Why would I want to prune my sunflowers, I hear you cry? They’re so bright and beautiful, why would I want to cut any part of them down? Pruning can improve the health, and the attractiveness, of any plant, and sunflowers are no exception.
Well, sunflowers do get very big, very quickly, and if you have a lot of them you might find that they do take over everything! How to prune sunflowers to maximise their growth and make them look attractive?
What You'll Learn Today
Why Do You Need To Prune Sunflowers
To be honest, you shouldn’t really have to prune your sunflowers if they are the annual type. These guys simply grow, flower and die back again, and apart from a little removing of dead leaves, you shouldn’t have to do much to them.
Perennial sunflowers, those that come up year after year, may need a little more care, however, to keep them looking their best and producing those all-important flowers. They will also benefit from a bit of a trim to keep them from knocking each other and getting damaged.
Tools For Pruning Sunflowers
A good pair of secateurs will be your best friend if you find that you need to prune your sunflowers. They are easy to hold, and should be a good size for snipping through even the larger stems.
You can also get away with using a pair of sharp scissors to trim your plants, as the stems are generally quite thin and don’t need a lot of hacking. Buy a special pair just for the garden, so your good kitchen scissors don’t get covered in sap!
A small pruning saw might come in handy if you have to remove an entire plant, for example because of disease. The stems can be quite thick, and harder to cut through with smaller pruning implements.
When To Prune Sunflowers
You should prune your perennial sunflowers twice a year – cut them down to half their size in the beginning of summer, then reduce them by another third in late June or July. If you are growing one of the giant species, you should consider pruning them to 2/3rd of their size in June.
Never prune after the first flowers start to appear, as this can damage the sunflowers and prevent more flowers from forming. Keep an eye on when the buds start to appear, and put the cutters away for the season as soon as you see them.
How To Prune Sunflowers
Start by sterilising all your cutting equipment. This is important, especially to avoid transmitting disease, fungus or mould from plant to plant.
Remove all the dead, dying or wilting parts of the plant first – you may noticed a leaf going brown here and there that can just be picked off and won’t need snipping. You can leave the pruning here if you like, for a more wild look.
You can also prune your sunflowers into a shape if you like – they won’t take on the full topiary effect, but you can trim them into a neat formation somewhat like a hedge.
Give the soil around your sunflowers a really good soaking once you have pruned them, to relieve them of the stress of the pruning and to help them grow back strongly.
If you need a little more inspiration, here is a video on how to prune sunflowers:
Pruning sunflowers should not be as difficult a task as pruning some other types of garden plant (here is my guide to pruning corn plants). They don’t need to be trained or cut into severe shapes – just a bit of a trim now and then, and they should reward you for years to come. Here’s also my recent post on protecting sunflowers from birds.