© 2015 SPIE. Graphene growth of high crystal quality and single-layer thickness can be achieved by low pressure sublimation (LPS) on SiC(0001). On SiC(0001), which is the C-terminated polar surface, there has been much less success growing uniform, single-layer films. In this work, a systematic study of surface preparation by hydrogen etching followed by LPS in an argon ambient was performed. Hydrogen etching is an important first step in the graphene growth process because it removes damage caused by polishing the substrate surface. However, for SiC(0001), etching at too high of a temperature or for too long has been found to result in pit formation due to the preferential etching of screw dislocations that intersect the surface. It was found that temperatures above 1450°C in 200mbar of hydrogen result in pitting of the surface, whereas etch temperatures at and below 1450°C can result in atomically at terraces of ∼ 1 μm width. Following the hydrogen etch optimization, argon-mediated graphene growth was carried out at several different temperatures. For the growth experiments, pressure and growth time were both fixed. Regardless of growth temperature, all of the films were found to have non-uniform thickness. Further, x-ray photoelectron spectroscopy and low energy electron diffraction measurements reveal that trace amounts of oxygen, which may be present during growth, significantly affects the graphene growth process on this polar surface.