While often admired as simply lovely garden ornamentals, sunflowers actually have an amazing variety of uses.
In addition to brightening up your garden, sunflowers make a good dried food for poultry and livestock, bright dyes come from their petals, and paper can be made from the stalk pith. On top of that, sunflower seeds and seed meal feed countless people, animals, and birds. Sunflower seed-oil is used in cooking and in soaps and cosmetics. In the garden, you can grow sunflowers not only as beautiful aesthetic additions, but as windbreaks, privacy screens, or living supports for pole beans.
(Whether you're starting your first garden or switching to organic, Rodale’s Basic Organic Gardening has all the answers and advice you need—get your copy today!)
Sunflowers also come in a wide assortment of sizes. Some cultivars grow as tall as 15', and the flower heads can be as big as 1' across; dwarf types, however, are only 1'- 2' tall. There are also early, medium-height sunflowers that stand 5'-6' tall but have heads that are 8"-10" across. Some cultivars produce a single large flower; others form several heads. Here are our best tips to grow your healthiest sunflowers yet this year.