Chicago gardeners, sunflower season is in full bloom, and you may even have colorful sunflower hybrids growing in your gardens. If not, plan a sunny bed for next year. Imagine a fence enhanced with giant sunflowers creating a forest of delight for you and your family. Their sunny faces will cheer you, and the plants will clean the air of pollutants.
Sunflower, Helianthus annuus, is a member of the COMPOSITEAE or ASTERACEAE family. The family contains about 80 species of annuals and perennials that grow in dry woodlands, prairies or swamps in the Northern Hemisphere and South America. These plants are tall, stout, sturdy herbs with large, circular heads of flowers and large alternate and opposite leaves. The center can be purple, brown or black. The daisy-like petals can be yellow, red, brown, white or combinations of these colors. Various hybrids exist in a variety of sizes from dwarf to garden to giant sizes. The edible seeds are an excellent source of oil.
According to a Greek myth, the maiden Clytie was turned into a sunflower so she could worship the sun god Apollo forever. Environmentalist groups adopted the sunflower as their symbol because it cleans the air. The state of Kansas adopted the sunflower as its symbol.
Plant sunflowers in somewhat fertile soil in full sunlight. Follow growing instructions carefully because some varieties prefer dry soil, but others prefer to grow near rivers, ponds or lakes. Giant varieties may need support for their up to 14-foot height. Spray with environmentally friendly spray to fight downy mildew, powdery mildew, canker, rust and fungal leaf spots. Apply safe, insecticidal spray if caterpillars, cutworms, beetles and weevils attack your plants.
Grow happy sunflower hybrids in your Chicago garden.
Live long and well—garden.
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