nectar. In return the unsuspecting insects transfer pollen from flower to flower to facilitate pollination. It’s a marriage made in heaven and the result is a bountiful supply of sunflower seeds. In the garden, these seeds are vital and very nourishing food for wild birds, in agriculture they are revered for their nutritional content and transformed into foodstuffs. Even pollen free varieties will usually set seed.

Not all sunflowers are garden giants; many are compact and ideal for smaller gardens and for growing in containers. There’s a wonderful range of colours too, not just yellow, so ring the changes and grow sunflowers with red, orange or even white flowers for a dramatic garden statement.


For dramatic cut flowers that will last around two weeks, grow fabulous sunflowers. Van Gogh knew what he was doing when he painted his vase of these glowing beauties. These days you can even choose to grow varieties free of pollen. Perfect for the flower arranger and hay fever sufferers and still rich in nectar for our friends the bees.

Create A Living Boundary (Cover Your Fence)

Take advantage of the tall and strong habit of sunflowers and use them as a natural boundary to separate part of your garden or to disguise a fence.

Ideal for Pots

Grow dwarf sunflower plants in containers. These branching varieties have several smaller, mini-sunflower flower heads on shorter stems, with just as much impact as the taller, giant alternatives.

Grow sunflowers

Sunflower Head. C. Martin Mulchinock

Sunflowers are the perfect garden plant: easy to grow and with masses of magnificent flowers that last for weeks on end. Easy to grow, sunflowers are often flagged as a great plant for children, but that really means beginners can grow them too. If you want lots of plants, grow from seed for the best value for money, or for just a few; buy the plants from your local garden centre or nursery.

Sunflowers are easy to grow from seed. Sow from March indoors protected from frost, or after the last frost sow outside. Sow dwarf varieties into large pots of multi-purpose compost. Keep slightly moist. Remove the weakest seedling from each hole to allow the stronger one to mature.