Sunflowers are one of our favorite, generally easiest, summer blooms to grow at home. Their bright, sunny heads bring warmth to any garden they are grown in. However, sometimes when they are young, they can be a little more delicate, and it can be disheartening when they start drooping. Sad sunflowers are not the kind of sunflowers any of us enjoy in our gardens. It can also be a little difficult to work out why your sunflower babies have taken a turn for the worse.
So in answer to your question, why are my sunflower seedlings drooping? The main reason why sunflower seedlings droop is due to insufficient watering, either under or overwatering. However, it could be that they’ve got Damping-off Disease, they don’t have enough soil to support their root systems, they are getting insufficient light, or the temperature is too cold.
If your sunflower seedlings are looking a little sad and limp, read on to find out why they may be doing that and what you can do to perk them up and bring them back to life.
Why Do My Sunflower Seedlings Droop Over?
Sunflower seedlings droop over when their environment is not optimal; usually, it is water-related but it can also be the result of lack of light, insufficient soil, temperature or disease.
Sunflower seedlings are a lot more delicate and fickle than mature sunflower plants, and there can be many reasons why they are looking a little lifeless and droopy.
These are some of the things that may be affecting your seedlings and causing them to droop over.
This tends to be the main reason your sunflower seedlings are drooping.
Although mature sunflowers can survive with relatively little water every week, they are a surprisingly occasional drought-tolerant plant; brand new seedlings are growing at supersonic speed and will need a lot of water.
So making sure they have light waterings often is very important.
The joys of seedlings, no matter the plant, is that the symptoms of under-watering are almost exactly the same as an over-watered seedling.
Yes, we were being a tiny bit sarcastic there, but in all seriousness, the similarities between underwatering and overwatering can be frustrating.
If your seedling has been watered far too often or has been given too big a glug of the clear stuff, their roots can suffocate and even experience root rot.
Making sure that their soil is well-draining and not waterlogged can help ensure they do not become overwatered.
Not Enough Soil
Sunflowers have very long stems and even longer roots systems. It’s the roots of a sunflower that provide a lot of stability for the plant.
If you find your seedlings are drooping, check that they have plenty of soil and room to grow their roots.
This isn’t a common problem for seedlings grown outdoors and directly into the soil, but for seedlings started off indoors or grown in containers outside, they can very quickly run out of roots space and start to droop and fold in half.
Not Enough Sunlight
Sunflowers have been given their name because of their love of the sun.
Did you know that sunflowers change the direction they face multiple times a day just to bask in full sun? So, too little sunlight can make them very sad.
Leading to nutrient deficiencies, inability to keep up healthy photosynthesis levels, and lead to drooping.
This is a common problem for seedlings started in your home, so they will need a sunny windowsill to keep up with their sunlight needs.
It’s Too Cold
Much like their need for sunlight, they also need plenty of warmth.
Cold sunflower seedlings can very quickly become unhappy and limp.
So it’s important to keep them in a warm room and away from cool draughts.
Damping Off Disease
Damping Off Disease is a fungus that generally occurs in overly moist and cold soils.
These fungal bodies invade young plants causing them to droop and eventually die. Keeping the soil warm and not overly too wet can help stave off these nasties.
Using a fungicide if you pot the beginnings of a fungal infection can save your seedlings from certain death.
How Do You Take Care Of Sunflower Seedlings
Taking care of sunflower seedlings is all about keeping them in optimal and consistent soil, with regular and appropriate watering and protection against the elements.
Firstly, it’s important to know that sunflowers really hate being transplanted and can sometimes go into shock if they are moved.
So before you start planting your sunflower seeds, and especially if you are starting them off indoors, make sure the container you are growing them in is big enough to support as much of their growth as possible.
This will reduce the number of times you need to re-pot them before they find their forever home in your garden.
They also need plenty of well-draining soil to accommodate their fast-growing root systems.
Once they have taken off, make sure you only water them around their roots systems – 3 to 4 inches away from the plant – this can help reduce the risk of overwatering and dampening off.
They will need a small amount of water every other day until they are well established.
The best way to tell if your sunflower seedling needs water is if the soil feels very dry.
Overwatering can cause as much damage as under-watering, but it’s easier to rescue an underwater seedling.
If you decide to use fertilizer for your sunflower seedlings, it’s best to do this very sparingly.
Over-fertilization of young sunflowers can actually cause their slim stems to break.
You can increase the amount of fertilizer you give them just before their beautiful heads bloom for the first time, but as young plants, they won’t need that much.
Making sure they have enough sunlight and warmth is also incredibly important.
If you are growing them on a windowsill, make sure you use a south-facing window sill that is far away from any cold draughts, and if you are planting them directly outside, a super sunny but sheltered spot will be perfect.
How Do You Restore Sunflower Seedlings
Restoring sunflower seedlings involves environment optimization and treating any potential disease and issues that are causing them to droop.
Although your sunflower seedlings can droop for several reasons, most of the time, they can be very easy to rescue.
If they haven’t had enough water, a good glug of freshwater will be just the thing. Give them a few hours to perk up after a good watering to ensure that it was a lack of water that caused the issue.
If they are cold or haven’t had access to enough sunlight and they haven’t drooped too much, moving them to sunny and warm spots should help them recover.
It can take up to a couple of days for your sunflower babies to feel better.
If they haven’t got enough soil to support their growing roots system, you may have to bite the bullet and re-pot your seedlings, as much as they dislike these kinds of moves.
If you do have to transport your seedlings, do so very gently and with as much care as possible to avoid any damage to their delicate roots.
Ensure The Roots Are Not Too Damp
If you have been overwatering your seedlings, you may have to take a pretty risky move.
Removing your seedlings from their soil and gently rubbing the damp soil from the roots.
Be careful not to damage the roots – You can then lay your sunflowers somewhere sunny and warm to help dry off their roots.
Don’t worry about them needing water.
The roots will have been pretty suffocated and will appreciate the slow dry.
When they are ready to re-pot, make sure your chosen container has plenty of drainage holes to avoid a similar over-watering situation.
However, if your sunflowers are planted directly into your garden, and they are overwatered, it can be hard to correct this, as drying out the soil is a lot harder, especially if they are overwatered due to heavy clay soils and lots of recent rainfall.
Treat Any Fungus
Lastly comes our final reason for limp sunflower seedlings – Damping Off Disease.
This condition can be harder for your seedlings to recover from.
At the first signs of any fungal infections, you can spray your sunflower seedlings with a fungicide spray, but if that doesn’t work and your seedlings look progressively worse, you may just have to throw them and start all over again.
Should You Stake Sunflower Seedlings
The best method is to only stake your sunflower if it looks as though it is collapsing. If it’s quite happy and standing rather straight, it is strong enough to hold its own weight and will be fine.
The ‘to stake or not to stake’ debate.
Much like a tree, your sunflower develops much of its strength from wind and movement. This is where indoor-grown sunflowers miss out and tend to be a little weaker than their garden-grown siblings.
Indoor-grown sunflowers have a cozy life and so don’t have to grow as strong, even if you intend to plant them outdoors eventually, so an indoor seedling may need a stake much sooner than an outdoor seedling will.
The main reason why you may need to stake your sunflower seedlings is if they are outside and you are experiencing or expecting stormy weather.
It doesn’t matter how strong your sunflower is; a decent storm can decimate your blooms in an instant.
Undoing all the hard work you’ve put into your sunflower babies.
Sunflower seedlings are one of the easiest flowers to grow and the most dramatic.
With very few issues, as long as you are sensitive to their ‘leave me alone’ vibes and don’t disturb their roots systems.
They will be quite happy with small, regular watering, a sunny and sheltered spot, and a little protection if the winds really do pick up.
Hey there – I’m Jesse, a professional florist, and gardening enthusiast. I created MyGardenFlowers to share all that I can about the flowers that I have planted and managed to grow in my garden.