Are you growing plants with the kids this year? If you’re looking for easy seeds to grow with children it’s hard to beat growing sunflowers in a pot. And now is a great time to get planting!
As well as producing seriously impressive blooms, sunflower seeds are easy for little hands to deal with, and pretty low maintenance to grow. They’re also brilliant for local wildlife; the flowers are great for bees and other pollinating insects, and birds love to eat the seeds.
Do sunflowers grow well in pots?
Sunflowers will be perfectly happy growing in a pot. You do need to provide them with a container that’s the right size for the plant. Some varieties of sunflower grow much bigger than others, so check the height information on your packet of seeds.
To give you a rough idea of pot size, we use pots with approximately 15-20cm diameter to grow our biggest sunflowers, and pots with approximately 10-15cm diameter to grow our smaller varieties.
You can always re-pot your sunflowers into a larger container if they look like they’ve grown too big for the original pot, so don’t worry too much about getting it right!
When to plant sunflower seeds
The best time to plant sunflower seeds is spring. In the UK this is April and May. At this time of year the risk of frost is lower, and there’s still plenty of time for the plants to grow and flower before temperatures drop again in autumn.
If you’re growing sunflowers in pots, you can plant the seeds earlier than April, and give the pots some protection from the cold. A greenhouse, cold frame, or simply a windowsill indoors are all ideal.
If you’ve left it a bit late to plant your sunflower seeds, don’t panic. Sunflowers will still grow if you plant the seeds in early summer, you will just need to wait a bit longer for those amazing flowers!
Growing sunflowers in a pot with kids
If you’re new to growing sunflowers with kids, here are some tips on how to make it a success.
The best sunflower seeds for planting
First of all, you need your seeds! There are so many varieties of sunflower to choose from, and a real range of colours, heights, flower size and texture. All this choice means it’s easy to find one that suits your space, colour scheme and garden style.
A simpler approach, which works well with kids, is to head down to the garden centre or go online, and let them have fun choosing whichever packet of seeds they like best.
My kids always want to grow a giant sunflower variety, so we usually end up choosing one of those. We also love growing a dwarf variety called *Teddy Bear (pictured above), which is very compact and has wonderfully soft, fluffy flower heads which are low enough for children to touch.
The kit you need for growing sunflowers in a pot
Once you’ve got your sunflower seeds, you’ll need some basic equipment to plant them. Here’s a handy list.
- Small plant pots – if you’re buying new pots, try to avoid plastic. There are *biodegradable alternatives widely available now.
- General purpose *compost.
- A trowel – *child-size tools are great for this job.
- *Plant labels and a marker pen.
- You might also like to use *children’s gardening gloves.
How to plant sunflower seeds
Planting sunflower seeds is really quick and easy.
Start off by filling your plant pots with compost, until they’re about two thirds full.
Use your finger to poke a little hole into the middle of the compost.
Next, pop a few seeds into the kids’ palms, and ask them to drop one into each hole.
It really doesn’t matter if they end up putting more than one seed in each pot; in fact, you can show what a difference this has on the size of the plant later.
Top up each pot with compost, and label it. My kids always want to know which seed they planted, so we put their names on the back of the labels as well.
Now it’s time to give your pots a good drink!
How long does it take to grow a sunflower?
Your sunflower seeds should germinate and start to grow within 1-2 weeks.
The amount of time it takes for your sunflowers to grow will depend on the time of year, the weather, and the variety you choose. Warmer temperatures and longer days will make them grow faster.
The back of the seed packet will show you how soon after planting you can expect your sunflowers to bloom. If you’re in a rush, choose a fast-growing variety.
We planted these seeds in mid-April, and kept the pots indoors for the first couple of weeks. Here’s how our sunflowers looked about four weeks after planting:
Can you see how the plants in the pots that had more than one seed are smaller? This is a lovely visual way to explain to children how the amount of soil and nutrients affects the way plants grow.
You can of course split up the crowded plants and pot them into individual pots if they’re struggling.
How to care for sunflowers in pots
If there’s still a chance of overnight frost outdoors, you need to give your pots a bit of protection or the seeds won’t germinate and grow well. A sunny windowsill is perfect, you can also put them in a greenhouse or cold frame. Move your pots outdoors when the risk of frost has gone.
If you’re growing sunflowers in a pot in late spring, it’s usually fine to leave them outside.
Wherever you put your pots, check the compost regularly, and water them if it feels dry. Kids love this job! You’re aiming to keep the compost moist, not really soggy.
If you’ve got your sunflower seedlings on a windowsill, you may need to turn the pots around every now and then, to stop the seedlings leaning towards the light.
As your sunflowers grow taller, you will probably need to support the stems with canes. Simply push the cane into the compost, and use a small length of string to tie the stem to the cane. Don’t tie your string too tight, because the stem will get thicker as the plant grows.
As I mentioned earlier, you can transfer your sunflower plants to bigger pots as they grow. Choose a suitably sized pot and add some compost to the bottom. Then take your plant out of it’s old pot, pop it into the new one, and fill up any gaps around the sides and top with more compost. Finish off by watering your plant.
If you’re growing a dwarf sunflower variety, you can also use a plant alongside other bedding plants to create a lovely mixed display. Sunflowers are perfect for being the star of the show here.
Fun activities to do with your sunflowers
So you’ve grown a bumper crop of sunflowers, now it’s time for some cool activities!
You can start off with some fun sunflower facts:
- Most sunflowers originate from the Americas.
- Sunflowers get their name from their behaviour. The flowers actually track the daily movement of the sun.
- Sunflowers aren’t just garden plants. They are also grown as a valuable crop plant, with the seeds used to produce sunflower oil, or harvested for the food and wild bird industry.
- Not all sunflowers are big and tall. Many varieties are compact and ideal for smaller gardens and containers.
- Sunflowers come in more colours than yellow. You can grow them in shades of orange, pink, red and even white.
Once your sunflowers bloom, you can have lots of fun observing all the pollinating insects that pay a visit. You could keep an insect diary, draw pictures of your sunflower visitors, or make a bar chart from your observations.
When the flower heads start to turn brown, you can cut them off and let them dry out, then put them out in the garden for the birds to eat. Birds love sunflower seeds, so you’re bound to get lots of interest!
We’ve also got a great little book called *I Can Grow A Sunflower which takes younger children through the process of growing a sunflower from seed in a lovely visual way.
And of course, you can’t grow sunflowers without having a height competition! My kids love doing this every year, and it’s perfect for sneaking a bit of maths into the project. We always make a chart which takes pride of place on the fridge and is eagerly updated. At the moment I’m winning, which is making them look after their plants very diligently!
More fun kids gardening ideas
If you’d like some more inspiration for fun things to do in the garden with the kids, you might like to take a look at these other posts.