Why Are My Sunflowers Drooping, Falling Over or Wilting?


Sunflower Guides / Saturday, December 1st, 2018

Throughout the summer season in the garden, I find myself busy as a bee caring for my sunflowers. They need constant care with watering and tending.

From one day to the next I find a new challenge comes along. The seedling are leaning towards the light and are fragile before hardening off, then they get leggy and droop on transplanting and need a little help standing tall.

My mature plants are given good solid stakes to lean on, but are not ‘strangle held’ as to stop heliotropism – which you can find out about here. The freshly cut flowers I have around my home  are regularly treated to fresh water and a homemade cocktail of soluble food, to prolong their lives.

So why are my sunflowers drooping? First of all make sure all developing plants are well drained and have been watered. Seedlings are usually floppy and will soon get stronger when hardened off. Mature plants have heavy drooping heads and need staking, while cut wilting flowers might need a change of water and a bit more care.   

Below are the reasons I’ve found for drooping or wilting sunflowers. But, on experience and a little research I have come across a few more factors that I’d like to expand on and share with you.

So let us see how we can help hold our sunflower heads up high.

Sunflower Seedlings Falling Over

Sunflowers are one of the fastest growing plants, so it’s not surprising that they get tall and floppy really fast. Not just sunflower seedlings, but all seedlings that are grown indoors can get leggy and even fall over as they strain towards the natural sunlight. If you’re growing seedlings indoors then place them in the most sunny place as you can, A south facing windowsill is ideal.

Make sure the seedling trays, or pots have good drainage so they’re not sitting in soggy soil. I also turn my seedlings daily and gently brush my hands over them a few times a day. This gives them the feeling that they’re fighting against the wind and they grow stronger.

If all else fails. bend a pipe cleaner or stiff garden wire and make a support. Gently prop your sunflower seedling against the supports until it is time to harden them off.

Sunflower Seedlings Wilting After Transplanting

‘Hardening off’ means that you gradually introduce your sunflower seedlings to their new outdoor life. This is done a few weeks before you transplant them into their summer growing site. It takes a bit of dedication and care, but it will ensure better sunflower results.

How to Harden off Sunflowers

  1. Place your seedling trays and pots in a sunny, but sheltered place on firm ground for a few hours every day
  2. Make sure you bring them in at night
  3. Gradually increase the hours each day
  4. Continue until the last of the harsh weather has gone
  5. Plant your sunflowers in the ground.

Sunflowers grow fast, and to grow strong they need a lot of sun to do this. So make sure you plant your sunflower seedlings in as sunny a place as you can. Six hours of sunlight is ideal.

If your seedlings start to wilt, this is usually known as ‘transplanting shock’. Make sure they are gently watered and if you need to use wire supports then do so. Be patient, they will soon get strength from being outside in their new ground and the natural sunlight from above.

A sunflower in need of a little support. 

Maturing Sunflowers Bending Over

Now your sunflowers are growing fast and tall in their growing sites. If you’re lucky they will soon gain the strength to hold themselves up. If not and your giant beauties are leaning and bending over, then a helping hand is required.

Strong stakes and canes are ideal. Push them into the ground next to each sunflower plant and gently prop the stem against them. Next wrap twine or plastic coated garden wire tightly around the canes and loosely around the stem of the plant.

Do not tie the plant in a ‘strangle hold’ against the canes as it will prevent the sunflower from following the sun, this is an important part of the sunflowers growth.

Having grown sunflowers for many years, I use a support cane system! They’re so easy to use, durable and year after year they haven’t let me down – or my sunflowers.

Sunflowers Supports

It’s been several years since I needed to buy new ones, but if you’re planning on growing sunflowers for many years to come, or have any other tall plants that need support, I found similar ones that are perfect here on amazon.

If you’d like more in depth ideas of how to make supports for your sunflower I’ve written it all in helpful detail here.

Building a framework around your sunflowers out of canes, stakes poles or garden treated wood is a big help to them too. It takes time and can be a little awkward to get in amongst your maturing plants, so maybe a bit of forward planning is needed.

Nonetheless, if you’ve got this far and your plants need support then a bit of time working on a frame or erecting trellis will go a long way to help them.  

Why Sunflower Heads Droop Over

There are a few reasons why sunflower heads droop over. First of all, make sure your plants are fully hydrated. It’s important to water your sunflowers often as they  grow so quickly and can dry out fast. There have been days I’ve had to water my sunflowers in the morning and evening to stop their blooms drooping.

When a sunflowers head has completely bloomed, when it’s been pollinated and becomes heavy with seeds, then it’s perfectly normal for the head to bend over and droop down.

The heaviness is one thing and the reason for it is so the seeds can fall to the ground so they can nestle there and grow the following year.

Unfortunately, there’s nothing to be done,  It’s part of the natural life cycle of the sunflower. But don’t be disheartened. This means your sunflower has paid you back for all the care you have given it by producing a high yield of seeds for you. Save some to grow next year, and do this with your seeds!

A sunny bouquet

How to Keep Cut Sunflowers from Drooping

Not only do I love having sunflowers in my garden, I love having the bright blooms displayed in my home too.

Here are a few tips to keeps your sunflowers from wilting, and to make wilting sunflowers perky again. If cared for properly, cut sunflowers can last up to 2 weeks.  

Cutting Your Own Sunflowers

I always try and give the sunflowers I cut from my garden, to display in my home a good start to help them last as long as possible. Here are some great tips to care for cut sunflowers.

  • Choose a sunflower that is starting to open up or nearly bloomed
  • Water your sunflower plants thoroughly early in the morning, at least 2 to 3 hours before cutting any bloom off. This will help prevent your cuttings from going into shock.
  • Try and get your cuttings in the morning, a few hours after watering and before the full sun has dehydrated them again.
  • Cut the stem the length you require at an angle. Sunflower stems are thick and need a lot of water, cutting at an angle gives a greater area for more water to draw up the stem.
  • Having a vase that supports the length of stem you’ve cut will help them not to droop.
  • Put the sunflowers in water straight away. This will prevent early wilting.
  • If possible, change the water every day.
  • When placing the flowers back in the clean water, jiggle them about in the water. This will release any air bubbles caught at the bottom of the stem that prevent water from being drawn up and cause wilting.

Remember: If cared for properly, cut sunflowers can last up to 2 weeks.

Buying or Being Gifted a Bouquets of Sunflowers

If you’ve bought, or been given a bunch of sunflowers, here’s a few tips after unwrapping them to give them a welcome to your home, and hopefully stop any further wilting that may be in process from their journey to your house.

  • Try and use a suitable height of vase or pot that will support the stem length.
  • First recut the sunflowers stem at an angle. This will give a large fresh area of healthy stem for them to draw up water
  • Place in water as soon as possible and jiggle the stems to release any pockets of air bubbles. The bubbles give resistance to the flow of water going up the stem, this can cause wilting.
  • Change the water regularly, once a day would be ideal. And again jiggle them.

Sunflowers Drooping in a Vase

After some days, if your vase of sunflowers are starting to wilt, try these ideas to perk them up again

  • Make sure there is water in the vase. It sound crazy but Sunflowers drink a lot and can dehydrate fast, causing them to wilt.
  • Placing your sunflowers in a tall vase or pot might be all they need to add support to their long stems and stop them from drooping.
  • Recut the stem at an angle, this will be a fresh area for water to be drawn up.
  • Put your sunflowers in clean water and jiggle them about to release air bubbles from the stem. That way the water will have no resistance going up the stem.
  • Shop bought bouquets sometimes come with a packet of plant food. If you’ve used it all up then a half a teaspoon of sugar dissolved in the water can sometimes help wilting sunflowers.

Conclusion

I hope some of these tips and hints have helped with your drooping sunflower dilemas. From seedlings falling over, sunflower plants bending, blooms drooping down and vase sunflowers wilting, I’ve seen it all and I hope I’ve given a few ideas to help with these problems.

I also hope I’ve given you the confidence to cut your own sunflowers to enjoy in your home too. If you have any other ideas of how to help with drooping, wilting, and floppy sunflowers I’d love to hear from you in the comments below. Thank you.

Related Questions

Sunflower leaves are drooping: This is an indication that the sunflower plant, or vase of sunflowers are dehydrated. Sunflowers don’t need to be over watered, but they do need to be regularly watered. Give them a good watering and they should perk up.

4 Replies to “Why Are My Sunflowers Drooping, Falling Over or Wilting?”

  1. I moved my little seedlings outside, and they love it….however the birds are biting their heads off faster than I can replant new seeds! Do I need to keep the seedlings covered until they are 6″ tall?

    1. I’m so sorry your sunflowers are being munched away faster than you can grow them. Yes, I would advise keeping your seedlings covered with netting until they are taller and aren’t so young and enticing to your feathered friends. Also, and if you haven’t already tried this, place bird feeders in another area away from your young plants. This might encourage your local wildlife to feast elsewhere. let me know how you get on. x

  2. Dear Pamela,

    Thank you for the article. it’s wonderful to discover your site especially when I don’t know what to do/ how to rescue my baby sunflowers.
    but i still have some questions to ask.
    I planted the sunflower in a tray(indoor balcony with full sunlight and hot weather(Singapore).)
    Today is the 20th day. They now have developed 6 leaves on average.
    2 days ago, i found the first 2 leaves of some of them began to turn yellow and soft, while only one of them the first 2 leaves turned brown and died. I read your article and tried to water in the early morning, as well as in the afternoon coz i scared overwatering them.
    Are these 2 leaves essential to their growth? How the sunflower will be without these first 2 leaves?
    Actually, it’s my first time planting a flower/plant. quite nervous though.

    Thank you so much and looking forward to your reply.

    1. I’m so pleased that my article has helped you in your first time quest for growing sunflowers. I hope my previous comment answered your questions, but to elaborate further, the first two leaves on a sunflower seedling arent essential. They’re just starter leaves. As long as the plant keeps growing and producing leaves it will be fine. Water enough so the compost is damp and doesn’t dry out, and let your plants drain and not sit in a puddle of water. it sounds like you’re doing a smashing job. well done. x

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