Thousands of tiny flowers bunched tightly, encircled by a candle-like flame wreath, balanced precariously at the top of an impossibly thin stem, all fit to burst like a firework with the delight of summer.

Is there anything quite as cheerful as a sunflower?

A single sunflower can have up to 2000 seeds and its flower is actually thousands of tiny flowers called florets (Photo: Marcel Sigg, Flickr creative commons)

Aside from cheering up almost any garden, sunflowers are brilliant for wildlife. While they’re in bloom, many insects will enjoy the feast of nectar. Once the flower has finished beaming, the seeds provide food for many different birds, including greenfinches – a personal favourite.

Sunflowers are incredibly easy to grow. For me this is the best reason to have a go growing one – not just because I’m a lazy gardener. Growing a sunflower is a wonderful activity for young people to enjoy. Sunflowers grow tall and fast, and have a giant flower-head at the top that insects can’t resist. After the flower is finished, as mentioned, the seeds get served up for wildlife or dropped to the ground to grow next spring. I can’t think of an easier to understand or more tangible biological loop to teach a young person about lifecycles.

The tallest ever sunflower was 9.17 metres tall – that’s like two double decker buses on top of each other (Photo: Ben Andrew)

My sunflower is doing brilliantly. It’s standing tall and proud in the green house here at the Lodge HQ having been planted almost two months ago. We cheated a bit and got a head start so we had some progress photos, but if you fancy growing a sunflower and bringing the pure essence of joy into your garden, it’s not too late!

Helianthus is the scientific name for the sunflower genus, and comes from the Ancient Greek: Helios (sun) and Anthos (flower) (Photo: Ben Andrew)

You can plant sunflower seeds in a 5 cm deep, trowel width hole in the garden, somewhere weed free and with a good amount of direct sunlight, topping up and digging in to the area some peat-free compost. Water well, and you should see the seedlings sprouting in a couple of weeks. Then the race is on! Plant a couple of sunflowers about 50 cm apart and race your family members. Whose is the tallest? Whose sprouted first? Whose had the biggest flower, and when did the flower first come out?

It's really quite incredible that something so small could grow so tall (Photo: Ben Andrew)

We’d love to see your sunflowers growing, so make sure you photograph it every few weeks and email natureshome@rspb.org.uk with a progress report.

If you'd like to enter our sunflower competition or need any more help planting your sunflowers, follow this link.

Good luck, and enjoy the start of summer!

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