The sunflower is the national flower of Ukraine, so in honor of the tremendous suffering and bravery of its citizens, we bring this post to you.

Sunflowers in a garden are often the most mesmerizing plant going. Many of them tower over everything like watchful guardians, their fiery yellow blooms beaming towards the sun. For this reason alone, tons of gardeners, whether growing food or flowers, choose to cultivate sunflowers every year.

That, and of course, they are extremely easy to grow from seed, making them an inexpensive, low-maintenance addition. They tower up quickly and have very little trouble with pests or diseases. Plus, they work just about everywhere, from the frigid USDA Zone 2 (as in much of Alaska) to the sweltering Zone 11 (southern Florida).

Source: Epic Gardening/Youtube

But, there are tons of other good reasons to include them in gardens, particularly food gardens. So, if the whole beauty thing doesn’t pull you into the fold, perhaps some of the other valuable properties sunflowers bring will.

1. They attract pollinators

It’s not all that difficult to imagine, is it? Pollinators are out looking for flowers, and well, sunflowers can be 12 feet high and as big as a dinner plate. That’s pretty hard to miss.

Bees, including honey bees and bumblebees, love them.

2. They make stellar-cut flowers

Of course, having sunflowers out in the garden is a sight to behold, but a nice vase full of sunflowers on the dining room table can be awe-inspiring as well. Sunflower bouquets have a rustic feeling, and they can last nearly two weeks. Cut flowers are a great bonus to garden mixes.

3. They provide lots of food

When it comes to eating sunflowers, most of us whittle their edibility down to sunflower seeds. While the seeds are edible and nutritious, nearly the entire plant is edible. Sunflower petals can be tossed into salads, as can the young leaves. The leaves can also be used to make detoxifying tea or cooked greens. Even the stalks are edible, and they have a flavor somewhere between celery and cabbage. The seeds can be sprouted, too.

4. They are cheap bird feeders

Having birds in the garden is a plus on many levels. They help to control pest insects, they naturally fertilize the soil, and some of them even pollinate plants. But, bird feed is crazy-expensive. Growing a huge row of sunflowers cost about three bucks, the price of a pack of seeds. Cardinals, finches, nuthatches, and so on will flock to the garden.

5. They detoxify soils

Sunflowers are also special in their ability to pull toxins, including heavy metals, from the soil. They are classified as phytoremediators, basically a remedy for sick soil. This is why many farmers use them in their fields. Their roots suck up harsh chemicals from the soil so that it becomes safe for growing edible stuff again. (Don’t eat sunflowers that are knowingly used in polluted soil for this purpose.)

6. They help with pest control

In addition to attracting birds to the garden, which helps control pests, sunflowers themselves are often grown for pest control. Sunflowers are a great distraction for aphids, a problematic insect for many crop plants. Luckily, sunflowers are generally rugged enough to survive the aphids.

7. They can become trellises

Because many varieties of sunflowers grow very tall and have strong, thick stems, they make great living trellises for climbing plants like beans, peas, and even cucumbers. Be sure to plant the sunflowers at least a couple of weeks in advance, and sow the other seeds about a foot away from the base of the sunflower. The old stalks can also be dried and used as cages for tomatoes and ladder trellises by harvesting the stalks from this year’s sunflowers to use in next year’s garden.

Sunflowers are an amazing way to liven up the yard or garden. They can stand up along fence lines or walls for a beautiful display. They can be mixed right into the veggie patch (just keep in mind they have large leaves and cause shade). They also make great garden borders on the north side so as not to block the sun. A sunflower bed is a fabulous centerpiece in a garden or yard.

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