The dark centers of Red Sun's 5-6 inch flowers are surrounded by glorious warm bronze-maroon petals that are yellow at the base. Slightly less intense red than Prado Red, it is also later, which extends the red sunflower season. The plants are 5 1/2-6 feet tall with 10 or more buds per plant. These are exceptional cut flowers with long stems, lasting up to 10 days in the vase. Germination code: (4)
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CULTURE: All sunflowers do best in areas with full sun. Sow seeds April through May. Optimum soil temperature: 65-75°F. Days to germination: 7-14. Sow 1/2 inch deep, 3-4 inches between plants, and 30 inches between rows. Thin to 12-18 inches, leaving the strongest plants. To promote deep roots and strong stems, water deeply but infrequently. One to two cups of our complete fertilizer per 10 row feet in the spring is adequate for the year. Over fertilization may cause stems to break in the fall. Germination code: (4)
DISEASE AND PESTS: Watch for cutworms and weevils in the spring. A Pyrethrin powder, dusted or sprayed, works well for control. Avoid wetting the foliage to help prevent rust. Bird netting or flash tape will discourage birds.
HARVEST: Cut flowers in the morning just after they open. Use a clean knife, a clean vase, and a few drops of chlorine bleach in the water, along with Floralife Cut Flower Food (ZFE272), to help maintain freshness. Cutting the mature central flower head will promote side-shoot flower production. Black-hulled sunflower seeds are a favorite with seed-eating birds. Harvest the heads when the bracts begin to shrivel, and hang the flowers upside down in a barn or shed. For seed-eating gardeners, gray and white striped sunflower seeds are the leading choice for munching raw, or roasted and salted. Harvest these the same way.
SALTING: When dry, rub the seeds off the heads and soak overnight in 1 gallon of water with 1 cup of salt added. Drain, and then dry in a 250°F oven for 4-5 hours and store in an airtight container.