Growing and Saving the Seed of Sunflower

Latin name Helianthus annuus is an annual member of the aster family. Choose tall, multi-branching varieties as a stunning landscape flower or short dwarf single-head varieties for cut flower production.



Native to North America, sunflower has been a popular cultivated plant of the indigenous tribes of North America since at least 3000 B.C. Some archaeologists contend that the sunflower was cultivated before maize.


  • Ornamental and edible.
  • Beds, back of borders, containers, row planting, cut flower production, pollinator garden, native wildflower garden, meadow, planted in the vegetable patch.
  • Sunflower shoots are edible, as are the seeds and even the whole immature heads. Visited by a range of bees like honeybees and native bees.
  • Visited by many beneficial insects and pollinators like hoverflies.




  • Seeds germinate in 7-14 days.
  • Direct seed after all chance of frost has passed and soil has reliably warmed. You can start indoors 3-4 weeks before transplanting, but be careful not to let plants become pot bound.
  • Planting depth will vary depending on seed size, as sunflower seed sizes range widely. A general rule of thumb is to plant seeds twice their own width, so a seed that is 1/2 inch wide should be planted 1 inch deep. Most sunflowers are planted at 1 inch deep.
  • Ideal germination temperature is 70-75 F.


  • Prefers full sun.
  • Provide light, well-drained soil.
  • Excessively nitrogen-rich soil will adversely affect blooming.
  • Space multi-branching types 18-24 inches apart and single-headed/ dwarf varieties just 4-6 inches apart.


  • While sunflowers are fairly disease-free and hardy, they are susceptible to white mold. To prevent this, keep foliage dry and provide well-drained soil.
  • If borers infest your sunflowers, spray leaves thoroughly with organic approved insecticidal oils when the adult insects are present and laying eggs on the leaves.


Saving sunflower seeds is very easy!

  • When petals die back and heads begin to dry and turn brown, place a paper bag over the heads to protect seeds from birds.
  • After a few days, the heads will dry to a dark brown. Bring the heads indoors and hang upside down in a dry area in direct sunlight for up to a week, shaking seeds free each day.
  • Store in a cool, dark, dry place.