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How to Grow, Harvest, and Roast Edible Sunflower Seeds

Sunflowers are simple to grow, and the seeds are a delicious snack. Keep reading to learn how to grow edible sunflower seeds, when to harvest sunflowers for the plumpest kernels, and how to roast edible sunflower seeds

How to grow edible sunflower seeds

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How to Grow, Harvest, and Roast Edible Sunflower Seeds

1. Choose a confection (edible) variety of sunflower seeds

Although sunflowers make excellent cut flowers and are grown for their bright blossoms, if you are growing them for the edible seeds, it’s important to plant the type you can eat, called “confection varieties”. 

There are short and tall confection varieties. Short types usually have fewer seeds, but the seeds are larger. The edible tall varieties produce a higher amount of slightly smaller seeds. 

Small edible varieties include: 

Tall edible varieties include:

2. How and when to plant edible sunflower seeds

Sunflowers are a warm-season crop. Plant after the danger of frost has passed in the spring and soil temperatures have warmed to about 60°F

In warm-climate areas, start sunflowers directly in the soil. Plant sunflower seeds from February through July in the low desert of Arizona. In cooler-climate areas, seeds may be started indoors for transplanting outside, but take care not to disturb the roots. 

Plant sunflower seeds about 1” deep in rich, well-draining soil. Sunflowers tolerate poor soil, but rich soil will produce a larger, stronger sunflower.

Space most edible varieties 12-18” apart to give the plants room to grow. 

3. How to grow edible sunflower seeds

  • Sunflowers need plenty of sun to grow well. Plant in an area that receives at least 6 hours of sunlight. 
  • Give sunflowers regular water. 
  • Typically, sunflowers don’t require additional feeding. 
  • Keep the area weed free. 
  • Keep an eye on the flower head and when it begins to droop, cover it with netting to keep the birds from eating your seeds.
cover sunflower head with netting to protect from birds

For square-foot gardening, allow 1-2 square feet per plant. 

How to Grow, Harvest, and Roast Edible Sunflower Seeds

4. When to harvest edible sunflower seeds

Seeds should be harvested when the back of the seed head has turned brown for the largest kernels. 

The seed head can be left on the plant to turn brown (cover the head with netting to protect it from birds) or removed when it turns yellow. To cut off the seed head when yellow, leave several inches of stem attached and then hang it upside down to continue ripening. 

To remove seeds, rub two seed heads together or use your hands or a wire brush to loosen the seeds.

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5. How to roast edible sunflower seeds

Recipe for roasting sunflower seeds

Once you have harvested the seeds, remove any debris and cover the seeds with water. 

Add ¼-½ cup of salt per 2 quarts of water

soak sunflower seeds in salted water overnight

Soak seeds for 3-4 hours or overnight.

drain water but do not rinse sunflower seeds

Drain off water (do not rinse) and pour seeds out onto a dish towel. Pat the seeds dry.

roast edible sunflower seeds on a baking sheet

Spread the sunflower seeds in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake for 30-45 minutes at 300°F (or until lightly browned). Shake baking sheet once or twice during baking to stir seeds.

store sunflower seeds in a sealed jar after roasting

Allow seeds to cool completely and store in an airtight container for up to 3 months.

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Perpetual Herb, Fruit & Vegetable Planting Calendar Zone 9b
  • PLANTING GUIDE: Each month lists vegetables, fruit & herbs to plant outside & seeds to start indoors.
  • HARVEST GUIDE: Photos show what may be ready to harvest that month.
  • Planting dates are for the low desert of Arizona (zone 9b).

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Monday 16th of August 2021

Hi! I am in Vail AZ, where are you located? I found your website when I was researching on how to grow Brussels Sprouts. I find all your stuff very interesting! It is really hard to find gardeners in AZ so I am glad I found your blog! I also have another question; my sun flowers grew very large but the seeds are tiny! I can't do much of anything with them! Was it just the varitey I got or what? The head was at least 8-9 inches across.

Angela Judd

Tuesday 17th of August 2021

I am in Mesa, Arizona. For larger seeds choose a confection or edible variety. They have the largest seeds.