Sunflowers when to plant

How To Sprout Sunflower Seeds

Sunflower seeds are great for sprouting, growing micro-greens, and more! They make a great lettuce substitute and are high in vitamins, minerals, and most importantly, flavor!


The first and possibly most important step to sprouting sunflower seeds is to make sure that the seeds are sprout-able. Follow the guidelines below:

  • Look for raw sunflower seeds in airtight packages. Avoid bulk bins.
  • The word “sproutable” may be printed on the package.
  • Avoid roasted or toasted sunflower seeds.
  • Sunflower seeds in the shell are better for growing microgreens, but raw seeds, both hulled and unhulled, work well for sprouts.

Instructions for Sprouting Sunflower Seeds

  1. Place ½ cup sunflower sprouting seeds in a quart jar. Fill with water, cover with a sprouting screen or mesh sprouting lid. Soak overnight.
  2. Drain all water off the seeds.
  3. Invert the jar over a bowl at an angle so that the seeds will drain while still allowing air to circulate.
  4. After 12 hours of draining, rinse and drain again.
  5. Repeat rinsing and draining twice daily.
  6. Tiny sprouts should begin to form in 12-18 hours. Sprouting is complete when you just see the sprout tail emerging.
  7. Drain the sprouts well.

Sunflower seed sprouts do not keep well. Use immediately, if possible, or cover tightly and store in the refrigerator for a few days, maximum.

Try Sprouting More Seeds

Try these popular sprouting seeds today!

How much to plant

Sunflower sprouts and sunflower microgreens are an easy to grow and underutilized salad green that is fun to grow at home. You can grow a crop from seed to harvest in as little as 12 to 14 days. There is no need to add additional soil amendments when growing microgreens. The nutrients required by the sprout are already resident in the seed itself.

Sunflower sprouts or sunflower microgreens are easy and nutritious to grow year round. In the summer you can grow them directly in the garden and have a crop every 2 weeks. In the winter you can sprout them indoors under grow lights or even in a sunny window. Unlike other greens like lettuce, sunflower microgreens don’t require strong light to grow well. And instead of waiting 30 to 45 days from sowing to harvest, sunflower sprouts can be ready to harvest in a mere 10 to 14 days from planting. Doesn’t that sound miraculous?

What kind of sunflower seeds do I need for sunflower sprouts?

Black oil sunflowers, the kind sold for birdseed, are the best kind of sunflowers to get for sprouting. You can buy them at the garden store or a specialty microgreen seed supplier in small ¼ to 1 pound packages. However, the least expensive way to purchase them is as organic bird seed or organic animal feed. Feed stores and wild bird stores often carry black oil sunflower seeds in 5 pound, 25 pound, and 50-pound bags.

Please do source organic sunflower seed though. The nonorganic seed is treated with chemicals to help it dry down evenly, to make it easier to process with farm equipment. You want to avoid those chemicals in your sprouts or microgreens.

If you are growing your own sunflowers for seed, you can use any of the giant sunflowers – black oil or striped varieties are both fine for sunflower sprouts or sunflower microgreens.

Don’t use the striped sunflower seeds that are sold in snack packs of “Spits” though. These have been boiled in salt water and then dried and are no longer raw. They won’t sprout.

1 ounce of sunflower seeds will grow 2 ounces of sunflower sprouts or sunflower microgreens. The root and the seed shell become by-products. Only the stem and green leaves are eaten.

Each seed will become a single sunflower sprout. You can only harvest each sprout once. They will not regrow after you trim off the leaves from the stem.

Here’s the proportion of sunflower seeds to prepare for different size pots:

  • ¼ cup of seed (1 ounce) covers 25 square inches of pot surface space or a pot that is about 3 ¼ inches wide by 8 inches long.
  • 1 to 1 ½ cups of seed (4 to 6 ounces) for 100 square inches of pot surface space
  • 2 to 3 cups of seed (8 to 12 ounces) for 200 square inches of pot surface or garden bed surface space

What kind of soil should you plant sunflower sprouts in?

While sunflower sprouts can be grown in soilless planting mediums sold for potting mixes, or even on a piece of felt or flannel, I think they grow faster when you add just a bit of fertility, like worm castings, or kelp meal. I cup of worm castings or ¼ cup of kelp meal per 4 cups of potting mix seems to give a good result.

If you are growing them outside in a garden bed, the average fertility of the garden bed is probably sufficient. Sunflower sprouts don’t require much fertility when grown in garden soil.

How to grow sunflower sprouts

Step 1

Sunflower seeds should be soaked for 12 hours or overnight.

I place them in a mason jar with a tight fitting lid. Fill the jar to the top with water. The sunflower seeds will float initially so it’s important that the lid is secure and the jar is filled to the top with water. Over the next 8 to 12 hours the majority of the seed will absorb water, and sink to the bottom of the jar. Drain the sunflower seeds after 12 hours and replace the lid on the jar with a sprouting lid like this one.

Step 2

Rinse the sunflower seeds 3 to 4 times, 8 to 12 hours apart until you see roots coming out of the seed. This will take 2 or 3 days depending on your ambient temperatures. Drain the sunflower sprouts. Remove them from the jar.

Step 3

Plant the sunflower sprouts in a soilless mix or planting medium in a well-drained container. Cover the sprouted seed with planting medium.

Step 4:

Mist them twice a day. I add 5 drops of lavender essential oil per 2 cups of spring water, to the misting water to help inhibit damping off disease.

5 days after you first soak them, you should see sprouts coming up through the soil surface with the seed attached to the seed leaves. The sprouts will begin to show rapid growth.

The seed will stay attached until the sunflower sprouts or microgreens shed the seed naturally, as the seed leaves unfurl.

Once the leaves unfurl, around day 10, and the seed shell is dropped your sunflower sprouts become sunflower microgreens. You can harvest them now or wait for the seed leaves to get a little greener and a little plumper.

Step 5:

At this point move the sunflower microgreens to a sunny window. This will keep the stalks shorter. But if you don’t have a sunny window they can be grown under a grow light. The sunflower microgreens require light to turn green. Continue to mist them with water twice a day or more often if you live where the air is dry.

Step 6:

Once the sunflower sprouts have shed their black seed case it’s time to start tasting them. You can harvest them any time after the seed case has dropped from day 10 to day 14 I like to harvest them when the tiny bud of true leaves is just beginning to show at the crown of the stem.

Sunflower sprouts taste fresh, with a mild flavor and just a hint of nuttiness at this time. The texture is smooth and juicy.

How to harvest sunflower microgreens

You’ll notice that your sunflower microgreens vary in the stage of development they are in. Some sprouts will have the true leaves beginning to form, while other sprouts are still bent over and firmly holding on to their seed casing.

Try to avoid cutting the more immature sunflower greens while you harvest the ones that are tall and showing signs of their first true leaves. If you are careful you may get a second harvest in a couple of days from the pot.

Each sunflower microgreen can only be harvested once. They will not regrow from the same stock. So by leaving the immature sunflower sprouts a little longer, and only harvesting the sprout that are prime, you’ll prolong your harvest window.

How to use sunflower sprouts and sunflower microgreens

Sunflower microgreens can be served fresh as a salad in the place of lettuce. Serve with a squeeze of lemon juice and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil to allow the flavor to show through. Sunflower sprouts and microgreens can also be cooked. Add it to the dish at the end of the cooking period, after you take the pot off the heat. This way the sunflower microgreens retain their crisp texture and fresh taste while enhancing dishes like rice or mashed potatoes.

Fold sunflower sprouts into a cheese omelet just before serving. The heat of the omelet will wilt the sunflower sprouts without making them soggy.

Serve sprouts as a sandwich topper just as you would use alfalfa sprouts or baby lettuce.

What to do with the planting pot after the microgreens are harvested?

The soil that is left after the sunflower microgreens are harvested can be used again with fresh sunflower seed. Follow steps 1 and 2 above, but when you are ready to plant your sprouts on day 4, simply place them on the soil surface of your pot and cover loosely with a fresh layer of potting mix.

The previous layer of sprouts will die back and feed the new layer of sprouts. You should be able to get 3 crops of sunflower sprouts from one pot before you need to refresh the soil.

Damping off fungal disease and your microgreens

If at any time the pot you are using develops damping off disease, a fungus that affects seedlings grown indoors with poor air circulation, sprinkle the soil surface with cinnamon and only water the pot from below. Try to increase the air circulation around the pots by adding a fan close to the growing area. Throw away any microgreens that are affected by damping off disease.

Damping off can be prevented by washing and sanitizing pots before planting and using cinnamon powder or cayenne powder on the soil surface when planting.

These grow so fast you can share them

Sunflower microgreens and sprouts are an easy to grow and underutilized salad green that is fun to grow at home. You can grow a crop from seed to harvest in as little as 12 to 14 days. There is no need to add additional soil amendments when growing microgreens. The nutrients required by the sprout are already resident in the seed itself.

Try growing sprouts and sunflower microgreens for nutritious and tasty greens in less than two weeks, while you wait for your garden to grow.

Related articles from Joybilee Farm

How to Prepare Sunflower Buds Like Artichokes

10 Types of Sunflowers to Grow for a Picture Perfect Garden

How to Grow Giant Sunflowers For Competition and Beauty

Fortunately for home gardeners with giant sunflower aspirations, Tom has also focused on breeding the ultimate tall competition varieties (“Giant Edible Sunzilla” and “Heirloom Titan”). Each year, Tom saves his longest stalk and largest seed head of this variety in his garage to measure against the following years. He currently prizes a 17-foot stalk and a 24 in. seed head! In this article, Tom has generously agreed to share his method of growing giants like these in your home garden.

First – Choose the Right Variety

Despite the growing popularity of new color introductions, the sunflowers that grow largest are those most of us still imagine first when thinking of sunflowers. These have tall single stalks with big flower faces of golden yellow petals and chocolate brown centers that ripen into heavy heads filled with seeds that birds will love.
I asked Tom why serious competitors should grow his variety instead of traditional varieties of large sunflowers like Mammoth, Russian Mammoth or California Greystripe. He explained that the seeds in Sunzilla are hybrids, developed to be uniform and consistently reliable – so that when you thin seedlings, you needn’t worry that you may have just uprooted your most potentially vigorous specimen. While older varieties often become top-heavy and fall over in wet or windy weather, Sunzilla has been selected for a strong, thick stalk to support its heavy head. In ideal growing conditions, it reaches heights of 16 feet or more and produces huge seed heads.

Site and Soil Preparation Are Critical

Sunflowers need full sun; see 6-8 hours of direct sunlight per day – the more the better if you are trying to grow them to their maximum potential. Choose a well-drained location, and prepare your soil by digging an area of about 2-3 feet in circumference to a depth of about 2 feet. Sunflowers are heavy feeders and deplete the soil more than many other crops – especially if you are growing them to reach a massive height so the nutrient supply must be replenished each season.

Work in a slow release granular fertilizer – one that also contains trace minerals – about 8 in. deep into your soil. Tom uses Osmocote, but since I’m an organic gardener and raise rabbits, I plan to mix in a bucketful of composted rabbit manure plus a balanced slow-release granular fish fertilizer. Depending on your soil, you may wish to add, in addition to composted manure and an organic slow-release balanced fertilizer, an organic amendment containing trace minerals such as greensand or dried seaweed.

The Right Way to Sow and Thin For Success

To grow the largest sunflowers, it is essential to direct sow seed directly into the garden, rather than start them in pots of any kind. This is because sunflowers have long taproots that grow quickly and become stunted if confined. Peat pots in particular often dry out and block off root growth. Despite many gardener’s best intentions, transplanting often gets postponed – so beat the odds and plan to sow seeds in the ground.
Since sunflowers that are planted in midsummer often flower on shorter stalks, sow your giant sunflowers earlier-as soon as all danger of frost is past and night temperatures are above 50 degrees Fahrenheit both day and night. In the shorter-season, cold winter areas of the U.S., this means late May to early June. The ideal spacing in rows for giant sunflowers with large seed heads is 20 in. apart. If you plant closer, you might get taller stalks but smaller heads. If you plant farther apart, the seed head may be larger, but possibly too heavy for the stalk to bear. If you have limited space, Tom recommends sowing in a small clump that will eventually be thinned to one plant.

To sow seeds, water your soil, and press seeds 1 inch deep in clumps of 5-6 seeds about 6-8 in. apart. Put snail bait in a circle around the clump (I like the product Sluggo because it is non-toxic to humans, pets and wildlife), and cover loosely with netting to protect emerging seedlings from birds. If the soil is kept moist, seedlings will appear within 5-10 days. When the plants grow to 3 inches, thin them to the most vigorous 3 or 4. When they are a foot tall, thin them to 2, and when they reach 2 feet high, select the best, most vigorous candidate. The point of this gradual thinning method is to ensure that you’re left with at least one good seedling in the event that predators damage any of the others. Remember, it’s critical to thin back to the best single seedling if you’re going for giant sunflowers. Leaving even several seedlings growing too close together will keep you from growing a giant in your garden.

Feeding and Care of Your Growing Giant

Feed often and water regularly. While the plant is small, water around the root zone, about 3-4 in. from the plant with about 2 gallons of properly diluted liquid fertilizer solution per week. For larger plants, scrape out a small doughnut-shaped moat about 18 inches around the plant and about four inches deep. Pour several gallons of properly diluted fertilizer into the moat every week. Sunflower roots can grow to 4 feet below the soil surface. Avoid pouring fertilizer directly on the stems, since this can cause them to rot.

Another feeding method for larger plants is to make several holes by driving a steel stake into the ground about 3-4 feet deep and about 1½ feet from the plant. Fill the holes with properly diluted liquid fertilizer. Tom uses Miracle Grow or Schulz’s growing solution, but as an organic gardener, you can use properly diluted fish emulsion or other liquid organic fertilizers.

Tom recommends that you care for giant sunflowers as members of your family. Be attentive to weather reports, especially, as your plants become taller and more top-heavy. When heavy winds are predicted, delay watering to reduce their chances of blowing over. Staking isn’t usually necessary for sunflowers, but it can be helpful in extremely windy areas or if they must be grown in conditions that are too crowded or in too much shade.

Harvesting and Enjoying Giant Seed Heads

As the petals fall off, the center florets dry up and the seed kernels begin to swell in the disks, carefully climb a stepladder and cover your flower head with a mesh onion bag or loose burlap or paper bag. This keeps marauding birds from robbing your seeds so that the heads look perfect and complete when you are ready to show them off to friends or proudly display them on their long stalks at your local county fair. Cut the stalks at the base when the ripened seeds develop a hard shell. If you plan to preserve them for your bird feeder, wait until the seeds are completely dry; then remove them by hand or by rubbing them over wire mesh into a basket. Store in tightly closed containers to keep rodents away.

Giant Fun for All Ages

Growing giant Sunzilla sunflowers is a great way for getting children inspired to enjoy the garden. The seeds, which make tasty snacks for songbirds, are large and easy to handle. Like Jack’s beanstalk, the plants grow quickly skyward, and the flower heads look cheerful and lion-like. Tall sunflowers can be planted in formation: as forests, playhouses or teepees. You can even grow colorful vines like scarlet runner beans up the stalks if you give the sunflowers several weeks head start. It’s easy to get children involved in the excitement of watching how tall a family sunflower grows each day, or let them compete on their own! I plan to give seeds to several neighbors, and compare stalks at the end of the season!

Want more sunflower tips? How To Grow Summer Long Sunflowers

Every year I love to grow sunflowers. They’re one of the fastest growing plants, and they also lend themselves to an education in the cycle of life and the facts of life. They also offer adventures with children and adults alike, as a competition for who can grow the tallest plant, to who can grow the biggest bloom.

Sunflowers are perfect to learn about the different stages of a plants growth and on how to keep a plant healthy from sowing the seed to harvesting the crop.

So what is a sunflowers growth timeline. Sunflower seeds grow into seedlings. Seedlings grow into strong plants. The mature sunflower grows buds that bloom. pollinators visit the blooms and seeds are formed. Seeds ripen and the sunflower begins to wilt. some of the Seeds fall from the flower, nestle in the ground, the cycle begins again.

My Sunflowers have been a novelty with the children in my family, I show them how to plant the seeds and keep the plant healthy till we harvest them.

They get a thrill at the rapid growth. This intrigues them and they get curious about more in depth questions too like how the sunflower get its energy to grow, how and why does it follow the sun and how it makes seeds.

There are over 70 varieties of sunflowers and so many colors to choose from. Annuals, perennials, dwarf, bush, multi headed and even seedless, but I am choosing the most iconic

Sunflower for this growth timeline and that is the iconic giant sunflower. The giant sunflower can grow up and over 6 feet tall and their flower heads are majestically large. By the way, if you can’t find the Giant sunflower locally, you can find it here on Amazon

I have based this general growth timeline observing the sunflowers I grow in my own garden. Depending on your growing conditions you might find a slight variation in some of the stages of growth.

So, let’s start at the very beginning…

Sunflower seeds ready for planting

8 Stages of Sunflower Growth (with chart)

Here is a list of stages, as a quick take away. below the list I’ve gone into more detail.

  1. Planting the Seed.
  2. Germination.
  3. The seedling, leaf and plant development.
  4. Growing a Bud
  5. Flowering.
  6. Pollination
  7. Seed development
  8. Harvesting

Stage 1. Planting the Seed.

Day 1.

Planting your seeds.

I usually plant the sunflower seeds I have carefully stored from my previous years harvesting. If you’re just starting out on your sunflower adventure then these seeds on are the ones I’ve based this sunflower timeline growth chart on. And I’ve written an ultimate guide on how to grow sunflowers here

The seed is the dormant undeveloped stage of the plant. This is where the life cycle is waiting to begin. The sunflower seed, with its shell on, is a single dried out fruit of a plant in its whole form. In botanical terms it is called a cypsela. Within this whole seed is all the nutrients and genetic information needed to grow another sunflower plant.

root and shoots of germinating sunflower

Stage 2. Germination.

2 to 10 days

After the seed has been planted germination starts to happen.

This is the first stage of the seeds awakened life. Underneath the soil, out of sight, the wispy roots reach out and a developing shoot pushes its way to the surface of the soil, looking for sunlight. When this shoot appears we know we’re on our way to growing a sunflower.

happy and healthy seedlings

Stage 3. The Seedling, Leaf and Plant Development.

10 to 35 days.

Our seedling has become a young sunflower plant. This is its development stage to gain as much growth as it can.

If you have started your seeds off indoors then the time will come to harden them off and transfer them to their growing site outside. This usually happens towards the end of spring when the last of the harsh weather has gone.

The newly sprouted sunflower usually has 2 baby leaves on it and quickly grows many more as the stem starts to get taller. The first few sets of sunflower leaves are usually oval in shape but as more leaves come they look like the heart shaped leaves of a mature sunflower, only smaller.

The young plant starts to develop rapidly, getting as strong and tall as it can. sunflowers get energy through photosynthesis. You can find out how this amazing process works here.

the sunflower bud develops

Stage 4. Growing a Bud

35 to 65 days.

Our tall leafy maturing sunflower has grown big and strong enough to produce a bud.

Seeing buds on sunflowers is so exciting It means we’ve cared for our plant and hopefully we’ll reap the rewards of a flower, but we’re not quite there yet. Our sunflower plant is still growing and our bud is trying to get all the hours of sunlight it can in order to get as much energy for the bud to develop and enlarge.

The way our sunflower does this is by following the sun. It is a truly fascinating phenomena called heliotropism and I’ve written about this here

This is also the stage to keep your sunflower hydrated. Regular watering is so important for the budding and flowering stage of its life, so it can grow strong and big. If you need more details about watering I’ve written more information here.

the sunflower bud begins to open

Stage 5. Flowering.

65 to 85 days.

With all the care we have given our sunflower the bud has grown as big as it can and starts to flower.

Our sunflower has now reached its blooming stage and gently opens its petals. With all its glory it shows off to the world. We can enjoy this wondrous sight for a few weeks.

We’ve planted our sunflower to enjoy following their growth timeline but, if you so desired this is the time to display sunflowers indoors in a vase, by cutting a sufficient length of stem to do so.

bees visit and feast on the nectar

Stage 6, Pollination

Within the flowering stage Pollination takes place too.

In all its petaled gloriousness our sunflower welcomes pollinators to visit the thousands of nectar filled disc florets that are located within the large brown center circle.

The pollinators, mainly bees, sip on the nectar, while pollon gets stuck on their fluffy bodies. They transfer this pollen to another flower which starts the pollination and fertilization process.

Sunflowers pollinate in the usual two ways, but they also have a mysterious fail safe mechanism to ensure pollination and fertilisation does happen. I’ve written about this amazing and wonderful fact here.

seeds are nearly ripe for picking

Stage 7. Seed Development

85 to 105 days.

After pollination the fertilized seeds start to develop and ripen.

This stage of our sunflower is fascinating in itself. The main object of its whole life cycle has come to this, producing as many healthy seeds as it can. The back of the sunflowers head starts to turn yellow, this is perfectly natural tells us that the seeds are ripening. This process could last up to 125 days depending on the variety and conditions.

The ripening seeds attract birds, animals and bugs to feast on. Watching these critters enjoy my sunflowers is a guilty pleasure of mine. it also acts as an education for children to spot different species of wildlife visiting your sunflower patch.

This stage is ideal to decide whether to harvest or not.

sunflower seeds ready for harvesting

Stage 8. Harvesting

105 to 125 days.

The ripened seeds are ready to harvest.

At this stage the sunflowers head starts to droop and turn brown. If you have decided to harvest the seeds for feeding your pets, or yourself, or to store for winter feed for the wildlife, then this will be a good time to do so. You can do this by cutting the stem about 4 inches below the sunflowers head, store it upside down in a breathable bag in a dry place away from wildlife and pets.

If you’ve grown your sunflower for the wildlife to enjoy and a nifty creature hasn’t eaten all of the fallen seeds, then maybe the seeds might nestle in the undergrowth where they stay dormant for the winter.

Then, come the warmth of the following spring the seeds wake up, they start to germinate and a sunflower seedling will appear, and we can once again marvel in the 8 wonderful stages of our sunflowers growth timeline.

Sunflower Timeline Growth Chart

The chart below represents a visual representation of the 8 Sunflower Growth Timeline stages as a quick reference guide for you. I hope it helps

complete sunflower growth timeline chart

My Conclusion

I hope this has been helpful and a fascinating read to you as it has been for me to write. I bimble about my garden enjoying the fruits of my labour and sometimes take for granted the marvels of mother nature. She nurtures the seeds I plant at the beginning of the spring, for a harvest by the late summer.

Writing this has made me realise the awe I have for how my sunflowers grow. The time it takes and the way they use every opportunity to get the best from their environment, without impacting on it. And at the end of their timeline they give back what their growth has produced.

Related Questions

When do sunflowers bloom? For an annual giant sunflower to bloom, It’s usually about 120 to 180 days after being sown (17 to 26 weeks). But This can vary for all the different varieties in the world and The condition you grow them in.

No two sunflowers are the same, not even if the seeds come from the same plant. In fact, not all sunflowers are sunflowers! If you want to know when they will bloom in your part of the world then check out our table here

How much does a sunflower grow in a week? Sunflowers are a very fast growing plant. Their development depends on the condition you grow them in, and the care they’re given. Because they’re fast growing, growth is so variable for each one, but interesting to measure the growth of your own sunflower week by week.

Check the packet on your seeds to see how tall the sunflower is expected to grow. Then to find an average of growth per month, divide that height over the period, allowing about a month at the end when it no longer grows or just focuses on blooming.

So for example over a 5 month growing period from planting to the start of blooming, you can expect a 6 foot variety of sunflower to grow around 8-10 inches (20-25 cm) per month. Then divide approximately by 4 (approx) to arrive at the sunflower growth per week.

What time of year do sunflowers bloom? The tall single giant headed varieties usually bloom towards late summer and last for 2 to 3 weeks. The smaller and multi headed varieties, perennials too, can start blooming at the beginning of summer and if deadheaded regularly they will keep flowering throughout the summer months.

All illustrations by Pamela-Anne, and are the property of

How to Germinate Sunflower Seeds

Sunflowers are tall, beautiful flowers that perk up any garden or lawn, and their seeds make a heart-healthy snack. Sunflower seeds need a temperature of approximately 70 degrees Fahrenheit to begin germination and sprouting. Maintaining the soil temperature at 70 degrees can be difficult, especially if you live in an extremely warm or cold climate. However, sunflower seeds can be germinated without soil in your own home. Once the seeds have sprouted, the plants can be transferred to an outdoor setting.

Germinating Seeds

Fill a spray bottle with water and lay a paper towel over a flat surface. Spray the towel with water. Dampen the towel but do not saturate it in water.

Lay your sunflower seeds over the wet towel and make sure they are not touching each other. Cover the seeds with another paper towel. Spray the top towel with water, again dampening it without saturating it. Saturating your seeds will cause them to mold before sprouting.

Place the seeds and towels in a cool area of your home. Place them in an unheated garage if living in a cooler climate, or near an air-conditioning vent if living in a warm climate. Keep the towels consistently moist, keeping the seeds at a temperature below 70 degrees Fahrenheit.

Keep the seeds cool and moist for 10 to 12 days. Sprouts should have broken out of the seeds in the second week. Discard any seeds that do not sprout after the second week. Once the seeds have sprouted, plant them in the desired area, about 1/4 inch deep.

Sowing Sunflower Seeds in 5 Simple Steps

Step 1: At the end of March/early April sow seeds into 9cm pots. Use an equal ratio of loam, perlite and sand.

Step 2: Stand pots in a warm propagator in the greenhouse – they’ll take about 7-10 days to germinate.

Step 3: Put young plants outside during the day to allow the wind to thicken the stems, but return them to the greenhouse overnight. Do this for around 2 weeks.

Step 5: Feed with all-purpose fertiliser twice, once in mid-June and again in August.

If you are thinking of sowing sunflower seeds directly in the soil you will need to do this in mid-April. Make sure you place the seeds carefully in the ground and cover the seed with soil. Make sure you water the newly planted seeds.

Whichever method you decide to sow sunflower seeds the flowering should occur in August.


Slugs and snails like to eat new and growing shoots. Try protecting them by using a cover, such as the top of a plastic bottle.

As your sunflower takes shape and starts to grow taller you might need to help support the plant, for the best result tie cane to the stem with string.

Good Luck – we hope you grow a beauty.

Sowing sunflower seeds is like scattering happiness over the soil; it is a gesture in optimism. Hello summer, hello sun.

I intend to have rows of them this year on the allotment. I want to follow their cheerful faces as they track the sun. I want to pick them by the armful and fill the house with their extravagance and glamour. In my garden, I’m going to use them to create a little rhythm architecturally, adding height and late summer colour to the back of my beds, which can be a little flat by the end of the year. Then I’m going to leave them standing as bird feeders until that time when they are nothing more than stripped-bare, weather-worn stems for earwigs to hunker down in over winter.

Sunflowers are greedy, greedy things. It is said that if you want to sow a wildflower meadow and need to impoverish the soil, then you should sow a sunflower meadow first. They suck up all sorts from the soil. They do such a good job that they are starting to be used for bioremediation – sucking up pollutants, even nuclear radiation – from the soil, cleaning it up as they grow (see this lovely film about it). If you’re growing them in the vegetable garden, it’s worth remembering this, and following with something replenishing – field beans or winter tares – to put nitrogen and organic matter back into the soil.

Although you can get away with growing sunflowers in thin soils, as long as they sit in the sun, they do best in rich, organic, free-draining conditions. You can sow direct now if your soil feels warm (if you can keep your hand on the surface of the soil comfortably, it’s there) or you can sow indoors on windowsills, with a single seed to each 9cm pot. To sow outside from now until May, place two seeds per position, 45cm apart, thinning to the strongest seedling. If you start off your seedlings on a windowsill or in a cold frame, however, they’ll need to be repotted often; nothing makes them more upset than to come to the bottom of the pot and have nowhere else to grow.

There are numerous varieties to choose from: strange dwarf hybrids, giants, multi-headed forms and those for food production. If you are limited for space, go for the multi-headed ‘Velvet Queen’. It remains one of my favourites, for its jewel-rich, deep red tones. Being multi-headed, you can take some for the vase without ruining its majesty at the back of the border.

‘Vanilla Ice’ is another side-branching, multi-headed variety, with creamy yellow flowers and a deep chocolate centre. ‘Earthwalker’ is a rusty, burnt orange version and ‘Pastiche’ a multicoloured variety coming in shades of gold, yellow, orange and dusky pink, which look effortless together in a vase.

All of these are 1.5m or taller, so if the wind won’t let you get away with that, try ‘Dwarf Yellow Spray’ from Thompson & Morgan. It is suitable for smaller spaces and windy sites, and grows to 45-60cm.

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