How to Germinate Sunflower Seeds

Sunflowers are a native flower of North America.
Sunflowers are a native flower of North America. (Image: sunflower image by Lucid_Exposure from

Sunflowers come in several different sizes and shapes, from a few feet tall and several inches in diameter to the giants that grow more than 6 feet tall with heads more than 1 foot in diameter. The producing flowers are gathered in the center; there can be up to 2000 individual flowers within a single sunflower that produce pollen and eventually produce seed. The yellow petals that encircle the disc are ornamental and do not reproduce. Seeds are easy to germinate and do not require any special care.

Things You'll Need

  • Compost
  • Shovel
  • Tiller
  • Paper towels
  • Plate
  • Spray bottle
  • Containers
  • Potting soil
  • Trowel

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Plant seeds when temperatures reach 65 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Some sunflower seeds may germinate at a low of 40 degrees Fahrenheit, but they will not start to grow until those temperatures reach the 70s.

Prepare a planting location with well-draining soil that receives full sun for eight hours a day. Add well-rotted compost to the area and till it until the soil is light and airy.

Prepare seeds, if desired, two and a half weeks prior to planting. Place seeds between paper towels dampened with water. Place the seed-laden paper towels on a plate and set it aside for a few days. Spray with water when the towels dry to keep them evenly damp. After a few days check to see which ones have sprouted; it can take up to 11 days for the seeds to germinate.

Plant seeds that germinate in containers filled with potting soil. Place the pots in a sunny place and water to keep the soil damp but not soggy. After one week, plant the sunflowers in their permanent location outside.

Plant seeds directly in the garden if you want to skip the germination step. Plant seeds 1 to 3 1/2 inches deep in the prepared soil, depending on the variety. Always check the back of the seed package for this information. Cover the seeds with soil and pat it down. Water the soil evenly until the seeds germinate and sprout.

Tips & Warnings

  • Sunflower seeds can take up to 11 days to germinate and sprout above the ground; once the seeds sprout, thin them so they are about 1 or 2 feet apart.
  • Direct plant seeds outside in May. They will tolerate a light frost, but if they have sprouted above the ground, you must cover them during a frost.
  • Seeds that have been germinated in paper towels must never be in containers for more than one to two weeks, or the flowers will have weak stems and stunted growth.


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