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Harvesting Sunflower Seeds

Did you grow sunflowers this year and want to harvest the seeds? Harvesting sunflower seeds is simple to do and a great way to save the seeds for next year. Here’s how to do it!

I am thrilled that the sunflowers I started from seed took this year!

That’s not to say I didn’t have some casualties, because some rabbits got to some, but overall I had great success growing sunflowers this year.

And because I have so many sunflowers that survived, I want to harvest the seeds to plant next year.

Plus my husband LOVES to eat sunflower seeds, so there’s that too.

Have you ever harvested sunflower seeds before?

In full disclosure, I don’t always get the opportunity to harvest them because I leave them out for too long and the birds or other animals eat them all before I get the chance.

So this year, I’m totally on the ball because the heads drooped over enough where the birds and other animals didn’t get to the seed.

Anyway, if your sunflowers have their seeds intact, harvesting them for other uses is so easy to do.

Whether you want to roast them to eat or save them for next year’s garden, here’s how to harvest sunflower seeds.

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When Is the Best Time to Harvest Sunflower Seeds?

The best time to harvest sunflower seeds is after they die back completely and the backs are brown.

Oftentimes you’ll see the heads droop and lean over. And you might even see some of the seeds getting loose.

That’s the best time to start harvesting sunflower seeds.

close up of sunflowers
Sunflowers

How Do You Harvest Seeds From Sunflowers?

You can allow the head to dry on the plant or cut them to hang for 4-5 days in a cool dark dry location before harvesting the seeds.

If you leave them on the plant, there’s a risk the birds or other animals will harvest them first.

So keep that in mind before you choose a method.

Can You Eat Sunflower Seeds Straight From the Flower?

I know many that do, but I prefer to harvest them first then roast them after they are cleaned up.

These sunflowers need to be cut back to harvest the seed heads! They are dont blooming for the season.

Harvesting Sunflower Seeds the Easy Way

If you’ve never harvested sunflower seeds before, wait until you see how easy it is to do!

This is a great activity to do with your kids or grandkids.

And it can get a little messy so it’s best to do this outdoors or in a garage, shed, or greenhouse to contain the mess.

row of sunflowers along driveway that are ready to harvest
cutting sunflower heads in the garden to harvest the seeds

Supplies Needed for Harvesting Sunflower Seeds

Not much is needed to harvest sunflower seeds and you probably have a majority of the items needed to do it.

If you grew more than a few sunflowers, I recommend using a pop-up garden debris bag, wheelbarrow or garden cart to collect the seed heads.

I prefer using the garden debris bag because it catches all the loose seeds that I want to keep.

Adding the cut sunflower heads to garden debris bin
Sunflower heads in the pop up garden debris bin

Here’s what you need to harvest sunflower seeds.

  • Sharp Pruners
  • Garden Debris Bag, Wheelbarrow, or Garden Cart
  • Table
  • Tablecloth or Garbage Bag
  • Stock Pot or Bucket
  • Garden Gloves
  • Colander
  • Paper Towels or Newspaper
Close up of sunflower head that is ready to harvest the seeds

Directions for Harvesting Sunflower Seeds

Believe it or not, there are not many steps to harvesting sunflower seeds.

As I mentioned earlier, you can allow the flower heads to dry a little on the plant before harvesting. Or you can cut the heads and hang them upside down to dry out for 4-5 days in a cool, dark space like a basement or garage.

Since I allowed my sunflowers to die back and dry out on the plant, I’m cutting the heads and harvesting the sunflowers directly.

Scraping the sunflower seeds out of the flower heads onto the table.

Here’s how I did it.

  • Using sharp pruners, I cut about a foot off between the head with the stem. I suggest wearing garden gloves for this process because the stems can feel a little prickly.
  • Collect the seed heads in a garden debris bag, wheelbarrow, or garden cart.
  • After collecting the sunflower heads, I laid a garbage bag on the table to help contain the mess and grabbed one flower head to start harvesting. You can also do this directly over a bucket, but I chose to stand over a table.
  • To harvest the flowers, scrape the seed head with your fingers and allow the seeds to fall onto the table. The dryer the flower head is, the easier the seeds will pop out.
  • Collect sunflower seeds and temporarily hold them in a stock pot or bucket. Since I was working with several flower heads, I needed something large enough to fit all of the seeds.
  • Remove the debris by adding them to a colander and rinse them off.
  • Spread the seeds evenly on paper towels in a single thin layer so they can fully dry off before using or storing.
harvested seeds in hand

And that’s it! Super easy right?

From baking to replanting them for next year, sunflowers are very easy to grow (if the critters don’t get to them that is), enjoy, and harvest for later.

Storing Seeds

If you plan to store them to plant for next year, after they are fully dry, label them in an envelope and keep them in a cool, dry, and dark place until next year.

Roasting Seeds

If you plan to roast them, after rinsing them off, boil them for 15 minutes in salted water.

And then spread thinly on a baking sheet, then roast them at 400 for 10-15 minutes. I like to sprinkle mine with a little bit of salt but you can add whatever types of flavorings you like!


Growing sunflowers has always been a fun project to do with my girls as the seeds are easier for them to plant and simple to start and grow.

I hope you enjoyed growing sunflowers this year too!

Sunflower close up

Harvesting Sunflower Seeds

Did you grow sunflowers this year and want to harvest the seeds? Harvesting sunflower seeds is simple to do and a great way to save the seeds for next year. Here's how to do it!
Prep Time10 mins
Active Time50 mins
Total Time1 hr
Calories:
Cost: $10

Materials

Instructions

  • Using sharp pruners, cut about a foot off between the head with the stem.
    cutting sunflower heads in the garden to harvest the seeds
  • Collect the seed heads in a garden debris bag, wheelbarrow, or garden cart.
    Sunflower heads in the pop up garden debris bin
  • After collecting the sunflower heads, lay a garbage bag or sheet on a table to help contain the mess. Then take one flower head to start harvesting.
    Close up of sunflower head that is ready to harvest the seeds
  • To harvest the seeds, scrape the seed head with your fingers and allow the seeds to fall onto the table. The dryer the flower head is, the easier the seeds will pop out.
    Scraping the sunflower seeds out of the flower heads onto the table.
  • Collect sunflower seeds and temporarily hold them in a stock pot or bucket.
  • Remove the debris by adding them to a colander and rinse them off.
  • Spread the seeds evenly on paper towels in a single thin layer so they can fully dry off before using or storing.
    harvested seeds in hand

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How to Start Seeds

Want to learn how to start seeds so you can grow different varieties of flowers, vegetables, and herbs?

Whether you start seeds indoors or outside, it’s a great way to get a jump start on the growing season and you can experience so many different types of plants!

Here’s what you need to know!

Looking for More Flower Garden Ideas?

If you love flowers and want to grow more in your garden, here are some posts that will get you on your way.

From tucking in flowering plants that are deer-resistant or ones that attract more butterflies and hummingbirds, to shade-loving flowers like the lenten rose, these posts will get you on your way to growing a garden that will bring joy for years to come.

Here are more cut flower and cottage garden growing tips, tricks, and design inspiration.

view of the front porch cottage garden with sugar pumpkins, sedum autumn joy, rudbeckia, celosia and snapdragons

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Stacy Ling

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harvesting sunflower seeds
harvesting sunflower seeds

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8 Comments

  1. I need to grow those Sunflowers to save the seeds! What a beautiful post…and those need to be added to my garden!

  2. Stacy, I so needed this post last year. I grew very large sunflowers but struggled with when to harvest the seeds. Since our sunflowers bloom and die during the summer heat (well at least this crop did-maybe I planted them at the wrong time), the seeds were dried out. I threw most of them back into the ground but only had one variety of sunflower bloom the next year (the smaller flower ones). I will try again and see when I should plant them here in 9b. Good info!

  3. Your sunflowers were so pretty this year Stacy. I can’t wait to save my seeds! I’ve never done it before and an so excited.