An experiment with growing two sunflowers, from seed right to final flowers. There are pictures and graphs showing their progress and lots of suggestions for doing your own fun experiment too.
This article describes my twelve-week experiment, where I charted the growth of a pair of sunflowers. There was no real serious scientific discovery from the whole pursuit but I love gardening and I have an analytical mind, so as it turned out it was just great fun and I did learn a great deal of unexpected things about sunflowers. I would recommend this exercise to anyone that loves growing things or perhaps has to think up something to do for a school science project.
You can watch a time-lapse movie of how they grew here
So what did I do?
Firstly I planted a small handful of sunflower seeds in some compost. I covered them with about about 2cm of earth. I simply used a plastic tray that some mushrooms had been packed in. These trays are ideal because they have holes in the bottom which lets the water out and prevents the germinating seeds from getting too wet. You can buy seeds and compost from your local garden centre or DIY store. My seeds were actually saved from a plant that grew the year before. I watered the tray whenever it was dry. Germination took about a week.
Then I transferred them to some bigger pots and continuted to grow them inside. Then finally I planted them outside in a big wooden planter. I made this planter form some old wooden pallets, which I rescued from work.
Every day I did the following
Took a photograph of them with my mini digital camera.
Counted how many leaves they had. In the later weeks I stopped doing this because there were just too many
Measured how tall and wide they were
Updated a journal about anything specific that was going on, like they were being attacked by ants or I had fed them with fertilizer
Put all this information into a spreadsheet and created some graphs
Variations on the experiment
The idea is very simple but there are endless possibilities for this kind of research depending on the amount of time and money available. But how about
Trying with a bean or pea plant instead.
Grow two plants but treat them very differently. Fertilize one and not the other for example.
Measure other things like the outside temperature, hours of sunlight or stem thickness.
Results and Conclsions
Here is the graph of their growth, leaves etc.
A pursuit like this brings a certain rhythm to life, as every day I had to take a picture update a spreadsheet and write up notes about what had happened. So for children this could be a really beneficial activity, plus there is the amazing kick from caring for and growing something.
Sadly some of the pictures and my original spreadsheet have been lost, so do remember to regularly backup your data on your computer.
Full grown sunflowers are three times taller than they are wide. Quite definitely the sunnier the weather was the faster they grow. So now I know why they are called sunflowers
Squirrels like sunflowers seeds and they tore a lump out of one of the flowers. So protect them well when they come into flower.
Every morning I had to stand outside and take a picture. This brought for me a real awareness of the weather conditions and what kind of a day it was going to be.
For me, it turned out there was little new scince but the opportunity for so much personal growth and enjoyment.