With clusters of delicate, butter-cream flowers each with dark chocolate centres, ‘Vanilla Ice’ is one of the prettiest sunflowers varieties available.
This compact variety grows to just 120 to 150cm (4 to 5 feet) tall so is suitable for the border or can be left to add a naturalised charm to a wildlife friendly garden scheme.
‘Vanilla Ice’ is a compact branching sunflower. Hugely prolific and long-flowering; the bushy plants produce dozens of blooms throughout summer which are perfect for fresh, cut flower arrangements - especially if gathered while they are still in bud.
One of the best loved summer flowers, sunflower blooms are highly attractive to bees, butterflies and other pollinators and the seed heads are loved by birds especially finches. Grow them along with other taller flowers as part of a wildlife friendly garden.
Easy to grow and fast to flower, partner them with other hardy annuals, they look especially attractive alongside clouds of Ammi majus, tall purple Verbenas bonariensis or Cosmos.
Sow indoors in early spring, at 13 to 18°C (55 to 65°F) 4 to 8 weeks before planting outside, alternatively, the seed can also be sown directly where they are to flower in mid to late spring.
For early flowers, start indoors as early as February or March, to germinate in about 10 days at 60 to 65°F and plant out in April or May. Use 7.5cm (3in) pots and a good sowing compost. Sow one seed 2.5mm (1in) deep per pot. Water and cover with either polythene or bubble plastic to retain the heat, or place pots on a heated bench or in a propagator with the temperature set at 13°C (55°F).
Remove the covers when the leaves appear. Plant seedlings outside when they are large enough to be handled and the root system is well developed. Add garden compost to the soil if it is heavy or infertile.
Plant outside as early as possible to miss heavy frosts, to germinate in about 1 to 3 weeks, in mid-April through mid-May. Sow seed 5cm (2in) deep and spaced 45cm (18in) apart in borders.
Water seedlings regularly and, when growing tall forms, feed sparingly with a liquid fertiliser when 60cm (2ft) high. Over-fertilisation can cause stem breakage in the autumn. Avoid splashing water or fertiliser solution on the stems or leaves.
Harvesting Cut Flowers:
For continuity, sow a succession of sunflowers every fortnight for six weeks in the early part of the growing season. In a hot summer, each cycle from sowing to blooming will take about 60 days.
For the vase, cut the fresh flowers in the morning just after they open, but wait until the sun has dried the dew. Remove leaves that are low on the stem, leaving just two or three higher up, near the flower's face. Place the flowers in a bucket filled with water, and leave them to stand for several hours in a cool room before placing in a vase.
Use a clean knife, a clean vase and a few drops of bleach in the water to keep it fresh. Change the water every few days. Blooms can last up to a fortnight when kept in water.
Beware of slugs when they are still young plants and birds stealing the seeds.
Cottage/Informal Garden, Flower Arranging, Flowers Borders and Beds or Wildflower Gardens, Children.
To dry sunflower seeds, cut the heads off when they begin to yellow at the back and hang them upside down in a dry location away from rodents and birds. Once dry, rub the seeds off and soak overnight in 4 litres 1 gal) of water with 1 cup of salt in it. Dry in a 250°F oven for 4 to 5 hours and store in an airtight container. The black-seeded varieties are mainly for oil and birdseed. The grey and white-striped varieties are for drying and eating.
The Latin name for Sunflower, Helianthus annuus, is taken from the Greek helios, meaning sun, and anthos, meaning flower. The Sunflower originated from South America and represented the sun to worshiping Aztec people; it was brought to Europe in the late sixteenth century.
Today the Sunflower is grown for crops in the Mediterranean, Eastern Europe, Argentina, India and the USA.
- Additional Information
Packet Size 500mg Average Seed Count 80 Seeds Family Asteraceae Genus Helianthus Species debilis Cultivar Vanilla Ice Common Name Branching Sunflower. Hardiness Hardy Annual Flowers Pale butter-cream flowers with dark chocolate centres Natural Flower Time Midsummer to late autumn Height 120 to 150cm (4 to 5 feet) Spacing 40cm (16in) Position Full Sun to Partial Shade Germination 5 to 21 days