How to Grow Sunflowers in Containers

Sunflowers are often thought of as the quintessential summer plant. They immediately bring to mind lazy, sunny days of July and August. While they are often associated with large fields or big garden plots, they can be grown in containers too. Even a small 3 gallon pot can house the enormous ‘Mammoth’ sunflower.

Wait For The Show

Sunflowers should always be started from seed after any danger of frost is past. It takes about three months for sunflowers to reach a mature blooming stage. The plants and foliage are not very notable, so if you intend to use container sunflowers for landscaping clients, grow them at your own facility until they are ready to bloom. You can then place them in arrangements on balconies, porches, and walkways right as they are beginning put on their midsummer show.

Full Sun

As you are planning your installments, keep in mind that sunflowers require full sun. They will grow leggy and topple while reaching for the sun when grown in the shade. Sunflowers prefer sandy soils. While the plants tolerate drought, they grow best when watered regularly. Containers require a bit more vigilance because they can dry out quickly in hot weather. You may want to consider a container with sub-irrigation.

Heavy Feeders

Sunflowers perform best with a lot of fertilizer. Apply a high nitrogen fertilizer while the plant is growing. Then when the flower head begins to open, change to a fertilizer that is high in phosphorus. The phosphorus will help ensure a spectacular bloom.


There are many different varieties of sunflowers. ‘Mammoth’ is the cultivar that comes to mind when picturing the traditional giant sunflower. While these may be fun in a few specific situations, they are probably not practical for most outdoor container conditions. If you do choose to grow a tall variety in a container, you may want to anchor it to something secure such as a drain pipe. This will prevent the container or the plant from tipping in the wind.

Teddy Bear Sunflower

‘Teddy Bear’ Sunflower

There are several dwarf varieties such as ‘Teddy Bear’ and ‘Music Box.’ These grow around three feet tall. You can plant up to three dwarf sunflowers in a six inch pot. If you want a little more height and dramatic color, consider the red-orange ‘Autumn Beauty’ that grows up to five feet tall. The ‘Italian White’ also grows to five feet, but has creamy white flowers with petals that have an almost ruffled appearance.

You can plant sunflowers individually or with other annuals. Pair them with annuals that have prolific blooms all summer or annuals that begin to taper their blooming mid to late summer. With the right counterparts a container arrangement that features a sunflower can be interesting and attractive for the entire season. Remember that any plants paired with sunflowers will need to tolerate full sun.

Tips to Remember

Help your clients enjoy bright, cheery sunflowers this summer. Just keep a few things in mind as you prepare your containers:

  • Sunflowers require full sun
  • Blossoms will not appear until mid to late summer
  • Sunflowers are heavy feeders
  • Dwarf varieties are easiest to use in container arrangements.

Have you used sunflowers in outdoor container arrangements? What are your favorite varieties? What other plants did you pair them with?


How to Grow and Care for Sunflowers in Containers.” Balcony Container Gardening. <>
“Sunflower Annual” Better Homes and Gardens Plant Dictionary. <>
Featured Image by Marco Monetti via
Teddy Bear Sunflower image by Alison Mickelson via
“Guide to successful pot sunflower production.” North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service. <>

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