I like to start Mammoth Sunflower seeds inside in January and transplant them to the butterfly garden in March. By May, the stalky giants can reach 12 feet tall, their broad, foot-wide faces perching in the front yard like soldiers offering a welcome salute. They lose their perky dispositions in June, as their heads drop and seeds form in place of the flowers. All this for a $1.29 a pack and a regular drink of water.
If their massive heads, ample flowers and prodigious seeds don’t convince you of their worth, how about heliotropism? Sunflowers exhibit the endearing botanical trait of tracking the sun. Their happy flowers faces literally turn toward the sun as it moves across the sky. They drop their heads at the end of the day as the sun sets, and aptly, at the end of their life.
Once the flowers go to seed, you can leave them in place on the hung heads and birds will perch on the stalks and help themselves. As the seeds dry, they disburse to the ground, where fowl, squirrels and other critter friends gather them for a handy protein pop. One tablespoon of sunflower seeds has 4.5 grams of protein.
It’s also fun to harvest the seeds yourself for your own trail mix, to fill your bird feeder, or to plant next year. Seven Mammoth Sunflowers I planted in my front yard this spring yielded 1.25 pounds of seed.