How to Grow the Biggest Sunflower

sunflower behind a fence

I have always loved sunflowers. When I was growing up, I would only see them on vacation in Southern Ontario. The growing season where I lived was not usually long enough for them to bloom and turn to seed. I loved the giant stems and the beautiful sun-shaped flowers that turned themselves to catch the sun.

When I had children, I decided I would grow my own sunflowers. We were living in Southern Ontario after all. I bought a packet of sunflower seeds at the dollar store, dug up a section at the front of the house, added some compost, planted some seeds and hoped for the best.

To my delight, five or six plants grew. It was magical. They grew tall and bloomed profusely. My husband did not share in my delight. The flowers were growing along the driveway. It was impossible for him to get in or out of the driver’s car door without encountering some bees.

sunflowers beside the driveway

My daughter Tara was terrified of the bees too. Before going anywhere she would stake out the scene and then run past the garden as quickly as she could. When we were coming home, she would hide in the car until the coast was clear.

I love my husband and children, so I decided they should not be tormented. I started researching smaller varieties of flowers. They might still attract buzzing things but at least they’d be closer to the ground. At the end of the season, I tossed the sunflowers in the compost bin out back along with the rest of garden waste and forgot about them.

The following summer, I noticed some small plants growing out back beside the compost bin. I decided to leave them alone. When they grew bigger, I noticed that the seedlings looked a lot like sunflowers. I am not sure whether the sunflower seeds had come from my compost bin or from my neighbor Maureen’s bird feeder.

The plants really liked that south-facing spot with the abundant supply of compost. By the end of the summer, the sunflowers had grown up to the second floor window of my daughters’ room. Tara was not amused but at least the bees couldn’t get in through the window screen.

Aria poses with a normal size sunflower and a supersize sunflower. (Tara is in the house.)

I haven’t grown sunflowers for a few years, but I still point them out to my husband every time I see them growing along the road or I spot a pretty bouquet in the florist section of the grocery store. They still feel magical, at least to me.

sunflower painting (acrylic) by Valerie Ferrier

Last summer I was invited to a social painting night. I was amused to discover that the featured painting was a sunflower. I gave the finished canvas to my husband with the promise it wouldn’t attract any bees. He loves it and Tara thinks it is okay too.

David and I have been married many years and times have not always been easy. We have had our trials and tribulations but we have always found a way back to each other. Sometimes it just takes time to find the sunflowers everyone loves.


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