Mother's Day is the second Sunday in May, and it is challenging to have a great selection of flowers for this all-important floral holiday. Over the years, we have done a pretty good job of hitting Mother's Day with big bouquets in which sunflowers are a focal flower.
Sunflowers can be grown in 4-inch pots in a heated greenhouse. They are acceptable, but not fantastic when grown that way. A better solution is to grow them in the ground in an unheated hoophouse. The single-stemmed hybrids have strong stems and lush petals. The best varieties for us that early are Sunbrite Supreme and Sunrich. I especially like Sunrich Gold (shown at left) for Mother's Day. Its green centers go better with other spring flowers than the brown-centered varieties.
We seed them in early to mid March, putting one seed per cell in 72-cell flats. We put them on a heat mat; they germinate within a few days and if there's sun, they grow quickly. Around the third week of March, we transplant them into the hoophouse, spacing them 4-5 inches apart, with one foot between rows. We put hoops over them and cover the hoops with row cover.
I have set out Sunbrites and Sunrich plugs on March 24 and started harvesting on May 4. Both varieties are supposed to take 60 days to maturity, but if the weather is sunny and the hoophouse is kept warm, they bloom much faster.
In 2011, Mother's Day is May 8, so be sure to seed and transplant early enough.
Last year at Sunny Meadows Flower Farm we expanded our production from four acres to ten. Being in the city of Columbus, Ohio, and already using all of our own land, we had to consider other properties to expand production. We currently rent the lot adjacent to ours, but have no contract and are afraid of being kicked off some day, so we know we need something with a little more security as we continue to think about expanding perennials and greenhouses.
"So whose idea was this, anyway?” This was the recurring question back in late June. We had agreed to grow 50,000 stems of ‘Superior Sunset’ sunflowers for a statewide advertised 4th of July special for our grocery stores. It looked like such a good deal. “Sure, we can pull this off. This is easy!”