Sunflowers (Helianthus spp.) are not only beautiful plants to add to a garden or yard area but they also attract much-needed pollinators that can keep your local ecosystem balanced and healthy. These plants are fast-growing, and some types can grow over 16 feet high, but sometimes, like any plant, they may begin to wilt. Wilting in sunflowers can be attributed to a number of factors, including pests, fungus and maturation. In order to prevent wilting, you'll first need to identify the cause in order to implement the proper treatment.
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Why Do Sunflowers Wilt?
Sunflowers can wilt for a number of reasons, many of which cause the supportive root or stem structure to become compromised. One common reason for wilting in these generally hardy plants is pests, like carrot beetles, which feed at the root of the plant, and stem weevils, which chew away at leaves and stems. Additionally, certain types of fungus, like verticillium, may attack sunflower roots, which can cause wilting and often prevents plants from producing seeds.
It is important to discern the difference between a wilting sunflower and a sunflower that has gone to seed. The latter is a natural part of a plant's life, and when sunflowers mature into the seeding stage, the tops of their flower heads can become so heavy that they will bend downward and "nod" as they struggle to support themselves. If your sunflower is drooping for this reason, the only thing to do is to harvest the seeds or leave them for birds and other yard visitors to enjoy.
How to Revive Sunflowers
If your sunflowers are wilting due to pests, a food-safe insecticide can kill existing bugs and prevent the appearance of new ones. If you have a long growing season, holding off on planting can help you avoid running into pests like stem weevils entirely, as they may not be able to complete their life cycle without laying eggs if they have nowhere to lay them. To prevent a carrot beetle or stem weevil infestation, it is recommended that you remove dead or dying plants from your growing area, as this can eliminate spaces for the larvae to mature.
Fungus can't exactly be eliminated, but you can prevent the spread of it by removing affected plants immediately. You can prevent verticillium fungus from attacking your plants by reducing overwatering and providing well-draining soil on which your plants can thrive. For sunflowers that droop due to seed production, amend your soil with organic material, like compost or worm castings. Watering your plants deeply will force your plants' roots to become stronger and may help them to support heavy seed heads in the next season.
Sunflower Care Tips
Many types of sunflowers are heliotropic plants with faces that follow the sun, so it's best to grow them in an area where they will receive access to direct sunlight for about six to eight hours a day. Keep your plants healthy by fertilizing them and amending the planting site with composted organic matter. When planting, amend the soil to a depth of about 2 feet deep to allow roots to take hold and spread. If you see that your plants are being heavily swayed by the wind, you can try staking the stalks for added support.