Sunflowers sprout best when the soil is close to 70 degrees, so mid-June is the ideal time to plant them in Maine.

For many years, we grew sunflowers without planting them. Our neighbor filled her bird feeder with sunflower seeds, and we got flowers from the seeds the birds dropped. Since that neighbor moved out, we’ve had to plant them on our own.

Sunflowers come in various heights. Shorter ones can be planted as closely as four inches apart, while tall ones – which grow eight feet or more – need as much as a foot of space. Plant them about a half an inch deep and firm the soil to eliminate air pockets.

Sunflowers need at least six hours of sun a day. They also need moisture, especially as they are sprouting.

They make attractive cut flowers, although many produce pollen that drops on furniture, floors and clothing. Johnny’s Selected Seeds recommends the single-stem no-pollen varieties in the “Sunrich” and “Pro Cut” series, which eliminates that problem.

If you plan to leave the blossoms outside to look at and feed the birds, pollen drop doesn’t matter.

The other decision is whether you want single-stem varieties, which are easier to grow with stronger stems but produce only one flower for each seed, or the multi-stem varieties, which produce many blooms over a long period.

Either way, they make a cheerful addition to a garden.

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