A homesteading video on TikTok illustrates why you should never plant sunflowers in your garden.
Some plants, including sunflowers, can discourage others from growing near their roots and take up resources.
“I had to research it, and apparently sunflowers have an allelopathic chemical that they secrete to inhibit the growth of surrounding plants,” explains Katie (@thehomesteadingrd). Allelopathic chemicals are substances one living thing makes to affect the growth or reproduction of another living thing.
The video shows the effects: a dramatic decline from the tall, healthy onion plants five feet away from the sunflower to the scrawny shoots a few inches from its base. So, planting a row of sunflowers alongside your peas and tomatoes would be a disaster.
“As you’re getting ready to make next year‘s garden plans, make sure that you put sunflowers far away from your other plants!” Katie says in the video description.
For some allelopathic species, a planter is an option — but sunflowers have roots four feet deep, making that idea impractical. Instead, creating a separate bed several feet away from any other plants solves the problem easily.
How it’s helping
Planning the layout of your garden in a way that’s healthy for your plants will allow you to grow a bigger crop. Not only will you get to enjoy delicious homegrown veggies and sunflower seeds, but you’ll also save on your grocery bill and may even have produce to share.
Meanwhile, the less food you have to buy from the store, the less shipping is involved, lowering air pollution from trucks and trains. You’ll also prevent the need for disposable packaging that would go to a landfill.
What everyone’s saying
Katie’s tip has saved several gardens so far. “Thank you! I just changed my mind about where my sunflowers will be,” says one commenter.
Others have been saved from time-consuming troubleshooting. “Omgoodness that explains so much to why my potatoes and strawberries did not thrive,” another comments.