Growing Sunflowers in Pots: 16 Important Things to Know

If you intend to plant sunflowers in pots, then you’re in the best place.

After reading this article, you will learn everything you should about growing sunflowers in pots, for example how to plant them, when is the last time to plant them, or what are the best varieties to choose.

1. Do Sunflowers Grow Well in Pots?

If you don’t have enough space in your backyard, planting sunflowers in pots can be a great idea, because certain varieties of sunflowers, if maintained properly, grow well in pots or containers.

Growing sunflowers in pots is not as popular as growing them in the ground, but you can easily grow sunflowers in pots, and they will please your eye as much as the sunflowers from the ground.

Except for pots, you can sow your sunflowers in plastic containers, terra cotta planters, or fabric pots that you can purchase here on Amazon.

2. Do Sunflowers Grow Better in Pots or Ground?

When it comes to growing sunflowers, there are no differences in the growing process, no matter if they grow in pots or ground. However, growing sunflowers in the ground might be better, because you have more sunflower varieties to choose from.

Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of growing sunflowers in pots, and in the ground.

Growing sunflowers in pots

Pros: you can change their location, they take less space, they can ornament your house or balcony

Cons: some varieties are too big to grow, you need to buy containers

Growing sunflowers in the ground

Pros: you can plant pretty much all varieties, they usually grow bigger, your backyard looks great

Cons: you can’t change their location, they are susceptible to damage from animals, wind, or frost

3. How Long Does it Take to Grow a Potted Sunflower?

Most potted sunflowers, if maintained correctly, flower in 60-80 days. The number of days from seeding to flowering depends on a few factors, mostly on the variety of sunflowers you plant, but also on how much sun the plant gets, and fertilization.

You can get to know how long your sunflower will grow, by reading the seed packet description. Below, I will list a few examples of how long particular varieties grow.

Sunspot sunflower: 80 days
Topolino: 65-75 days
Elf: 60 days
Choco sun: 70-80 days

4. What are the Best Potted Sunflower Varieties?

There are hundreds of potted sunflower varieties. Some of the most popular ones are:

  • SunBuzz
  • Firecracker
  • Teddy Bear
  • Italian White
  • Lemon Queen
  • Suntastic
  • Tiger Eye Hybrid
  • Sunny Smile

Here’s the photo of a Lemon Queen variety.

lemon queen sunflower

I recommend you check which one you like the most, and plant them according to your preferences. Most varieties require similar care patterns. The differences between them are in appearance, the number of flowers, and size.

There are two ways of categorizing potted sunflower varieties.

1. By flower production-single stem sunflowers, branching sunflowers.

2. By height-dwarf sunflowers, tall sunflowers.

When it comes to planting sunflowers in pots, most people choose dwarf sunflowers (single stem or branching), as tall sunflowers require more space.

5. What is the Best Month to Plant Potted Sunflowers?

Because potted sunflowers take 60-80 days to flower, the best month to plant them is April or May. That way, you are sure that no matter if you keep them indoors or outdoor, they will avoid frost and receive the proper amount of sun.

If you want to enjoy the beauty of your sunflowers earlier, you can also sow them in late March. However, you have to keep in mind that spring frost can kill them if they’re outside. In that situation, it is safe to keep your sunflowers indoors for at least 2-3 weeks.

Planting sunflowers in April or May is the most popular option, because in most cases your plant will not be harmed by frost, and you can keep it outside. Also, when your sunflower is in the bud, and bloom phase in June or July, it will get a lot of sun, which sunflowers love.

6. How Late Can You Plant Sunflowers in Pots?

The last time when you can plant sunflowers in pots is late July. They usually require about 2 months to bloom, so throughout August and September, they should still receive enough sunlight.

However, you should know that planting sunflowers in pots in late July is a bit risky. A lot depends on the planting zone in which you live. If you live in a place where September is still sunny and warm, the chance of blooming sunflowers is much higher.

If you live in a place where September is colder, and your sunflowers will get less than 6 hours of sun every day, you might have problems with your sunflowers blooming.

The best time to plant potted sunflowers is spring. But if you’re late, and you still want to enjoy the beauty of your plants, remember to choose the variety that blooms in a short period of time.

What are the recommended sunflower varieties that bloom relatively fast?

1. Big Smile (about 52 days)
2. Sunrich Gold (about 55 days)
3. Sunny Smile (about 55 days)
4. Firecracker (about 60 days)
5. Double Quick Orange (about 65 days)

7. How to Plant Sunflowers in Pots?

If you have chosen your potted sunflower variety, it’s time to plant it. Below, you can see a step-by-step formula on how to sow sunflowers in pots.

1. Choose a 7-10 gallon fabric pot, or plastic containers that are at least 10-12 inches (25-30 cm) in diameter.
2. If your container doesn’t have drainage holes, add them with 1/2 (1.3 cm) inch drill bit.
3. Fill your containers with a blend that is roughly 50% good quality potting mix and 50% compost.
4. Plant sunflower seeds a 1/2 (1.3 cm) inch deep.
5. Depending on your sunflower type, plant the seeds 6-24 inches apart.
6. Water the soil, and keep it moist.
7. Place the container in a place where your potted sunflowers get 6-8 hours of light every day.

An important part is how far apart you should plant your seeds. It all depends on the variety of sunflowers that you choose.

  • Single stem tall sunflowers â€“ Spacing: 8 inches apart, or grow one plant in a 3 gallon pot, or three plants in a 10 gallon pot.
  • Single stem dwarf sunflowers â€“ Spacing: 6 inches apart, or grow one plant in a 1 gallon pot, or three plants in a 5 gallon pot. 
  • Branching tall sunflowers â€“ Spacing: 18 to 24 inches apart, or grow one plant in a 7 to 10 gallon pot.
  • Branching dwarf sunflowers â€“ Spacing: 12 to 18 inches apart, or grow one plant in 3 gallon pot, or 3 plants in a 7 gallon pot.
  • Giant sunflowers â€“ Spacing: 18 to 24 inches apart, or grow one plant in a 10 to 15 gallon pot.

8. What Soil is Best for Potted Sunflowers?

Potted sunflowers need a soil with pH level of 6.0-7.5. Because of that, they do best in a loose potting mix amended with organic matter like compost or aged manure.

When you plant your sunflowers, fill your containers with 50% potting mix (like this one that you can buy on Amazon), and compost (store-bought or from your own pile) or aged manure. By doing so, your soil will drain well on its own.

I’d also recommend you add a slow-release organic flower fertilizer, so you can be sure your potted sunflowers have enough nutrients, grow big, and healthy.

Don’t add any pebbles or sand, as they might affect soil drainage.

9. How Often Should You Water Potted Sunflowers?

You should water potted sunflowers about 2-4 times a week. Potted sunflowers tend to dry out quicker and need to be kept moist. As a rule of thumb, water the plants deeply when the top inch (2.5 cm) of soil feels dry to the touch.

Along with sunlight and good soil, watering potted sunflowers is one of the most important things. The rule is simple, they need to be moist, but not overwatered.

Watering them 2-4 times a week is the average number. A lot depends on the weather and container size. Sometimes you need to water them every other day, sometimes less frequently.

That being said, if the surface is dry, it’s the best time to water well your sunflowers. Just stick your index finger into the growing medium. If it’s dry an inch down, you should water your plants.  

Water your sunflowers deeply, but use your common sense and don’t let them sit in the puddle.

10. Where Do Potted Sunflowers Grow Best?

Potted sunflowers grow best in places where they can get 6-8 hours of sunlight per day. As a rule of thumb, you should place them in the sunniest place in your backyard or on the balcony. Sunflowers that don’t get enough sun will be weak, unhealthy, and experience stunted growth.

Choosing the right location for your potted sunflowers is crucial for their development. When they’re in the bud phase, they follow the sun’s path from the east to the west. Once the stems harden and the plant blooms, they no longer move in the direction of the sun.

They’re called sunflowers, not without a reason, so remember-the more sun, the better (but no more than 8-9 hours per day).

11. Should You Fertilize Your Potted Sunflowers?

If you planted your potted sunflowers correctly, using 50% potting mix and compost/aged manure, your sunflowers don’t need any fertilization.

Some people, who are afraid that the soil has leeched some of its nutrients due to frequent waterings, add some balanced fertilizer to the pail when they water. In most cases, it’s unnecessary, but if so, don’t do it more than once in the growing season. It offers some additional boost.

12. How Long Do Potted Sunflowers Last?

The lifespan of a potted sunflower from seedling to flowering is about 85 days. The last, flowering phase comes after about 65 days, and you can enjoy the beauty of your sunflower for about 20 days.

Here are all the stages of a sunflower’s lifespan:

  1. Germination: 2-10 days
  2. The seedling, leaf, and plant development: 10-35 days
  3. Growing a bud: 35-65 days
  4. Flowering: 65-85 days

Like I said before, the lifespan of a sunflower depends on the variety of a sunflower, watering, and sunlight.

13. Can You Transplant Your Potted Sunflowers?

If you want, you can easily transplant your potted sunflower to the ground. You should do it as soon as you see leaves developing, otherwise, the growth of your plant might be stunted.

The transplantation of your sunflower is not necessary. Below, you can see the situations when you should transplant your sunflower.

  • You intended to get a jump start on the growing season and then put a sunflower on the ground
  • You’ve chosen a too little pot and the roots are too big
  • Your sunflowers are too wide, and they don’t fit into one pot

If you want to keep your sunflower in the pot, you should definitely leave it as it is. However, if you want to replant it, here’s how to do it.

  1. Dig circle around stalk so that you can reach under the root ball and scoop it out.
  2. Gently remove seedlings from pot.
  3. Find a new, sunny place for the flowers and dig a hole 10 inches (25 cm) deep, and place flowers 12 inches (30 cm) apart.
  4. Place each sunflower into the holes and cover with dirt until it is level with the ground.
  5. Cover the soil with a layer of mulch to prevent soil run off when it rains
  6. Water the ground well

14. Should You Deadhead Potted Sunflowers?

If you want a longer flowering season, and encourage new flower shoots to grow, you should deadhead your potted sunflower. In order to do it, cut the peduncle about a half-inch (10 cm) above the new leaves, then remove and discard the sunflower deadhead.

There are many benefits of deadheading potted sunflowers, for example, enhanced appearance of your flower, plant’s energy going to other sunflowers, and better growth of more sunflowers.

How to know that you need to deadhead your sunflower? There are many signs, some of them are:

  • The sunflower is losing most of its petals.
  • The bloom is fading and looks spent.
  • The vibrance is gone and a dull flower head remains.
  • The sunflower head is sagging over heavily.
  • The sunflowers are no longer attractive and appealing in your garden.

Deadheading your sunflower is pretty simple. Here are the steps you need to take:

  1. Investigate the stem to ensure you leave as many leaf nodes intact as possible. The new growth will come from these.
  2. Use a snipping tool to cut the stem leading to the sunflower head about a half-inch (10 cm) above the new leaves.
  3. Remove and discard the sunflower deadhead.

15. How Do You Keep a Potted Sunflower Alive?

  1. Plant your sunflower in 50% good quality potting mix and 50% compost.
  2. Provide 6-8 hours of full sun per day.
  3. Water your sunflowers about 3 times per week, and don’t let the top layer of soil to dry out.
  4. Don’t overwater the ground, but keep it moist.
  5. Once in a growing season, apply 15-5-15 fertilizer with calcium and magnesium.
  6. Provide staking if needed.

To make sure you keep a potted sunflower alive, you should get it started properly. As I said before, when planting seeds, make sure to use 50% potting mix, and 50% compost or aged manure.

Place your plant in a place where it gets at least 6 hours of sunlight per day. But remember not to keep your sunflower in a place where it gets more than 8 hours of sun, because it might be too much.

Water your sunflowers 3 or 4 times a week well, but don’t overwater them. They should be moist on the top layer of soil all the time. If the top layer dries out, it’s time to water your sunflowers.

If you’re not satisfied with your sunflower’s growth, you can use 5-5-15 fertilizer with calcium and magnesium, but it’s not crucial.

Also, if your sunflower gets too tall, and it is toppling over, you can think about providing some support by staking it using a bamboo or metal rod.

16. Why is Your Potted Sunflower Dying?

Here are the most common reasons behind a dying potted sunflower:

  1. Less than 6 hours of sunlight per day.
  2. Bad air circulation
  3. Not enough water
  4. Too much water
  5. Too little nitrogen
  6. Pests presence
  7. Fungal infection
  8. Too small pot

6-8 hours of sunlight is the best for a potted sunflower. Too little or too much sunlight might cause the leaves to dry out, weak stems, or stunted growth.

If your place is humid and cold, your sunflower might die. The area should possess daytime temperatures of around 72 degrees Fahrenheit (22 Â°C) and nighttime temperatures of approximately 65 degrees Fahrenheit (18 °C).

Sunflowers love soil that isn’t too dry or soggy. If you overwater your plant, the leaves will turn yellow or brown. If your sunflower doesn’t get enough water, the leaves will drop. So, don’t let the soil dry out, and keep it moist, but don’t overwater it. As a rule of thumb, plant your sunflower deep 3 times a week.

Yellow leaves also mean that your potted sunflower needs nutrients. In that case, apply a good fertilizer, like this one from Amazon, and apply it close to the soil so that it does not get near leaves.

If you notice discolored leaves or leaves with holes or deformed, it means pests such as aphids and mites can attack your sunflower. To solve this problem, apply a mild insecticidal soap or a mild soap on the leaves and stem.

Downy mildew is a sign that your sunflower has a fungal infection. To revive the plant, reduce water use to keep the soil dry and apply fungicide on the sunflower.

Your sunflower will die if it’s in a too-small pot. To prevent it, repot it in a larger pot with good drainage.