potty, how big is the bud now and how tall are your sunflower?
Do not remove the leaves because it would slow down growth. Just water them a lot when they are done with their height and start to bloom. My sunflower are prematured and just 12' tall, but I am happy to hear someone is having some success. I believe that one of your neighbor, Richard Hope of UK has just grown a 22' tall sunflower. I sure like to get my hands on some of those seeds. When you are done with your season, I would love to trade some seeds with you. I have many varieties, including Craven, Bott's Strain, and Diane's Strain.