How to Plant, Grow, and Care for Sunflowers
Just one ounce of sunflower seeds contains about 6 grams of protein and 14 grams of oils. The fats are almost entirely unsaturated with 9g of polyunsaturated and 3g of monounsaturated fats per ounce (NSA). The oil is high in linoleic acid and is a good source of vitamin E.
- Some varieties produce small black seeds that are used in cooking oil, margarine, cosmetics, and animal feed; they are the best sunflower seeds for attracting the greatest variety of songbirds.
- The bigger, striped seeds are grown for snacking and as an ingredient in bread and health foods. They, too, are used for feeding birds, especially larger species, such as jays and mourning doves.
How to Roast Sunflower Seeds
Re-soak seeds overnight in salted water. Run through a strainer and dry on a layer of paper towels.
Bake for 25 to 30 minutes at 325 degrees on a baking sheet. Seeds should be spread out in a single layer. Stir frequently during the baking and remove seeds when they look slightly browned. Don’t burn!
That’s it! You can all some olive oil, salt, spices to your roasted seeds if you wish.
Or, you can also make suet cakes for the winter birds! See how to make suet.
Sunflowers can't be too picky! Our birds plant them every year & we always have a strong bed of them the next.
Hi, Mel. You really can’t go wrong with Johnny’s Selected Seeds, Eden Brothers, Burpee, or Gurney’s. You can also check garden centers in your area—we bet the seeds are out!
I had several sunflowers that grew wild this year. Will they come back next year or do I need to harvest the seeds and replant in the Spring?
If they grew wildly and some of the seeds fell to the ground, it is possible that they will grow back again.
To help this happen and if all possible, check to see if there were any seeds that fell to the ground around the sunflowers or harvest some from the flower if possible.
If you do find or harvest some, I suggest digging small holes about 2-3 inches deep and about 6-9 inches apart, dropping seeds in there.
I stagger my rows and as they grow, you may find that some flowers are not as strong and keeping up. I usually end up removing about 25% of the young flowers and will either try to transplant them or grind them up and use as fertilizer for the remaining sunflowers. I believe that this helps the healthy sunflowers thrive more.
Be sure to water the young seedlings once a day and never directly on top of them. I soak around the flower bed and in the rows between where I planted and will occasionally add some sort of diluted fertilizer maybe once a week during the early stages. As the flowers mature, they won't need to be watered as frequently (unless drought) and it is suggested that mature sunflowers need watering once or twice a week with a decent soaking and again, never on or at the base of the flowers but about 12 inches away from the stems so that you are soaking the roots.
Over the course of the spring and summer, I plant and grow about 100 sunflowers and throughout the season due to culling, weather, critters, or other reasons, will lose about half of the lot. It kind of sucks losing so many but the ones that are remaining, they look great. They line my side yard along the fence and I get compliments all summer long.
On average, I usually get sunflowers 6-8 feet tall with the occasional 10+ footers. The tallest one I ever had came in at 12 feet-2 inches.
Hopefully this helps and good luck!
I have never tried to grow sunflowers but want to now. I have 5 acres, most full sun in WV. When is best time to plant? Can I do now in Sept? I have checked and cannot find answer to my question. Thank you in advance for any assistance. :)
They are an annual flower, which means that they will only last for one growing season (spring to fall). Therefore, the best time to sow sunflower seeds is in the early spring—likely around April in your area!
I have trouble with my sunflowers bending over by the flower and then falling off. What am I doing wrong? They don't look up at the sun. They just hang down. Even the stocks start to bend over.
Hi Gloria. Thanks for your question!
For best results, it is best to plant new sunflower seeds each spring. With the being said, you can harvest the seeds from this year’s flowers to grow next year, to eat as a snack, or leave them out for the birds and critters to enjoy.
Whatever you decide to do, you want the flowers to dry—on or off the stem—until the back of the head turns brown, the foliage yellows, the petals die, and the seeds look plump and somewhat loose. If you don’t plan on saving the seeds for yourself or your garden visitors, you can cut them down after the blooms have faded.
There is a chance a seed or two may fall to the ground at the end of the season and take next spring, but you’re better off getting a new packet of seeds in the spring and planting them.