When to pick your Sunflowers for maximum vase life

Sunflowers, they're a great cut flower, especially if you grow varieties designed for the vase like the pollenless Sunrich series. 

Bee loving Sunrich Gold Sunflower - Photo by Emma Davies

Bee loving Sunrich Gold Sunflower - Photo by Emma Davies

If you grow and pick them right, they'll last in the vase for 11 days, but when is the right time to pick them?

I'm a fan of the Ruby Eclipse Sunflowers, - and judging by how fast they've sold this year, i'm not the only one, so here's my way to get the best and longest out of them. Like Tulips, they're going to need picking every day.

Ruby Eclipse

Ruby Eclipse

Cut Sunflowers (rather than garden sunflowers) take from 60-70 days from seeding to first flowering at peak growing period. They then take a couple of weeks for a batch to flower.  

Here's what the buds look like as they are forming

left - first stage before buds form, top, as it first forms, bottom, just before it opens

left - first stage before buds form, top, as it first forms, bottom, just before it opens

You want to pick the flower as soon as it is opening, but before any bugs get a chance to get to the centre pollen. This means you need to check your sunflower each morning. The ideal time to pick is as the first florets open up, but before the flower is fully open. Like this

Ruby Eclipse at exactly the right time to pick

Ruby Eclipse at exactly the right time to pick

Of course it only takes a few hours, a day at the most to miss this stage, So if your Sunflower has opened itself up, how do you know whether it's still ok to pick it, or whether you should just enjoy it on the plant?

Sunrich yellow

Sunrich yellow

If the sunflower is fully open but the petals are pointing forward, and there is no insect damage in the centre section, then they are fine to pick, and will still last in the vase.

Now look at the Ruby eclipse photo again. The one at the top  is fine to pick, with the petals pointing forward and just opened. The other has reflexed petal pointing backwards and i missed the key picking point. If these get picked now, the petals will drop very quickly despite conditioning, and disappoint when in the vase.

Want to learn more about the right time to pick each flower in your garden, allotment or flower farm? Come on one of our Cut and Condition courses and get advice, information and practice at cutting key crops.