I like a garden with a little more variety than just sunflowers, which is why I always look for sunflower companion plants.
Is there any flower more lovely than the sunflower? Famous post-impressionist painter Vincent Van Gogh painted a series of sunflower canvases. It appears on the state flag of Kansas. There’s even a National Sunflower Association, which shouldn’t be a surprise given the agricultural importance of these flowers.
Plus, when you drive by a field of sunflowers, you just have to hop out and take a photo with your arms stretched wide like the earth just gave you a huge hug, right? I love sunflowers, they’re awesome in the true sense of the word.
What every gardener needs to know about sunflowers
When you’re thinking about sunflower companion plants, it’s important to think about the sunflower first. Sunflowers are native to the dry prairie regions of the central United States, where they are sometimes considered weeds. That pretty much means that as long as there is plenty of sun, your sunflower will grow just fine.
If you start them from seeds, space them about two feet apart and plant them about an inch or two deep. (You can plant them six inches apart if you like, but you’ll have to thin them later on if you do this.) The sunflower is naturally drought tolerant, but it’s ideal to water them regularly.
Choosing the best sunflower companion plants
Because sunflowers are tall, they offer a lot of shade to plants that don’t appreciate a full day of direct sunlight. Sunflowers are also a favorite of pollinators like bees and butterflies.
Other tall, sun loving plants such as corn and tomatoes are good sunflower companion plants. Cucumbers, melons, and squash grow well alongside sunflowers, too.
Shade loving vegetables, such as lettuce make good companions for sunflowers, as well.
Even though these are good sunflower companion plants, other plants don’t get along with sunflowers at all.
Pole beans and potatoes are two well-known plants that sunflowers have it out for. They compete for the same nutrients in the soil, so sunflowers release chemicals that inhibit the growth of these vegetables.
To wrap this up, let’s talk about harvesting sunflower plants. To enjoy the seeds as a snack, let the flower dry on or off the stem. Cut the head from the plant and rub the head of the sunflower with your hand or just pull the seeds off. Rinse and dry them, or roast and salt them and enjoy.
What other vegetables have you grown with sunflowers? Share your ideas in the comments.