How to grow sunflowers - gardenstead Skip to content

How to grow sunflowers

Grow Your Own Sunflower from Seed

Sunflowers are special flowers. They are visually striking, great pollinators and it’s a fact that if you stare at a sunflower for 28 seconds or more, you will smile. Ok, ok, so we completely made that last fact up, but we’d like to think it’s the truth. If you have any interest in growing sunflowers, you should know that they’re quite low-maintenance. It’s as easy as putting seed and soil together.

  • Plant in a location with full sun (i.e. provide them with what their name calls for sun-flower!)
  • Like pretty much every plant, they prefer soil that drains well and doesn’t get waterlogged
  • Once all danger of frost is gone plant directly from seed (1 inch deep) or seedling if you started earlier
  • Space between the plants depends on the variety and should be stated on your seed package (dwarf varieties need around 6 inches apart whereas giant sunflowers need a couple feet of distance from each other or other plants)
  • Most should germinate and sprout between one to two weeks
  • They will reach maturity anywhere from 80 to 120 days, again this depends on the variety
  • If you are a lover of sunflowers and have the space, you can succession plant every couple of weeks to continue new blooms into the fall 
This photo showcases a variety of different types of sunflowers as shown in the variety of different colors of seed husk!
Sunflower seedlings
A sunflower almost about to bloom!
Single-Stem vs Branching Sunflowers

When selecting your sunflower there are two main types: single-stem and branching stems. Single-stem sunflowers produce one flower per seed and may occasionally be followed by multiple smaller flowers. If you are looking for more blooms, branching sunflowers might be the type you are looking for. Branching sunflowers have multiple stems that produce several flowers at once. If you are a lover of sunflowers, it’s fun to grow both types in close proximity of each other for variety.


Yes, you can harvest sunflowers! Just like the sunflower seeds you can buy for a baseball game. When you grow them yourself, you can either let the birds and the squirrels eat them (they LOVE and devour them!), save your seeds to plant for next season, or roast, salt and enjoy!

If you decide to let the birds and squirrels eat your sunflower head, there’s nothing extra you need to do. They know when they’re ready and they won’t be shy!

Timing is everything, however, if you are hoping to harvest for your own use. When the sunflower heads start to droop and nod downward harvesting time is soon. If you notice the animals are getting to them before you, we recommend covering the heads with a brown paper bag if you aren’t ready to harvest yet.

Recommended Varieties

A few of our favorites:

  • Giganteus is a giant variety that grows up to 12 feet tall!
  • Short Blend Sunflowers are a dwarf variety perfect for small-space, city gardeners looking to grow in containers.
  • Teddy Bear are so fluffy looking that you’ll want to hug them like a teddy bear! These varieties look different from other sunflowers.
  • Autumn Beauty is a sunflower with colors that range from golden yellow to deep orange (Featured in the first photo in this post)
For more information, watch this conversation between Jaz and Shannon, two gardeners discussing their love for flowers in our Flower Power ASK gardenstead episode.
yellow petaled flower by elias sorey unsplash

hey there

sign up for
our weekly

We promise to only share good stuff about plants and people who love plants.