Valley of the Sunflower

Our N. Phoenix (Valley of the Sun) sunflowers had a rough start this year as the rodents found the “all you can eat” salad bar too tempting. You can read about this in our previous post:

Desert Sunflower Roulette

These plants have been blooming their heads off (no pun intended here) since early June and I assure you that it has been no picnic for them. They have done their best fending off the extreme heat at the highs exceeding 110 degrees (predicted to be 114 tomorrow), cutter bees, caterpillars and perhaps inconsistent watering.

Here are pictures of the two courtyard sunflowers after a season with excessive heat and the pestilence mentioned above.

Now keep in mind, these are not specimen plants by any stretch of the imagination and they have lasted longer than many of our sunflowers of previous years. I also have to point out that they are really struggling. Notice how there are no flowers at the top of the plant (see first photo) where the largest and most beautiful blooms were ushered forth. See the linked post above for more comparison photos.

The leaves have been burned to a crisp and perhaps they have attracted insects that are always on the prowl for weakened plant material. On the other hand, however, they are still blooming and providing their innate beauty.

While I do use IPM (Integrated Pest Management) when necessary, I try to grow as organically as I can. My goal on this day was to deadhead the spent blooms and trim the plants so they do not use energy to keep parts of the stalk alive where no more flowers will be grown.

I identified areas where there were new buds growing in the stem axils and attempted to work around them leaving as many in place as possible. Notice the red arrow in the photograph below pointing to one of those buds.

I tried to allow several flowers to go to seed, but apparently these plants were sterile as no seeds developed on either of the plants. I also noticed that the number of bees were scant which may be another indication of pollen that is not viable; I don’t know for sure!

As long as the plants are producing, I am inclined to try to keep them going!

After the trim, this is how one of the two plants looked which I still found pleasant and acceptable.

I am hopeful that next year will be kinder to our sunflowers by keeping the seedling-eating squirrels and packrats away!


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