in the Habitat Garden
Original to the western United States,then cultivated as a source of food by native Americans and likely introduced to Illinois (and other areas) prior to European settlement.
Planting annual sunflower seeds directly into the ground after the temperatures warm in spring is the easiest way to grow Helianthus annuus .
The stems will be thicker, stronger and straight.
Bees are the first garden visitors to find the
sunflowers as the indivdual disk flowers in the center open with plenty of nectar and pollen. But
Helianthus annuus is host to many other insects.
In our garden once the seeds begin to develope but before fully mature the goldfinches will begin feeding.When seeds have finished forming cardinals begin showing up to hang on the edge and ravage the head . Of coarse it is only a matter of time until the squirrels find the sunflower seeds and they can really destroy an entire plant. Thankfully squirrels in our area have seemed to prefer the yellow flowered singles and have left our multi-headed flower seeds to the birds.
Depending on where you live there are many other birds and animals like rabbits, ground hogs, deer,gamebirds, songbirds, ground squirrels, mice, muskrats and even beavers that eat the stems and other parts of sunflower.
You do not need a lot of space to grow annual sunflowers, even the giants. I grow both the multi- head flowers with reds and burgandy as well as the single flower yellows. With the building as a back drop and plenty of sun through the warm months when the sun is overhead this small space between buildings is fine with tall plants. At the fence where the gutter drains is Joe-Pye weed then fall asters, yellow coneflowers (Ratibida pinnata), a couple of grass species, a few daylilies,and heliopsis. Annual sunflower seeds are direct sown in between plants in the spring when the sun has risen high and before the perennials gain height. This helps protect the sunflower seedlings somwhat until they are large enough to not be eaten by birds or small critters like rabbits.
Sunflower seeds are cheap and easy to find so every year we try a different one and plant more spaces. This coming season I may try a few in the front garden. I can always cut the stems down if they start to get very ratty looking.