Bright and cheery, sunflowers are instantly recognizable with their yellow petals and brown centers. And if you live in North Carolina, chances are you’ve heard of the region’s sunflower fields, such as the one at the Museum of Art in Raleigh.
Not only are sunflowers beautiful enough to draw in tourists and photographers, they also attract pollinators, something all vegetable growers will appreciate.
So when to plant sunflowers in North Carolina? You should do so in spring when there’s no frost. Read below for more details.
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Best Time to Grow Sunflowers in North Carolina
1. In spring, after the last frost
The best time for planting sunflower seeds in NC is three weeks after the last frost. If you adhere to this recommendation, your flowers will grow without being harmed by cold temperatures.
Since North Carolina’s last frost largely falls within April 1 to April 15, the seeding date will be April 22 to May 6. However, people in some parts of eastern NC can garden earlier (from March 22 to April 21) because the weather in these locations will warm up sooner.
Overall, it is best to look up the final frost date for your county or city, as it will be more accurate than the general ranges above.
For example, because Raleigh has its last ice on April 3, residents here can plant sunflowers on April 24.
2. When the soil is warm and slightly acidic or alkaline
When growing sunflowers from seed, ensure the soil is at least 50℉ (10°C) at the time of sowing. Although the plant can tolerate temperatures as low as 39 to 46℉ (or 4 to 8℃), warmth will result in faster growth, with the optimal range being 70 to 78 degrees.
In addition, a pH of 6 to 7.5 is best. If the soil for sunflowers is too acidic or alkaline, they won’t receive enough nutrients, and fertilizers won’t be able to correct the deficiency, either.
How to Plant Sunflowers?
Due to their long roots, transplanting sunflowers is near impossible.
Therefore, it’s best to sow sunflower seeds directly into your garden bed at a depth of 1 to 1.5 inches. Note that while seeding, it’s essential to space your plants apart; leave a distance of 6 inches between two of them and 30 inches or 2.5 feet between two rows.
At the same time, remember to give the plants six to eight hours of sunlight per day and two gallons of water per week. Add compost to the soil to ensure sufficient nutrients as well.
If you do these things and the temperature is right, expect sunflower early growth from seeds to sprouts to occur within five to ten days.
If your garden is in a windy area, secure the sunflowers with bamboo stakes.
- If you grow sunflowers in pots, pick a five-gallon container, so the roots have enough space to expand. Then, transplant the seedlings as soon as you see foliage.
In this case, it’s best to go for small varieties as well, such as the Teddy Bear cultivar. Growing Mammoth sunflowers in tiny containers is not a wise decision, considering these plants may reach over 12 feet in height.
- To harvest sunflower seeds, use a fork to loosen them from the plant head. Afterwards, you may store the yield for future planting, extract oil from sunflower seeds, or eat them right away.
Do sunflowers grow well in North Carolina?
Yes. In fact, there are sunflower varieties native to North Carolina, such as the Resindot and Swamp cultivars.
But if you need further proof that this plant can thrive in NC, just look at the state’s sunflower fields at Dorothea Dix Park, Galloway Farm, and many more locations.
What is the best month to plant sunflowers?
The best month to plant sunflowers will, of course, depend on the last frost where you live, but if you’re looking for general estimates, the timing will be March to July.
Within this period, southern gardeners can start planting in March and April, while residents in other areas usually wait until May.
Can sunflowers be planted anytime?
As you can tell from the above information: no, they cannot be planted anytime. Sunflowers will not survive frost, so it’s vital to avoid freezing weather when sowing them.
How late can you plant a sunflower?
To give a general estimate, mid-August is often the last period for growing sunflowers, but this rule doesn’t apply if you have an indoor garden with temperature control.
For more accurate scheduling, note that sunflowers need about 55 to 75 days to bloom. Hence, you should give them at least that much time to grow before the first frost.
For instance, if the first frost where you live is on November 4, sow sunflower seeds on September 10 or August 21 at the latest.
Where can sunflowers be planted?
Sunflowers will grow in hardiness zone 2 to 13 — in other words, pretty much all parts of the United States.
If you’re curious whether your locality can accommodate these flowers, look up the USDA hardiness map for your state.
For example, Spartanburg in South Carolina is in zone 7, making this region suitable for sunflowers.
Do sunflowers come back every year?
It depends on what variety you’re growing. Annual sunflowers won’t grow back every year, but perennials like the Maximilian and Laetiflorus will.
Now, you know when to plant sunflowers in North Carolina. Whether grown in hedges, along a staircase, or next to a fence, sunflowers possess a vibrancy that livens up their surroundings. These plants are not only beautiful; they’re also useful as a cooking ingredient.
With all these benefits to take advantage of, perhaps you already have some sunflower planting ideas you want to implement. If so, feel free to tell us about them. We’d love to hear from our readers.