Planting Sunflowers

Things you’ll need:

  • Sunflower seeds
  • Containers or seed trays
  • Potting compost
  • Watering Can
  • Pencil
  • Plastic cover
  • Trowel
  • Fertiliser

Sunflowers are incredibly easy to grow and can give so much pleasure.


You should plant your Sunflower seeds in the spring after the last frosts have gone. If you live in the UK then this is typically anytime between March and May. If you want to get a head start and try for an early crop it is possible to plant them earlier than this indoors.


You can plant your sunflower seeds either directly in to the ground or in containers. You can also start them in small propagation trays, however you don’t want to leave them in these too long as the roots grow quickly and if they don’t get transplanted into larger pots shortly after they’ve sprouted it can stunt their long tap root and reduce their potential growth.

When planting in containers fill them with any commercial potting compost up to about half an inch from the top. You should then thoroughly soak the soil and make a hole about an inch deep with a pencil and drop 1 seed into your hole. It doesn’t matter which way up the seed is placed, it will right itself as soon as it starts growing.

You can cover the seeds with a plastic cover or cloche which will help to keep the soil and seeds warm and protect them from any pests fancying a snack on your newly forming sprouts. Ensure you keep the soil very moist, young seedlings like to be kept wet.

Sunflower Seedling


Within a couple of weeks you can remove any coverings and you should have some small green seedlings. If you planted them in seed trays you should now transplant them in to larger pots or in to the ground.

Use a small trowel to dig a small hole to place your seedling in. You should place the seedlings no closer than 12 inches apart to give their roots plenty of space to grow.

Soil & Fertiliser

Sunflowers will grow in any soil but you will get better results in a richer soil so it is good to mix in some fresh potting compost. If you desire, mixing in some slow release all purpose plant fertiliser can also give your crop a welcome boost and saves having to apply a regular feed. The soil needs to be loose enough for water to drain through but firm enough for the roots to get a secure grip so they don’t topple in the wind when fully grown.

134 thoughts on “Planting Sunflowers

  1. after thinning the two sun flower plants I was given they look as though they have died their leaves are drooping so is their stalks.

  2. I planted some seeds which sprouted well but are now getting really badly eaten by some sort of bug I assume. There are big holes in the leaves. 🙁 I tried putting onion and mint out and broken eggshells around the plant to repel slugs but it doesn’t work. I have Russian skyscraper sunflowers. Is there any other bugs that commonly feed on sunflowers? Thank you.

    • Slugs are the main pest for sunflowers. Unfortunately slug pellets are the most effective method of protecting your sunflowers from them.

      • For slugs try crushed up egg shells, recycle and good stress relief to crush them up lol. It cuts into their skin and they tend to avoid. Doesn’t hurt that eventually the calcium should work into the soil(and no poisons).

  3. I have a packet of sunflower seeds,Mammoth Grey Stripe, that I bought last year 2014. Will they still grow if planted now?

  4. Join us and plant sunflowers for global day for hope!

    The International Foundation for Research and Education on Depression (iFred) welcomes and invites your participation in our first annual Global Day for Hope on Saturday May 2, 2015. The day will be filled with sunflower plantings worldwide to support the 350 million people living with the treatable disease of depression. People from all corners of the globe are invited to join the movement by planting sunflowers in their own communities and to unite on social media in an empowering, international symbol of hope.

    There are many ways to support Global Day for Hope:
    Plant Sunflowers: Plant one, plant a garden, get friends and community involved and celebrate HOPE together.
    Wear Yellow: Yellow is the color of the joy and happiness we feel when depression is successfully treated.
    Share, Share, Share: Post, tweet, or share a photo on social media. Shine your light on hope and use the hashtags #HOPE2015 and #PLANTHOPE and be sure to tag us @ifredorg. We welcome you to join our facebook event.

    Let us know!: Let us know where you will be planting and we will add you to our Global Day for Hope map.
    Using sunflowers—the international symbol of hope for depression— iFred’s Global Day for Hope will beautifully amplify the organization’s mission to shine a positive light on depression and eliminate the stigma associated with the disease through prevention, research and education. Global Day for Hope will bloom worldwide with plantings in Illinois, North Carolina, Ohio, Colorado, South America, Nepal, Germany and more.

    We hope you will join us in planting #hope2015!

    For more Information visit :

  5. I put two sunflower seeds in one peat pot thinking only one would survive, but now they both survived and I didn’t have the heart to separate them. Now that they have 4 leaves and not two, should I gently remove one from each of the pots or will that destroy the roots? Also, what happens if they just grow like Siamese twins?

    • Yes, you could prick one out with a pencil and put it in a separate pot. They will grow better with more free room for their roots.

  6. my son visited the pizza farm and brought home his seedling…he trusted me to look after it when gone to school…
    He put it on the roof of the van and it fell off out of the cup it was in.
    I scraped up soil and root and the head of it only to feel like a poopyhead when I had to tell him the head separated from the root…my question is can we throw a ‘ spitz flower seed ‘ in the soil an will it grow ?

    • I think you’d be better off getting a packet of normal sunflower seeds for planting, rather ones which have been processed for eating. They are not expensive.

  7. I planted a packet of Sunflower seeds and I have these large stalks with tiny white flowers, is this normal? Do they do this before they develop the sunflower ??

  8. I am raising a seedling of the sunscraper hybrid. I still have it indoors. It is about 20 inches tall now. I have noticed that it is growing long vines now that wrap around my bamboo stalk and it makes me wonder if it is a sunflower after all. I don’t think I will see a flower since I planted it so late this summer. Does this hybrid grow those vines?

      • if it’s got vines growing from the base it could be an orchid,if it is keep it out of direct sunlight only water it once a week and put some charcoal dust in the bark and compost to help drainage and fight fungi etc.good luck

  9. i havent done any research prior to planting my sun flower seeds. they have germinated and all, it’s just that i havent expected that a lot of the seeds would be germinating so i put all 25 in a single pot. now i have 20 sprouts in a single pot and im worried that they’d be damaged if i transplant them in a direct soil.

    • You just need to prick them out carefully with a pencil. If you have 25 in a pot they won’t grow very well, they will need transplanting.

  10. Hi this will be my first time to sow some Hellianthus (Big SMile) Sunflower seed I bought from a local store. I live in Manila (Tropical) where growing a sunflower is all year round. My question is what is a reason pot size to plant 1pc seedling? I know these Hellianthus are considered dwarf types. Thanks!

  11. Hello, we’re thinking of planting some sunflowers for a school project, how long after planting do you expect to see the first sprouts??

    • I soak my seeds in water for 8-12 hours first (24 hours if they are in the shell). Then I plant them in one of those cheap, thin, 2-3 inch deep disposable aluminum baking pans that you can get at any Dollar store. I place just a couple of small drainage holes in the bottom, place them in full sun, water everyday & they sprout within a few days. Obviously the soaking makes for faster germination but since the aluminum pan attracts sunlight, it ensures that all of the seedlings get equal amounts of sun constantly which helps tremendously! It’s insane how quickly they sprout using this method.

    • I’m sure exactly but you can probably grow them all year around. The dry season would most likely be your best bet though.

  12. Hi I have planted sunflowers in 15cm pots with my class. We have 24 pots and I mixed some fertiliser in the soil for all plants. We planted them 2 weeks ago and only one has sprouted this week! We kept them on ether windowsill in school for sunlight (I’m in the uk) but I’ve took them home for Easter and will place them outside in the sun every day now. Do you think there’s a possibility that the other 23 will not grow since they haven’t sprouted yet? Or could they possibly be a little slow due to some limited sunlight etc? I’m getting nervous now as I don’t want to upset my class when they see only one sunflower has sprouted!

    Thanks in advance

    • The amount of heat is more important than the light when you are waiting for them to sprout. Just make sure they are watered and warm. It is possible that the seeds weren’t all viable but if one has sprouted there is hope for the others.

      • I planted 22 seeds all at the same time, about 3 weeks ago. Most of them sprouted within a couple of days of each other, but there have been some stragglers that waited to sprout until a couple of days ago. I’d think there’s still hope!

  13. Having difficulty finding instruction for growing the cute lilliput sunflower.
    I received the seeds as a gift, but no instructions or plant descriptions.
    I am not sure which type I have.

    • I’m not familiar with that variety but all sunflowers tend to germinate in the same way, so just follow the standard instructions on our website.

  14. What would be the best month to plant a sunflower seeds in the Philippines? I tried putting it in a small container with tissue and an amount of water but after 2 days it still doesnt work. I used sunflower seed to be fed by my rats.

    • I’d recommend following our guide and planting them in soil and using seeds that haven’t been treated for eating. They will take a couple of weeks to sprout.

  15. I started some seeds last week n a warm sunny bedroom. They have grown to about 8 inches in this time. I’m wondering whether to put them in the shed to slow them down a bit. I’ve had to tie them to bamboo skewers with thread. Where have I gone wrong ?

    • If they are 8 inches they will need transferring into a large pot and placing outside. Maybe in a cold frame, cool greenhouse or cloche to harden them off a bit.

  16. I have planted my sunflower seeds in small disposable cups and they have all germinated within a week. Most of them have grown two to four leaves. Will they bloom or just die out if i transplant them in small containers. Im from India. When can i expect to see the first blooms?

    • Yes, you should transplant them either into larger containers or into the ground. You should see your first blooms within a couple of months depending on the weather.

  17. There are chances of weed germination. Wind and insects carry seeds too so probably some plants other that sunflower must’ve grown in your garden. It happens a lot. I myself have nurtured weed so many times thinking it was the flower seeds that i sowed. Its disappointing but keep trying.

  18. Hi, I bought some Sunflower seeds from Amazon and noticed some people that bought these seeds are saying they couldn’t get theirs to grow. Should I let them sprout in a paper towel and plant them soon after they sprout? These are non GMO seeds. Bought several types.

    Thank You!

    • Hi Again, Sorry, had a couple more questions since this is my first time with Sunflowers. The packages had no directions. I have Tall Teddy, Velvet Queen, Autumn Beauty, Lemon Queen, Red Sun and Wild.

      Do I need to stake them? Can I use tomato cages and plant around them or do I need to get some bamboo stakes? Did not anticipate this but read it on another web site. they are supposed to get to 5-8 feet

    • I don’t think you need to use paper towels with sunflowers as planting them after sprouting can add more stress to them. They typically grow easy enough directly in soil.

  19. Hi there, I’m from continental Europe and normally I plant my seeds in early April. I did so this year as well and I got nice 8-10 cm sprouts (2 leaves) in my pots. BUT THEN we had a pretty nasty couple of weeks (rain+snow and unusual cold temperature – around 5C). Now my sprouts seem to have arrested their growth. Is there still hope for them or are my poor plants doomed?

  20. Hi, my daughter received 3 sunflower seeds in a disposable cup with soil. 2 seeds have taken. How soon do i need to replant in bigger pots and how big? We live in IL in a 3rd floor apartment and all i have is an outside window seal once it gets warmer. Help please!

  21. Hello, I live in Sacramento, California. It’s my first season planting sunflowers from seeds. I planted them in biodegradable containers with a seed starter soil that can go directly into the ground when they germinate. Unfortunately I don’t have a sunny room in the house. Could I leave them outside? Is it good to use plastic to cover them? I have plenty of planter box space to transplant them too. Should I just let them germinate in there. I will keep them damp. Our weather over the next 2 weeks is mid 70 to 90s with the lows in the 50s. One day of rain in the forecast. Thanks!

  22. Hi there! I have planed seeds with my class for a project and they have sprouted very quickly. I put them in cheap starter trays with Miracle Gro soil and they’ve been doing very well! How long can I keep them in the trays before I should send them home with the students to transplant? I want them to see as much growth as possible here without keeping them longer than what is good for them!

    Thank you!

    • You want to move them pretty quickly as the tap root grows very long very quickly so you’ll want it in soil with a good depth for it as soon as possible.

  23. this is my first time planting sunfowers, I’m assuming when the plants get flowers they will be facing the direction where the sun comes up? so that the flowers face the same direction. I noticed that you repeatedly stated that it doesn’t matter which direction the seeds are planted for the roots to take hold. I sure want all my flowers facing the same direction. thanks chris

    • Never mind but thank you, I found out that they face east but the single headed ones follow the sun throughout the day but the multi headed ones do not.

  24. We would like to hold a sunflower competition for children at our library, my question is if we plant next week 16th-21st May when could we expect the sunflowers to have reached full height? I’d like to set a realistic end date for the competition. Many thanks!

  25. Hi! I bought a 12 inch ceramic pot and I’m looking to plant a mammoth gray stripe sunflower. Would this pot be big enough? And also, I heard watering it from the bottom is better than watering the top of the soil. Is this true? Thank you (:

    • It will be big enough for it to get to a decent size. It may need more if it were to fulfil its full potential. I don’t think they are too fussy where they get the water from as long as it is the soil that is watered and not the plant.

  26. Hello,

    First time planting a sunflower garden here in Massachusetts. I read that the shells are somewhat toxic to the soil. I have two options for the location for the garden. 1. A Vegetable garden that will not be used this year for veggies or 2. Another location not far from the veggie garden that is somewhat sandy where little grass will grow. What are your thoughts please and thank you.

    • Shells from sunflowers that you’ve planted won’t have any significant impact on the soil. I’d plant them anywhere you’ll not be using for anything else this year.


  28. My kids planted sunflower seeds in little cardboard pots 2-3 weeks ago. They’ve grown to around 8 inches in these little pots on the window sill. Is it time to transfer them into larger pots in the backyard? Is there anything I should be careful of in terms of how I transfer them without damaging the roots?

    • Yes, it sounds like it is about time. Just try not to disturb the roots when transplanting them and try and hold them by their leaves rather than the stems.

  29. Hello Grow Me,
    I think it is great that you are still answering questions. You have the patience of Job with all the repeats being asked; you just keep answering!

    My question is about soil. I live in Montana and we had our *hopefully* last frost about 2 weeks ago. My daughter and I are going to direct sow some giant variety seeds this afternoon. I’m not worried about the quality of the soil so much as the rocks! Very rocky out here, and although I’ve dug up most of the egg size or bigger rocks to a depth of about 6-8 inches I wonder about the tap root getting deep enough through the rocks. Thank you

    • They’ll be able to work their way around most rocks but if it is so big that there is no way around it may struggle. They’ll probably be fine though. Just give it a go!

      • When I was on the internet, it didn’t say anything about waiting until the back of the head of the sunflower was black?? I clipped mine as I guess what most would say were dead. few to no leaves and hanging over. I put them in brown paper bags and I have them in my office to dry out. I should be ok, shouldn’t I??

  30. I planted a bunch of different varieties a few years ago. Everything came up ok. The next I didn’t plant but some seeds must have fallen out from one of the plants. What resulted were two plants that each grew up to 22 feet high and each had about 100 different flowers throughout the summer. So I saved seeds from the biggest one and planted those. What’s com up is so weird. Two stalks are like their parent (20 feet tall and 6!blooms so far but showing about another 50 buds). But others have only one super large flower (no indication of others) some are yellow, some are orange and a few stalks are producing what looks like an albino (middle of flower is super light green, not brown). They all came from the same plant but I didn’t expect this…were they just being cross pollinated with God knows what from the bees?

    • Very interesting. The first ones you planted may have been F1 hybrids which are two different plants crossed to give a super consistent child plant but then the following grandchildren plants can have all sorts of different traits.

  31. we have grown some beautiful sunflowers. they didn’t stay in bloom for long and we are not sure if it is because we had big storms and rain that shook their petals off. what to do with them now? should we take off the heads? the seeds inside the head don’t seem to have appeared (there are still little flowers inside which the bees are loving). And they were so beautiful we would like to plant more but is it too late in the year? it is now august. but we are in spain. thank you

    • After the petals have fallen off you should leave the heads on for a while if you want the seeds to develop. You should leave them until the back of the heads turn a yellow/brown colour. You’ll have plenty of time in Spain yet for them to develop the seeds.

  32. The seed same to the mammoth gray stripe sunflower seed… but the white/gray part is colored purple…is it still a sunflower seed?? if so what type?

    • The flower heads don’t necessarily face the sun. It is the leaves which mainly need to face the sun to generate the maximum energy. It shouldn’t cause any problems though.

  33. Hi from Sydney! Great website. I planted 40 sunflower seeds (short dwarf varieties) in 40 separate 21cm diameter pots (with holes in the bottom). It has been 2 weeks but only 20 of 40 have sprouted. The packet says 7 – 10 days germination. Do I need to wait longer for the rest to sprout or should I assume the seeds wont grow? I used new potting mix, have all the pots in direct sunlight and water them daily. Although there have been 3 days where it has rained a lot. Should I get new seeds and start sowing some more? Is it common for sunflower seeds to not germinate?

    • It can be common for some seeds not to germinate. The germination rate depends on the source of the seeds but I’ve never had more than 80-90% success rate.

  34. Hi, I’ve wanted to plant some sunflowers around my house after seeing some pretty sunflower fences around a neighboring town. It often rain here in Malaysia so I was wondering if the sunflowers will survive when put outside of the house in the rain? And does a 15-inch pot is enough for the sunflower’s root to grow? Trying to grow some mammoth sunflowers.

    • 15 inches should be enough. They should be fine outside. If they get too much rain they may go a bit floppy so may require stake for some support.

  35. I planted sunflowers for the very first time last year just after the first frost. I am not sure the name of the sunflowers I have. I do know they were grown right here in NW Washington. I do not have a green thumb at all and let me tell you, my sunflowers are so beautiful. At first I was worried because I didn’t see anything coming up. You just have to be patient. I planted mine about 1″ down and I put two to three seeds per hole. I am so glad I did because when they got to the point to where they started to bloom, I had sunflowers everywhere. They are also a joy to look at. Such a gorgeous flower indeed.

  36. Hi, I’m in Hampshire UK and had a disaster last year with some earthwalker sunflower seeds. I started them off early spring in seedling trays (indoors) and they germinated but when I transplanted them to pots they were about 10-15 cm high and just withered up. This year I’m thinking about planting them outside straight away against a west facing wall. Unfortunately the garden in quite shady. Would this be the best place for them?

    • If the spot you are planting them in is quite shady they won’t do as well as an area that gets periods of full sun. They need to be fairly warm when germinating and pots tend to be warmer than the ground. It sounds like you left them too long before transplanting. You might be better off skipping the seedling trays and planting straight into pots.

    • Peat pods may be a bit small. If you want to start them in trays, the root trainers are probably the best because of their depth as Sunflowers tend to have deep roots which always makes them tricky for transplanting.

  37. I already planted on two weeks,but why til now the seeds will not many weeks that it will comes out?I wondered why its too long..

  38. I have white seeds and don’t know what is the species yet. I tried to germinate the seeds in damp moist tissue but still no root. I want to ask whether the seeds are damage ? any tips for sunflower(white seeds) to grow faster?

    • It is possible to germinate seeds in tissue but it is best to just pop them in some soil in small pots and water. They can take up to 2 weeks to start appearing. It depends how warm it is.

  39. Hi there,

    I have planted the giant single sunflower in propagation tray.

    I want to move them later on in to bigger pots.

    However, will they grow there nicely? And how big should be the pot?



    • You probably don’t want to leave them too long in a tray as they have deep roots. The quicker you move them on the better and the bigger the pot the better.

  40. I have planted 16 DWARF sunflower seeds in individual small pots (indoors). Most have taken and are now two leaves and about 5cm high. I’m wanting to put them in large pots around the garden. Can I put 3 plants in each pot, and when can I transfer them and when can they go outside.

    • Yes, 3 dwarf plants should be fine in a large pot. You can put them outside anytime from now on if you don’t think you’ll get any more frosts.

  41. I planted dwarf sunflowers and the seeds weren’t visible. Now after a few days i can the top of the seeds….. Should i push them back in the soil or does that mean they are growing and will be out of the soil soon?

  42. I live in Newcastle UK I have grown sun flowers for many years. But this year I am growing Mongolian giant sun flowers, so all sun flower growers wish me luck,will let you all know how I go on. Take care Geoff

  43. I have put some sunflower seedlings into pots they are growing well but they are bending over what can I do?

    • You could tie them loosely to some small stakes to keep them upright until they get strong enough to hold themselves up. Try not to overwater them too as this can cause them to flop.

  44. Started my seeds in a pot, once sprouted moved to my garden. Now they are GONE. I have a fence around the garden to keep the rabbits out. Do birds pull the new seedlings from the garden?

  45. Hi!

    I germinated my seeds in a paper towel, and they sprouted after 3-4 days. I then planted them following the suggested depth and space. But its been 8 days and only a few have emerge from the soil. Do I still have to wait or I have to plant new seeds/sprouts?


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