Did you grow sunflowers this year and want to learn how to harvest sunflower seeds? Harvesting sunflower seeds is simple to do and a great way to save the seeds for next year – or eat and enjoy!

The giant heads of my sunflowers have finally turned from vibrant yellow to a dusty brown, signaling that it’s harvest time! I am so ready to crack open those tightly packed seed heads, revealing the treasure within.

As an aside, I am thrilled that the sunflowers I started from seed bloomed this year! That’s not to say I didn’t have some casualties, because some rabbits got to a few of them, but overall I had great success growing sunflowers this year.

Because I have so many sunflowers, I want to harvest the seeds to plant next year. Plus my husband LOVES to eat sunflower seeds too, so there’s that!

Have you ever harvested sunflower seeds before? 

If your sunflowers have their seeds intact, harvesting them 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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close up of sunflowers
Sunflowers

When to Harvest Sunflower Seeds

The best time to harvest sunflower seeds is after the sunflowers die back completely and the backs of the flower heads turn brown. At this stage, the seeds will have fully matured and can be easily dislodged from the head.

Keep an eye on the weather and the progression of your sunflower blooms; early signs that the seeds are almost ready include drooping flower heads and drying petals. Make sure to start harvesting promptly before wildlife like birds or squirrels beat you to it!

How long after blooming can you harvest sunflower seeds?

After a sunflower blooms, it typically takes about 30 to 45 days for the seeds to mature and be ready for harvest. However, this timeframe can vary depending on a number of factors, including the sunflower variety, environmental conditions, and how the plant has been maintained.

How to Harvest Seeds From Sunflowers

There are two ways to harvest seeds from sumflowers. 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.

I prefer to let them dry on the plant and then scrape out the seeds – here’s how to do it!

Harvesting Sunflower Seeds the Easy Way

Since I’m all about doing things the easy way, this is my preferred method for harvesting sunflower seeds.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.

cutting sunflower heads in the garden to harvest the seeds

Must-Have Tools and Supplies 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.

Here’s what you need to harvest sunflower seeds.

Sunflower heads in the pop up garden debris bin

A Step-by-Step Guide on How to Harvest Sunflower Seeds

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

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

Creative and Practical Uses for Sunflower Seeds After Harvesting

There are many ways to use your harvested sunflower seeds, but I have three personal favorite uses: replanting, roasting and feeding birds.

How to Save Sunflower Seeds for Replanting Next Year

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.

Make sure to keep the seeds away from moisture and extreme temperatures to ensure they stay viable. Check the seeds periodically for signs of mold or pests and discard any seeds that show signs of damage right away.

Come spring, you can replant the sunflower seeds in your garden and repeat the process all over again!

harvested seeds in hand

Roasted Sunflower Seeds: the Perfect Salty Snack

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!

Feeding Sunflower Seeds to Birds

Birds also love sunflower seeds (if you’ve ever waited too long before harvesting sunflower seeds then you probably know this is true!). I’ve even heard of people using sunflower seeds as chicken feed!

If you’re just feeding typical backyard birds, however, you can add sunflower seeds to a birdhouse feeder or even make suet cakes with sunflower seeds (a great winter treat for your local birds!).


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. And once you know how to harvest sunflower seeds, growing them becomes even better!

I hope you enjoyed growing sunflowers this year too!

vibrant yellow sunflowers
Vibrant yellow sunflowers

Frequently Asked Questions About Harvesting Sunflower Seeds

Harvesting sunflower seeds can be a rewarding and simple process when you know the right steps. Whether you’re a seasoned gardener or a beginner, it’s important to have clear answers to your most pressing questions about sunflower harvesting.

From timing and techniques to storage and seed viability, this comprehensive FAQ section covers everything you need to ensure a successful harvest and replanting season.

How do I know when sunflower seeds are ready to harvest?

Oftentimes you’ll see the heads droop and lean over. As the seeds mature, the weight of the seeds pulls the head downward, letting you know they’re ready for harvesting. You might even see some of the seeds getting loose. That’s the best time to start harvesting sunflower seeds.

Another trick you can try to make sure your seeds are ready: gently press your fingernail against one of the seeds. If you’re able to make an indentation without actually puncturing the seed then it’s likely ripe and ready to be harvested.

What happens if you harvest sunflower seeds too early?

Harvesting sunflower seeds too early can result in seeds that are underdeveloped and may never fully mature. These seeds are often small, pale in color, and lack the plumpness and flavor of fully ripened seeds.

Additionally, harvesting too early can lead to lower seed yields overall because the plants continue to produce seeds as they mature. Harvest too early and you may miss out on some of the seed crop.

Immature seeds can also be more prone to mold and spoilage while stored, so they are less likely to be good for replanting the following year.

front porch cottage garden with rudbeckia, sunflowers and gomphrena

How long to dry a sunflower head?

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

How can I protect sunflower seeds from birds and squirrels before harvesting?

Protect your sunflower seeds by covering the flower heads with mesh bags or lightweight fabric to deter birds and squirrels.

What is the best way to clean and store harvested sunflower seeds?

Clean seeds by removing debris and contaminants, then air-dry them thoroughly before storing in airtight containers in a cool, dry place.

Cut flower garden in front of garden shed with Sunflower 'Panache' in the cut flower garden
Sunflowers ‘Panache’ in the cut flower garden by the shed

How long can sunflower seeds be stored for planting or eating?

Sunflower seeds can be stored for up to one year if kept in a cool, dry place in an airtight container.

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.

Can You Harvest Sunflower Seeds from Cut Flowers?

Yes, you can! But the process can differ slightly from harvesting seeds from sunflowers left to mature in the garden.

When harvesting sunflower seeds from cut flowers, you’ll want to wait to cut the plant until the flower head has started to mature on the plant. While you’ll likely want to enjoy your cut flowers before they’re drooping, you don’t want to harvest your flowers so early that the seeds are immature.

When you’re ready to harvest the seeds from your sunflowers, it’s important to discontinue their water supply. You can leave them to air dry in a vase or hang them upside down to dehydrate. I recommend doing this indoors or in a protected outdoor space so birds and other animals can’t snack on the seeds before you harvest them.

Once the sunflower heads have thoroughly dried out, set up a bowl or tray to catch the seeds and gently brush the sunflower heads. Allow the seeds to fall onto the prepared surface, and use pliers, tweezers, or tongs to remove any stubborn ones. Rinse the seeds quickly, then dry them thoroughly before storing them in a cool, dry place until you’re ready to use them.

Sunflower close up

More About Harvesting Sunflower Seeds

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.

Do you grow sunflowers? Have you ever harvested the seeds before? How do you like to use the harvested seeds? Tell me in the comments below.

And… If you’re catching up on blog posts you may have missed, be sure to sign-up to get my newest posts via email to stay up to date with everything that’s happening here on the blog and more.

A close-up of vibrant sunflowers with bright yellow petals and dark centers, set against a blurred background of green foliage and hints of a bustling environment.
Hardy hibiscus and sunflowers

Get More Gardening Tips in My Book: The Bricks ‘n Blooms Guide

Stacy Ling with her book the bricks n blooms guide to a beauitful and easy care flower garden

If you’ve always dreamed of bringing country charm to your home while creating a beautiful, relaxing space, I got you! Learn how to grow flowers in even the smallest of spaces with my easy-care, low-maintenance approach.

Garden Supplies I Use When Growing Sunflowers

Since I’ve been gardening for well over twenty-five years, I’m often asked about the garden supplies and tools that I use most. Here are some of my favorites that I use in no particular order.

Want 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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harvesting sunflower seeds

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Enjoy a beautiful day! xo

Stacy Ling

Want to learn more about me? I’m a master gardener who’s been gardening and growing things for over 25 years and author of the best-selling book, The Bricks ‘n Blooms Guide to a Beautiful and Easy-Care Flower Garden. Get the inside scoop about my background as a master gardener, education, and experience, as well as why I started blogging here.

stacy ling cutting dahlias in her garden
Home and Garden Blogger Stacy Ling cutting zinnia flowers in her cottage garden with wood picket fence in front of garden shed

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Adding the cut sunflower heads to garden debris bin
harvesting sunflower seeds
Close up of sunflower head that is ready to harvest the 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.