Sunflowers are one of the easiest garden crops to grow. They tolerate most soil types and their roots grow deep and spread wide, giving them the ability to withstand a fair amount of drought as well as tolerate any soil disturbance brought about by the cultivation of nearby crops. Start seeds in flats or sow them directly into the soil. Plant them in a sunny position in soil that affords adequate drainage and has warmed to at least 45º F (preferably above 50ºF). For plant to develop fully flowering heads, avoid fertilizers high in nitrogen. To grow well, sunflowers need full sun. They grow best in fertile, moist, well-drained soil with a lot of mulch.
The seeds can be eaten raw, boiled, roasted, or salted. The ground seeds can be made into a peanut butter alternative, nut milks, tempeh, a type of halvah, mixed with water to make beveridges, seed yogurt, and seed cheese. They contain a fine edible oil. Young seedlings are called sunflower lettuce. The flower recepticles can be steamed and served like artichokes. The bitter sweet flower petals and the young petioles are cooked and eaten. Roasted seed hulls are a coffee substitute. The Sunflower is a good bee plant, as it furnishes hive bees with large quantities of wax and nectar. Sunflower honey is delicious.
The seeds have diuretic and expectorant properties and have been employed with success in the treatment of bronchial, laryngeal and pulmonary affections, coughs and colds, also in whooping cough.
The cake remaining after the seeds have been processed for oil is used as a livestock feed. Sunflowers also produce latex and are the subject of experiments to improve their suitability as an alternative crop for producing hypoallergenic rubber.
Traditionally, several Native American groups planted sunflowers on the north edges of their gardens as a "fourth sister" to the better known three sisters combination of corn, beans, and squash. Annual species are often planted for their allelopathic propertie. Sunflowers may also be used to extract toxic ingredients from soil, such as lead, arsenic and uranium. They were used to remove uranium, cesium-137, and strontium-90 from soil after the Chernobyl disaster (see phytoremediation).
The growing herb is extremely useful for drying damp soils, because of its remarkable ability to absorb quantities of water. Swampy districts in Holland have been made habitable by an extensive culture of the Sunflower, the malarial miasma being absorbed and nullified, whilst abundant oxygen is emitted.
The stalk fibers can be used in textiles. The chinese historically grew this plant extensively, and it is believed that a large portion of its fibre is mixed with their silks.
W,H/Matures 12/Harvest 10-40/Yield 2.5-10 (shelled)/ Spacing 24” (for compost 9”)