Early Russian Sunflower
Helianthus annuus. The really big one! Still our number one selling sunflower. Grow for a windbreak at the rear of the garden or for seed for the birds to eat in winter. Extra large heads measuring up to 12 inches across are supported by sturdy 6-8 foot stalks. Approximately 25 seeds/pkg.
Direct seed outdoors after all danger of frost is past. (Dwarf varieties can be seeded inside in peat pots 3 weeks before planting out.) Sow 1 inch deep in light, well-drained soil. Keep moist until seed germinates in 10-14 days. Space in a full sun location 6-24 inches apart depending on variety. Giant varieties should be be planted 20-24 inches apart, while cut flower varieties should be spaced 6-10 inches apart to get smaller heads and slender stems for bouquets.
Water regularly but do not over fertilize. Cut flowers last 10-14 days. Drying sunflower heads: If drying outside they should be protected with plastic mesh or brown paper bags. Just cover the heads to keep the birds away. To harvest, cut the seed heads leaving 12 inches of stem attached. Hang in an airy place safe from birds and rodents. Heads should be dry in 2-3 weeks. Remove seeds by rubbing two heads together. You may store the seeds on the heads until you need them.