How To Grow a Sunflower Fort For Kids

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"In all things of nature there is something marvelous."


Springtime and summer are coming, and what better time could there be to enjoy the outdoors together with a family-friendly project like a sunflower fort? You don’t have to go far from homeyou can create a relaxing and beautiful retreat right within your own yard if you grow a sunflower house for kids and adults alike to enjoy. Everything goes lasso the moon and use your imagination!

Need some outdoor ideas to encourage more time with the kids? Sharing the outdoors with your children can really melt away stress and provide great opportunities for bonding and using your imagination (not to mention some nice photos). Building a garden fort or sunflower house with kids is a perfect DIY summer family activity.

Researchers have even found that certain microbes in garden soil can be natural mood-boosters!

Without a doubt, sunflower forts are one of the best fun garden ideas for the entire familyeven small children can help.

What is a Sunflower?

little girl wondering what is a sunflower

A sunflower, or Helianthus annuus, is a plant with a large flowering head. If you look closely, you will notice that the flowering head of the sunflower is really a host of tiny flowers that spiral together in a very unique and precise design.

The tiny florets that spiral the inner sunflower produce seeds. The outer petals vary in colors that range from the sunflower’s well-known yellow sunshine-like hue to shades of orange, burgundy, and other colors. The sunflower is an annual plant that’s coming in gardening, and it is native to the Americas. Of course, the seeds are a nutritious snack for birds and people alike, and they’re very popular with children!

As the name suggests, sunflowers love facing the sun. Keep this thought in mind as you imagine your sunflower house and which way the heads will face. A friend of mine joked that his daughter must have planted her sunflowers in the wrong directions since they often faced away from those admiring them from the street!

Sunflower Seed Planting

Sunflower seeds usually grow very well if you direct-sow them in the dirt of your garden area and keep them watered. However, the young shoots and seedlings can be a popular snack for critters and insects! (You’ll know why if you’ve ever tried sunflower microgreens).

If you do have trouble defending your sunflowers from pests (or want to get a head start), you can start gardening the seeds in an indoor room and wait to plant them outside in your garden until they are a bit larger, about 6-12″ tall.

Children Sunflower Seed Planting

How to Support A Growing Sunflower Plant

Since sunflowers have heavy flower heads, they have a tendency to fall over. To avoid this, make sure to use a support post or trellis as needed. You can also plant them in a garden block of other sunflowers. When sunflowers are planted in a place among friends, they will lean on each other for support.

support and structure for a sunflower fort

Do Sunflowers Need a Lot of Water?

Sunflowers are hardy plants that are easy to grow. Sunflowers do not need a lot of water; their roots will suffocate in soggy soil.

Make sure that the grass and soil around your sunflowers don’t stay too wet. Avoid watering your sunflowers during the middle of the day to prevent fungal growth.

How To Grow a Sunflower Fort For Kids
instructions for building a sunflower fort and house

Instructions For Building A Sunflower House

Since sunflowers are a hardy plant to grow in warm temperatures they are a popular flower in the springtime after the first frost and for gardening with kids. They’re also a quintessential sign of summer!
How can you help your sunflowers grow big, strong, and beautiful?

List of Equipment You'll Need For Your Sunflower House

  • a 10’ x 10’ sunny place in your gardening corner
  • 1-2 packets of tall sunflower seeds (the taller variety the better–check the packet)
  • 1 packet of dwarf sunflower seed, or a pack of dwarf sunflowers. “Teddy Bear” sunflower is a good choice for this at only 2-3 feet tall.
  • Rich garden soil or fertilizer to help each plant grow several feet tall!
  • Wooden trellis post boards
  • (Optional) Cute DIY sign to mark the entrance or other décor ideas.

Planning Your Sunflower House

Because sunflowers are heavy feeders, you may want to mix in some compost, garden soil, or an all-purpose slow-release fertilizer around the perimeter of your soil square or circle. The shape of your house is really up to you since there are many ways to design your structure.

planning your sunflower house
where to plant your sunflowers

How to Design A Sunflower House

Depending on the diameter of your sunflower fort or house, you may be able to carefully tie the sunflowers together with twine and vines in the center to provide a “roof” and extra shade to the little garden house, but this is optional. Depending on the variety you choose, you can expect your sunflowers to grow from 6-10 feet tall, or perhaps even taller.

Where To Plant Your Sunflower House

Sunflowers are a great plant to grow in your garden because they attract birds and bees that make great pollinators for your garden. Plus, they’re very easy to grow and don’t need a lot of maintenance.

Sunflower fields grow best in full sunshine so make sure you pick a spot with plenty of sunlight. Every now and then, you’ll want to thin out your sunflowers so they don’t grow too big and floppy.

how to design an sunflower house
kids planting sunflower seeds

How To Plant Your Sunflower Seeds

 Let a grown-up prepare the planting space for your sunflower house by lightly tilling it or raking it well enough that the ground is good and loose. Use a metal soil rake to level out the ground and ready it for planting.

Remember To Let The Kids Get Involved!

Sunflower seeds are large enough for even small fingers to easily handle, so let your kids plant the tall sunflower seeds at 8-10″ intervals in a circle around the house (Mom or Dad can help to measure distance or mark the right spots with a fingerprint).

Leave a 2-3 foot opening on one side for a “door.” If you have more seeds, you can add a second row of sunflower seeds about 6” outside the first ring of seeds. Try to alternate the seed, so that you have a “V” pattern all the way around.

Making The Entryway

Line the “entryway” with the dwarf sunflowers. Plant these in either single or double rows on both sides of your “door”. The dwarfs can be spaced a little closer than the ones that are several feet tall.

You can also plant a shorter-height sunflower ring around the outside of the sunflower house to help fill out the “walls.”

sunflower arch entryway
How To Grow a Sunflower Fort For Kids

Watering Your Sunflower House

Watering the garden is a great job for kids of any age, especially on hot days. They may end up watering themselves more than they water the garden, but as long as the flowers get some of the moisture, they’ll grow steadily.

Using your hose or a sprinkler, water the newly-planted sunflowers deeply. Keep the soil moist until they begin to sprout and becomes well-established.

Weeding And Cultivating Your Sunflowers

Keep the inside of the sunflower house weed-free with regular hoeing and cultivating. Have the kids help weed the area weekly while the weeds are small to make the job easier and quicker. As an alternative, you can allow short grass or other creeping plants that can tolerate being stepped on to create a garden “carpet” inside your sunflower house to help prevent mud.

keeping weeds out of your sunflower house
kids playing is a sunflower fort

Maintaining Your Sunflower Fort

You’ll soon see the “walls” of the house grow from six inches to six feet tall. If needed, you can add more support stakes with rope or twine woven between them to help support the plant structure.

Decorating And Enhancing Your Sunflower House

morning glories

Morning Glories And Other Flowers

If you really want your living fort to “pop” with flowery color, grab a pack of morning glory seeds to plant after the sunflowers are at least knee-high. Blue or purple morning glory flowers are a great idea to complement the yellow sunflowers.

The morning glories will climb and wind around the sunflower stalks to provide extra foliage and color on the walls of the house. Morning glory seeds grow into gorgeous flowers that love to face the morning sun. Just be aware that in some gardening areas that get enough rain, morning glories can be considered invasive since they drop seeds and re-plant themselves easily.

Benefits Of A Backyard Sunflower Fort

How To Grow a Sunflower Fort For Kids

Sunflower seeds grow quickly, and it won’t take long for the giant leaves and thick stems of the Sunflower plants to make the spot seem like a living fort or gazebo. Kids can use their sunflower house throughout the summer as a secret play place, clubhouse, or just a nice spot to hang out, read a book, or quietly enjoy the gardening life. It’s also a great place to take a summertime family photo!

Attracting Wildlife

An additional benefit of this garden idea is that sunflowers attract wildlife, especially birds. Your kids can learn to identify the variety of seed-eating birds that come for lunch. Finches of all kinds, grosbeaks, and cardinals are common visitors depending on your location. During August, kids can watch monarch and swallowtail butterflies prepare for their journey south as they gather nectar from the sunflower house.  

Buzz buzz—Bees!

An additional benefit of this garden idea is that sunflowers attract wildlife, especially birds. Your kids can learn to identify the variety of seed-eating birds that come for lunch. Finches of all kinds, grosbeaks, and cardinals are common visitors depending on your location. During August, kids can watch monarch and swallowtail butterflies prepare for their journey south as they gather nectar from the sunflower house.  

Tons Of Flowers For Arts And Crafts

Mom can also get some more perks from this garden project. Sunflower blooms make great cut flowers to brighten an indoor room or share with other people. If you’ve used colorful sunflower varieties such as Infrared or Autumn Beauty for this project, you can “borrow” a few blooms from the fort for your DIY bouquets. These types of sunflowers will branch after the central flower head is cut so there won’t be any holes left in the wall of the house.

Harvesting Your Sunflowers At Season's End

When the weather starts getting too cold to play outside, why not harvest your sunflower crops? The flowers have great culinary uses, and you’ll clear out your yard to regrow your fort next year.

When the backs of sunflower heads have turned from green to yellow or brown, it’s time to harvest them for drying. Cutting the flower head at the base and hanging it in a well-ventilated space allows the entire head to dry.

After it’s completely dried, you can harvest the seeds and plant them for next year’s growth, or roast them and enjoy them as a snack.


Related Post: Gardening with Kids

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