How to dry sunflowers

Easy tips on how to dry sunflowers that will keep forever. Sunflowers are easy to dry and preserve that can be used to make beautiful fall wreaths or used in dried bouquet arrangements.

How to dry sunflowers

Gardening is my passion. Whether it is growing vegetables in my raised garden beds or adding a fun new element to my rustic garden design, I love it all! I spend hours in my garden shed dreaming of all the beautiful cut flowers that I would love to grow, and adding more sunflowers is always at the top of that list!

Grown for their beautiful large yellow, orange, and even red petals bloom from summer to autumn. Sunflowers make excellent cut flowers, but you can learn how to dry sunflowers with just a few easy tips.

How to dry sunflowers

Growing Sunflowers to Dry and Preserve

Very few flowers say “summer” like the Sunflower. They grow exceptionally well here in Missouri. They tolerate the humidity, resist many pests, and look beautiful in the garden.

As an annual plant, the Sunflower can come in various colors, styles, and heights. Sunflowers are heliotropic, which means that they turn their heads to follow the sun throughout the day.

Sunflowers are easy to grow. They are well-loved by the bees, and even the birds will favor them if you allow the brown centers to ripen into heavy heads filled with seeds.

How to dry sunflowers

Growing Organic and Heirloom Sunflowers to Dry

Have you looked at buying sunflower seeds? There are so many varieties. Some are grown for seeds, some for the oil, and others are grown for cut flowers.

There are also heirlooms, hybrids, single stem, and even multi-branching varieties. I choose to grow heirloom sunflowers. They are great for pollinators, and I can save the seeds to plant for the following year.

How to dry sunflowers

My Favorite Heirloom Sunflowers for Drying

Most of the seeds that I order come from a company here in Missouri. Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds has a wide array of sunflower seeds.

A few of my favorite Sunflowers grow, include the Arikara, Taiyo, Henry Wilde, and finally, just for fun, the children and I love growing the Titan S unflower .

When to Pick Sunflowers for Drying

Sunflowers are best picked on a dry day. Choose sunflowers that have blooms that are free of dew. Then, choose sunflowers whose heads are almost all the way open. Be sure to choose the prettiest ones that have the most petals intact.

Pretty options for displaying and drying sunflowers

This post contains affiliate links; this means that I make a tiny commission off any purchase that you may make. This small commission helps keep Rocky Hedge Farm going at no additional cost to you. Please see my disclosure policy for more information.

You can find my favorite kitchen essentials can be located in my Amazon storefront. While I often try to link to the exact products you see in my photos and videos, my pieces are usually vintage and often thrifted. However, I try to find and link replicas as much as possible, made in the USA or by other small shops, as I believe in supporting hardworking American families.

  • Jute Twine: used for hanging sunflowers upside down to dry. I always have jute twine in our home for hanging fresh herbs to dry or tying up tomato plants in the garden.
  • Peg Rack: Hang sunflowers upside down from a pretty wooden peg rack.
  • Farmhouse Vases: display sunflowers in a beautiful way on your kitchen island or farmhouse table.

Easy Tips to Dry Sunflowers for Preserving

There are two different ways that I like to dry my sunflowers, and both of them are very simple.

Option 1: Dry Upside Down

Bring the sunflowers in and remove any of the leaves from the stem. Tie jute string around the sunflower. Then, hang them upside down to dry in a dark place.

Option 2: Dry in a Vase

It is possible to dry sunflowers in a vase. To do this, place the sunflowers in a pretty vase or even a vintage watering can with water. Enjoy the blooms while they last, and then leave them in the vase even after the water is gone. The sunflowers will shrivel up a bit and dry out.

The drying process for sunflowers can take two to three weeks. Once the sunflower has dried, remove the string, and then use the preserved sunflower bouquet for decorating.

How to dry sunflowers

How to Use Dried Sunflowers

One of my favorite ways to use the dried sunflower heads is on a homemade fall wreath or simply tucked into vintage watering cans. They are beautiful to use for fall decorating either in the home or on the porch. The Farm Chicks have used dried sunflowers to decorate their patio for fall and the look is so beautiful.

With the addition of my country cottage garden shed to the backyard, I am hoping to use a lot of my dried sunflowers to decorate the front porch from year to year. Once dried, sunflowers can be used for years to come in home decoration.

September 15, 2015

How to dry sunflowers

How to dry sunflowers

How to dry sunflowers

How to dry sunflowers

How to dry sunflowers

How to dry sunflowers

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Thank you so much for sharing that great trick! I love the way sunflowers make a room feel… even if i don’t love bright colors, they still make me happy. The faded sunflowers in the first photo look amazing! I am definitely going to try that!

I had no idea! thanks!

Okay, so that how to get the sepia look! Thank you. We grew our own this year for the first time, so this will be a great tip to use…

Courtney, they look beautiful blended with your dried roses. I would never have thought of putting those two flowers together, but it works. Great tip on removing the yellow petals. Look forward to seeing your Fall Home Tour.

Ugh! I just cut the heads off of mine and threw them in an old pot of dirt; hoping the seeds would produce more for me! Now, I will have to buy more!! haha Thank you for the knowledge!

I have three just starting to dry up in vases. Thanks!

So then they dry like the hydrangeas , that is great to know. I started using sunflowers in my fall decor
Last fall. Yours are so pretty!
Have a good day.

Those are so pretty, Courtney, and I do like the faded look. I will have to start not throwing mine away so fast..Happy Wednesday..Judy

I was just wondering how to do it. I’m having this seasons last sunflowers in vase ( next to vase of white and pink/white roses).Thank You for Your tip, I just ‘forget’ them for a while…

Thanks for the tip. I love sunflowers this time of the year….Sheila E

I didn’t know that you could do this…it’s the same way I dry hydrangeas, though. Trouble is the finches outside love the sunflowers so much I don’t know if I should steal a few of MINE from THEM or not! 🙂 Yours certainly look lovely !!

Thanks Courtney! I do this for Hydrangeas, but’s that great for sunflowers! Thanks for sharing! How do you dry your roses?
LuAnn 😉

I am definitely going to do this!…..I have bought dried sunflowers and now I can dry my own thanks to you!

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How to dry sunflowers

Author & Photographer who believes in the power of patina, a good cup of coffee, and that a room isn’t truly finished without a chandelier and a bouquet of fresh flowers.

By: Jenny Harrington

21 September, 2017

Sunflowers come in more shades than the just the common yellow. Deep red, pale orange and dark orange sunflowers are also available. Some sunflowers are only a few inches across while others have large blooms and double sets of petals, or rays. Preserving these summer flowers for year-round enjoyment is possible by carefully drying and preserving them. The dried flowers can be used in flower arrangements, alone or combined with other dried flowers and foliage.

Choose a newly opened, healthy looking sunflower that doesn’t have any damaged petals. Cut off the stem so only 1/4 inch remains attached to the back.

  • Sunflowers come in more shades than the just the common yellow.
  • The dried flowers can be used in flower arrangements, alone or combined with other dried flowers and foliage.

Cut a 2-inch length of wire. Bend the top 1/2 inch of the wire into a hook. Push the long end of the wire into the center of the sunflower until it protrudes from the back and the hook is buried in the center of the sunflower, no longer visible from the front. This hook allows you to attach floral wire stems to the sunflower after drying so you can place it in arrangements.

Place a 1-inch layer of silica gel, available from florists, in a plastic container. Use a container that has a tight-fitting lid, such as a food storage container.

Lay the sunflower on top the silica gel, with the flower facing upward. Push the flower gently into the silica.

  • Cut a 2-inch length of wire.
  • Lay the sunflower on top the silica gel, with the flower facing upward.

Sprinkle silica crystals on top the sunflower, working them under and between petals with a toothpick so that the sunflower holds its natural shape. Add silica gel until the sunflower is completely covered.

Place the lid on the container and seal it closed. Leave the sunflower in the mixture for two days.

Remove the lid and brush the silica carefully aside to reveal the center of the flower. If the center is dry, the sunflower is ready. If not, leave it in the mixture for an additional day.

  • Sprinkle silica crystals on top the sunflower, working them under and between petals with a toothpick so that the sunflower holds its natural shape.

Brush the silica gel off the top of the sunflower. Slide your fingers under the flower and carefully lift it out of the silica. Turn the flower upside down and tap the back so any excess silica falls out of the petals. Store the dried sunflowers in a sealed bag until you are ready to use.

If you are drying more than one sunflower, leave a 1- to 2-inch space between them in the container.

A mixture of one part borax and one part sand or oatmeal can be substituted for silica gel, but do not use a covered container with this mixture.

If air can get in the container during drying, the silica will absorb the moisture from the air instead of from the flower, leading to improper drying.

How to dry sunflowers

One of the pleasures of watching those huge yellow flowers following the summer sun is anticipating harvesting sunflower seeds in the fall. If you have done your homework and planted a sunflower variety with large, full heads, you’re in for a treat, but beware; you won’t be the only one harvesting sunflower seeds. Sunflower harvesting is a favorite past time of birds, squirrels, field mice, and deer. To beat the local wildlife, it is important to know when to harvest sunflowers.

When to Harvest Sunflower Seeds

Harvesting sunflowers is easy, but deciding when to harvest sunflowers can give some gardeners pause. Heads picked before the proper time may have plenty of seed coats with little meat. Wait too long to harvest sunflowers and the tender seeds will be too dry to roast. Wait until the animals start sunflower harvesting for you and there’ll be nothing left for you!

Harvest sunflowers when their petals become dry and begin to fall. The green base of the head will turn yellow and eventually brown. Seeds will look plump and the seed coats will be fully black or black and white stripes depending on the variety. If animals or birds are a problem, you can cover the heads with fine netting or paper bags as soon as the petals begin to wilt.

How to Harvest Sunflower Seeds

While most growers agree on when to harvest sunflowers, how to harvest sunflowers seeds is largely a matter of preference and neither method provides a greater yield.

One method for harvesting sunflower seeds allows the seeds to fully ripen on the stem. When seeds are fully ripened and just beginning to loosen from the head, cut the stem about one inch (2.5 cm.) below the head. Now briskly rub the seeds from the head with your hand, blow off the chaff, and allow the seeds to dry before storing.

The second method for harvesting sunflowers begins when about two-thirds of the seeds are mature. Cut a longer piece of stem. 3 to 4 inches (7.5 to 10 cm.) works well. Wrap a paper bag around the head and hang the heads in in a well ventilated area for a few weeks to dry. Make sure the area is warm, but not hot.

Sunflower harvesting has a long history as an American tradition and they have been part of man’s diet for centuries. Native Americans were harvesting sunflower seeds long before Europeans arrived. They boiled the heads to extract the oil and ate the seeds either raw or baked in breads and infusions were used medicinally. The seeds are a good source of calcium, phosphorus, and potassium.

Saving Sunflower Seeds

Once the seeds are harvested, they may be used right away or saved for planting next season. Dry your seeds completely prior to storing them. The drier the seeds are, the longer they will store. Keep the seeds in a closed container such as a sealed, airtight mason jar. Don’t forget to label the contents clearly and date it.

For seeds that will be stored for only a season, place the container in a cool, dark location. The refrigerator is a great place to store seeds. To help ensure the seeds remain dry, you can also place silica gel or 2 tablespoons (29.5 mL.) of powdered milk wrapped in tissue in the bottom of the jar. You can also freeze your seeds. Either place them in an airtight, freezer safe container or toss them into a freezer bag. Most sunflower seeds will last for up to a year when stored in the fridge or freezer. Those stored short term, such as in the pantry, should be used within 2-3 months.

Whatever your reasons for harvesting sunflower seeds, whether as winter feed for the birds or a tasty treat for your family, sunflower harvesting is easy and fun and can create a new fall tradition for you and your family.

How to dry sunflowers

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Familiar, upright annual plants, sunflowers (Helianthus) are valued for their friendly, colorful flowers that bloom from summer until autumn. Sunflowers are available in shades of yellow, orange, red or creamy white, depending on the variety, and in dwarf forms that top out at 14 to 16 inches, as well as giant varieties that reach heights of 10 to 15 feet. Sunflowers make excellent cut flowers, and are easily dried for use in floral arrangements all year round.

Picking Sunflowers

Pick sunflowers on a dry day when the blooms are free of dew and moisture. Pick more than you think you’ll need to allow for possible accidents or mistakes. Select perfect flowers that aren’t quite fully opened, as the blooms continue to open during the drying process. Never attempt to dry wilted or damaged flowers because flaws are more apparent when the blooms are dried. Put the flowers in a container of cool water immediately to keep them fresh.

Drying Sunflowers With Dessicants

Sunflowers are well-suited for drying with a dessicant, which is a substance that absorbs water. Several dessicants are suitable, including fine, clean, dry sand. However, sand is heavy and may distort the flowers. Also, the drying process can take as long as two to three weeks. You also can use a mixture of cornmeal and Borax, which is lighter than sand. Use a 50-50 mix, or mixture of one part Borax and up to six parts cornmeal. Don’t use Borax alone, as it bleaches the colors of the flowers. Most people have the best results with silica gel, a lightweight, sand-like material that absorbs moisture from the air very quickly. Although silica gel is more expensive, it is reliable, trouble-free, and can be dried and re-used many times.

” > Preparation for Drying

Remove the stem, leaving a 1- to 2-inch stub of stem attached to the sunflower. Insert a 3- to 4-inch length of 18-gauge florist’s wire up through the center of the stub, and then push the wire so the end emerges through the back of the sunflower. Bend the end into a hook, and then pull the hook back into the center of the bloom. You can extend the length by attaching longer wire later, but a short wire simplifies the drying process. Place 1 to 2 inches of dessicant in the bottom of a shallow container. If you use sand or a Borax mix, use a cardboard box with a sturdy bottom and no lid. Cardboard works well as it provides good air circulation. If you choose to dry the sunflower with silica gel, put the gel in an airtight container with a secure lid. Otherwise, the gel absorbs moisture from the air instead of the flower and the drying time is extended.

” > Drying the Sunflowers

Lay the sunflower on the dessicant with the bloom facing up. Spoon additional dessicant carefully over the sunflower until the flower is covered completely, and then tap the box to settle the material evenly around the bloom. If the gel settles, add more to ensure the flower is covered completely. Put the container in a warm dry place and allow the sunflower to dry for two to four days. The sunflower is dried when it’s dry and papery, but not brittle. Don’t dry the flower too long, as the petals may shatter. To remove the sunflower from the dessicant, slide your hand under the flower, and then lift the flower carefully. Tap the flower gently to remove excess gel. Remove excess gel that clings to the petals using a soft artist’s brush.

by The Woodland Elf · Published September 11, 2013 · Updated January 4, 2022

Drying sunflowers is easy and fun. So if you want to preserve those golden summer blooms long after the season, try one of 3 easy sunflower drying methods.

How to dry sunflowers

With the hot weather a couple weeks ago, I was up to my elbows in sunflowers. I couldn’t bear the thought of seeing any of them go to waste, so I saved quite a few of the golden beauties to dry for craft projects. Sunflowers make great dried flowers because they hold their color well.

Air Drying Sunflowers

The easiest method is to hang them in a bunch upside down and leave them to dry. In this method the golden petals curl around the heads giving them a sort of windblown look. Usually 2 weeks of hanging is enough to dry the flowers. You’ll know they’re dry when they feel crispy to the touch.

Rack Drying Sunflowers

Another method is to use a wire rack, like the kind you find inside an oven. Slide the stems of the sunflowers through the slots in the rack so that the heads lay flat upon it. The petals will dry crinkled, similar those that are hang-dried, but they will remain flat instead of folding around head. With this method, one week is usually sufficient.

Silica Drying Sunflowers

The third method (and also the most instantly gratifying method) is to use silica or sand crystals. This is the most involved process, but also yields the most fresh-looking results. The petals and heads remain flat, just like those of live, fresh flowers. However, in this method, you will have to cut the heads off the stems to dry them. Be sure the flowers are completely covered in silica crystals, then “cook” them in the oven on a low temperature for 15-20 minutes.

Once you choose your method and dry your flowers, you can use them for a variety of crafting projects, dried arrangements or wreaths.

By Amber Reifsteck, The Woodland Elf

Sunflowers resemble the sun with their big bright yellow petals. The unique, tall-standing flowers are not only gorgeous to look at, but they produce a large amount of healthy, edible seeds.

  1. Can Sunflower Seeds Be Dried?
  2. How To Dry Sunflower Seeds
    • Step 1: Prepare for Harvest – Cover
    • Step 2: Replace the Cover
    • Step 3: Cut and Hang
    • Step 4: Harvest Remaining Seeds
    • Step 5: Clean
    • Step 6: Salt Soak (Optional)
    • Step 6: Roast
    • Step 7: Cool and Store
  3. FAQs

These versatile seeds can be used in baking, salads, turned into oil, spreads, and eaten alone as a snack.

If you live in a moderately warm climate, sunflowers can be easy to grow in your own garden. In this guide, you will learn everything you need to know about drying your own sunflower seeds

Can Sunflower Seeds Be Dried?

Yes, dried sunflower seeds make a great snack and are useful in cooking. They can also be dried specifically for planting. To get the best quality out of the dried seeds, it is important to harvest them at the right time and in the right way.

Harvesting sunflower seeds too early will result in inedible white seeds, whereas a late harvest will yield desiccated seeds that are not suitable for roasting.

Sunflower seeds are ready to be harvested when they show the typical black-on-white exterior stripes. The seeds are their plumpest when the flower starts to wilt, petals fall off and the stem turns yellow or slightly brown.

How To Dry Sunflower Seeds

Step 1: Prepare for Harvest – Cover

If you live in a dry sunny climate, leave the sunflowers on the stem for the first stage of drying. If you are in a humid climate, drying them off the stem may be better to prevent mold.

The sunflower head will begin to droop, petals will fall off, and the seeds should start to plump up. The wilted head of the sunflower with few petals left is very appealing for birds, squirrels, and other animals to snack on.

To protect the seeds, cover the head of the sunflower with a paper bag or cheesecloth. Tie it loosely with string to prevent it from being knocked off. Do not use a plastic covering as this will prevent sufficient airflow and the head will rot.

Step 2: Replace the Cover

If the bags get wet or tear, replace them with dry, whole paper bags. Be careful when removing the covering as some seeds may have started to drop off.

Collect any seeds that have dropped into the old bag and store them in an airtight container until the full harvest is ready for drying.

In the case of rain, you may cover the sunflowers with plastic just to prevent them from getting wet. Do not tie the plastic and remove it as soon as the rain clears.

Step 3: Cut and Hang

The back of the head will turn yellow-brown within a few days of wilting. Leaving the bags on, cut the stems 1 ft (30 cm) below the flower. Be careful not to lose falling seeds during the process if the paper bags slip off accidentally.

Choose a warm dry area to continue the drying process. This can be indoors as long as there is good air ventilation to prevent moisture build-up. Tie the stems with string and hang the sunflower heads upside down from a hook or beam.

Check them on a daily basis, emptying the bag from any seeds that have dropped off. Store the seeds in an air-tight container until all the seeds have been harvested.

Step 4: Harvest Remaining Seeds

After 1 to 4 days, the head will finish drying. It will turn dark brown and dry. Untie the hanging stems. Be careful to keep the bags on as you will lose plenty of seeds if they fall off.

Place the sunflowers on a table or counter and carefully remove the bag. Gather all the seeds that have fallen off. Brush the dried head of the flower with your hands or a brush to remove the remaining seeds until they are all dislodged.

Step 5: Clean

Place all the seeds you have stored and harvested in a bowl. Rinse the seeds thoroughly with cold water to remove dirt and bacteria. Drain them through a sieve or colander.

Spread the sunflower seeds out in a single layer on a few sheets of paper towel to dry for a couple of hours. Remove any damaged bits or debris.

Step 6: Salt Soak (Optional)

Prepare a mixture of 2 quarts (2l) water and ¼ to ½ a cup salt. Soak the seeds in the solution overnight. Alternatively, you can boil them in the solution for 2 hours as a quicker method.

Drain the seeds and spread them out to dry in a single layer on paper towels.

Step 6: Roast

Whether or not you have salt-soaked the seeds, make sure they are completely dry before roasting.

Spread them onto a shallow baking sheet in a single layer so that they do not lie on top of each other. Roast them for 30 to 40 minutes or until lightly browned at 300 °F (149 °C). Stir occasionally to allow even drying.

Step 7: Cool and Store

Remove the roasted seeds from the oven and let them cool completely for 30 to 40 minutes.

Place them in an airtight container or resealable bag and store them in the refrigerator.

How long do sunflower seeds last?

Raw sunflower seeds will last for 2 to 3 months if kept in a cool, dry place in airtight containers. Roasted seeds in the shell will last 4 to 5 months in the pantry or refrigerator and up to 1 year in the freezer. If the seeds have been shelled after roasting, they will last for 3 to 4 months in the pantry or refrigerator and up to 1 year in the freezer.

Can you eat raw sunflower seeds?

Yes, sunflower seeds can be eaten raw, or roasted. They do, however, need to be shelled before eating.

Why are my sunflower seeds white?

White sunflower seeds are not yet mature. Only once, the seeds are plump with black and white stripes as they mature and ready for harvesting.


Sunflower seeds can be used to make a variety of different products and used diversely in cooking.

They are used to make sunflower spread, oil, in baking, salads, cooked dishes, and eaten as a snack with dried fruits and nuts. They provide a fantastic nutty flavor and crunchy texture.

One sunflower can yield between 1000 and 2000 seeds. Of course, you may lose some during the harvesting process if you are not careful when handling the flower heads.

Keep the sunflower head in dry, warm conditions during the harvesting and drying period for best results. Always store them in air-tight containers to prevent rancidity.

Enjoy this fantastic healthy snack and spruce up any soup, stir-fry, sandwich, vegetable, or salad dish with your home-roasted sunflower nuggets.

How To Dry Sunflowers For Decoration?

Pick a dark, dry place to hang them, such as an unused cabinet, a closet, or an attic. You can also set the flowers in a vase to dry. The petals will arch more gracefully. Still place them in a dark, dry place.

How do you dry out sunflowers?

If the sunflowers aren’t ready yet, tie the stalks with twine. I cut my sunflower blooms and noticed that several of them weren’t quite ready for harvest yet. It wasn’t a problem – I simply tied them together with twine and hung them in a warm, dry area for five days. Hang sunflowers for 4-5 days to dry out.

How do you preserve sunflowers?

The flowers should last at least a week in water at room temperature. Arrange sunflowers in tall containers that provide good support for their heavy heads, and change the water every day to keep them fresh.

What is the best way to dry sunflower heads?

Sunflowers can be left to dry out on the stem or may be cut down and dried say by hanging the seed head upside down from a nail. As birds and animals eat sunflower seeds, the seed heads may need to be protected during this time, say by putting them in a paper bag.

How do you dry sunflowers for wreaths?

Air Drying Sunflowers

The easiest method is to hang them in a bunch upside down and leave them to dry. In this method the golden petals curl around the heads giving them a sort of windblown look. Usually 2 weeks of hanging is enough to dry the flowers. You’ll know they’re dry when they feel crispy to the touch.

How do you preserve sunflowers in a vase?

Extend Their Vase Life

Sunflowers last longer in water if you seal the stems, and it takes only 20 seconds of high heat to do so. Dip the stems ends in a pan of boiling water or hold each cut end to a candle flame. This keeps the sunflowers from losing their sap in the water and preserves their vitality.

How do you preserve sunflowers with resin?

How do you preserve a sunflower in a frame?

Cut off a six inch chunk of yarn. Tie one end of the yarn around a hanger and the other around the sunflower’s stem. Hang the sunflower in a dry, dark place for at least two to three weeks. A closet, unused room or attic is an ideal environment.

What do you do with dead sunflower heads?

What can you do with old sunflowers?

Cut off the old flower heads as soon as the petals begin to wilt in summer. Deadheading the old flowers stops seed production and encourages perennial sunflowers to send out a second set of flower buds. Continue to deadhead the sunflower plant until it stops sending up new blooms, usually in fall.

After a sunflower has flowered its seeds can be harvested for planting again the following year. A single seed planted in the spring can produce many seeds in the autumn and these can be extracted from the seed head once a sunflower has dried out. Signs that a sunflower is drying out include the flower drooping, petals falling away and the back of the flower turning brown.

Sunflowers can be left to dry out on the stem or may be cut down and dried say by hanging the seed head upside down from a nail. As birds and animals eat sunflower seeds, the seed heads may need to be protected during this time, say by putting them in a paper bag. If you have a lot of seeds you can of course share your seeds with wildlife too.

Sunflower seeds are protected by a layer of pollen which is easily brushed away to reveal the seeds underneath. Seeds that are ready for harvesting will look plump, feel hard and come away easily from the seed head by rubbing them with your hand or if you have more than one seed head try rubbing them together to release the seeds – you may want to do this outdoors as there may be bugs in the seed head. If you are concerned about dirt or bacteria, rinse your seeds under a tap, then leave them to dry.

Once harvested, seeds should be stored in a dry place, say an envelope, a box or a paper bag, until you are ready to plant them. If you harvest more than one variety of seed don’t forget to keep these separate and label them so you remember what they are when you come to plant them.

February 1, 2021

Sunflowers are a beautiful sight, and will brighten up bouquets of cut flowers instantly – although they are pretty big, and might overshadow the other flowers! They can also be displayed on their own to showcase their beauty. Read on to learn more on how to preserve sunflowers.

What You’ll Learn Today

What Can You Preserve From Sunflowers

How to dry sunflowers

All of the useful parts of the sunflower can be preserved, from the flowers to the seeds.

  • Sunflowers are huge, bright, cheerful blooms that will make an amazing centerpiece. They will last a good while in a vase of water too, making them a great choice for having around the house.
  • Seeds are useful as culinary additions – they are used in breads, salads, bakes – as well as nibbled on their own. It can be a little fiddly to get them as you buy them in the shops, as the outer husks must be removed.

How To Dry Sunflowers

How to dry sunflowers

You can either pick your sunflowers and display them in a vase in your home, and enjoy their bright, sunny color for up to a fortnight before they wither and die, or you can go for longer methods of sunflower preserving.

If you have picked a bloom early enough, before the seeds really start to develop, you can press it in the same way as you would press a smaller flower.

If you don’t own a flower press then you can wrap the flower head in tissue paper and weigh it down under something heavy – a good big recipe book, or perhaps a book about sunflowers?

Another method is to tie a piece of string around the bottom of the stem, and hang the sunflowers upside down in a dry, dark place for around 2 weeks. You can dry more than one in this way; just make sure that their heads don’t touch.

Check them after two weeks and you can leave them longer if they are not dry enough – this can take up to three weeks.

Finally, coat the flowers in hairspray. This will preserve the look, shape and color of the petals. This method is best done with sunflowers that have not completely developed so that the seeds don’t end up dropping out.

Here is a useful video to show you the best ways to dry sunflowers:

How Long Do Cut Sunflowers Last

Cut sunflowers can last up to two weeks once they are cut and displayed in a vase, as long as you keep them in plenty of water. You can add plant food to this water too, to help them last longer.

If you treat your cut sunflowers with a drying agent, you should find that they last even longer – for several years even, as long as they don’t get dropped or damaged. The colors won’t be as vibrant, but they will still keep their beauty.

Pressed flowers tend to lose their shape and often most of their color, but pressing them is a good way of preserving them, and they can be used in arts and crafts as well as decorating the room.

How To Preserve Sunflowers For Seeds

How to dry sunflowers

This is a very easy method of preserving sunflowers – all you need to do is leave the stems in the ground until all the petals have dropped off. As long as the weather is still dry and relatively warm, this will work.

You should place a net, or cheesecloth, over the heads to protect them from marauding birds who will eat all the seeds before you’ve had a chance to! This will also help to catch any seeds that might fall off.

You might need to stake the plant to hold it upright before you manage to harvest the seeds, as the stem will likely have died and started to wither before the seeds are ready, and the weight of the head can pull the entire plant down.

Removing the seeds is easy – either scrape them off with a fork, or rub two sunflower heads together and you will be rewarded with thousands of seeds!

Final Words

How to preserve sunflowers is an easier job than you might think, and it is very rewarding. Even if you are not going to eat the seeds, or display the flowers around you house, you will always be able to remember the year you grew the best sunflowers ever!

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Table of Contents

Cut a longer piece of stem. 3 to 4 inches (7.5 to 10 cm.) works well. Wrap a paper bag around the head and hang the heads in in a well ventilated area for a few weeks to dry.

How do you preserve sunflower heads?

Dip the stems ends in a pan of boiling water or hold each cut end to a candle flame. This keeps the sunflowers from losing their sap in the water and preserves their vitality. Use floral preservative in the vase water or make your own. Add a dash of household bleach to equal parts water and a soft drink.

How long does it take to dry sunflower heads?

Sunflower heads should dry in about two to four weeks. The larger the flower the longer the drying time that will be required.

What do I do with my sunflower heads?

When it has run the course of its’ life, dried sunflower heads make tasty bird feeders in the winter. Harvest and roast the seeds and sprinkle on salads or enjoy as a healthy, tasty snack. (Seeds are generally ready to harvest when the head turns brown on the back.)Apr 15, 2016.

How do you dry sunflower heads for birds?

Step 1: Allow the sunflowers to dry out thoroughly. Place them in a cool, well-ventilated room; that will prevent them from going mouldy. Leave them to dry until the heads turn brown and the backs turn yellow. Step 2: Once your sunflowers are well-dried and discoloured, remove the heads.

How do you dry sunflower heads for decoration?

Option 1: Dry Upside Down Bring the sunflowers in and remove any of the leaves from the stem. Tie jute string around the sunflower. Then, hang them upside down to dry in a dark place.

How do you preserve a sunflower in a frame?

Cut off a six inch chunk of yarn. Tie one end of the yarn around a hanger and the other around the sunflower’s stem. Hang the sunflower in a dry, dark place for at least two to three weeks. A closet, unused room or attic is an ideal environment.

What can I do with dried sunflower petals?

Dried Sunflower petals have a neutral flavor when infused alone. Sunflower petals are a nice addition to any salad, snack or smoothie bowl. They can also be used as eye-catching ingredients in soaps, candles, potpourri, and dyes.

Will cut sunflowers produce seeds?

The cut sunflower harvested early in the flowering stage will not have the ability to go on to develop seeds, which requires a lot of energy from the plant. As well, these cut sunflowers are more vulnerable to bacteria the longer they stay in the bucket or vase of water. Then yes, you may get seed.

Can you dry sunflower heads in the oven?

Spread seeds on a sheet pan and roast: Drain the water from the seeds and spread the seeds out in a single layer in a sheet pan. Place in a 400°F oven on the top rack and roast for 10 to 15 minutes. Keep checking every few minutes until they are dry enough and roasted to your satisfaction.

Do I need to dry sunflower heads for birds?

You can either dry the sunflower heads to ripen the seeds. To do this you simply need to cut the flower heads when they start to droop, leaving a couple of inches of the stem. When they’re dry you can harvest the ripened seeds for the birds, or simply hang your dried flower heads outside.

How do you dry sunflower heads for seeds?

Line a shallow cardboard box or wooden crate with newspaper and paper towels and scatter the seeds in a single layer to dry, leaving space in between each seed. Rinse sunflower seeds before laying out to dry. Allow them to dry for several hours (or overnight).

How do you dry sunflowers at home?

Hang the sunflower up to dry in a dark, dry place. Tie yarn or kitchen twine to the bottom of the stem. You can bundle them in threes, but the heads shouldn’t touch. Pick a dark, dry place to hang them, such as an unused cabinet, a closet, or an attic. You can also set the flowers in a vase to dry.

How do you dry sunflower stalks?

After the seed shells fatten up but before they dry out, cut the sunflower stalks about 12 to 18 inches below the flower. It’s best to tie the flower stalks together with cord or a rubber band and hang them upside-down in a dark, airy place at room temperature.

How do you preserve sunflowers in books?

Directions: Gather your favorite flowers—if the blooms come from your own garden, all the better for gift purposes. Choose bright ones without blemishes. Put a heavy book on a flat surface. Add another layer of paper, topped with your second book. Leave in a dry spot for two weeks.

Will a sunflower head grow back?

Sunflowers grown as annuals die after producing their flower heads go to seed. They do not grow and bloom again. These are usually the varieties cultivated for their large size, showy flower heads and edible seeds.

What do you do with sunflower heads UK?

Leave the flower head on the stem for at least 2 weeks. Once the petals have faded, cut the flower heads off and store them in a sunny, warm, dry place for another week. Spread a sheet of newspaper on a flat surface, gently rub the seed head and the seeds will fall away easily.

What do farmers do with sunflower stalks?

Sunflowers continue to be an important oilseed crop worldwide. Many of them are used for birdseed but most are processed into vegetable oil. The green stalks are chopped like silage and used as cattle feed.

How to dry sunflowers

Few seasonal flowers are as spectacular as the sunflower. Its regal stalks and large blooms—in truth a collection of smaller flowers called an inflorescence—are a stunning sight to behold.

Toward the end of the season, sunflowers produce a massive number of seeds from these flowers, a healthy snack for humans and animals alike. Once dried and washed, sunflower seeds can be eaten as is or roasted and incorporated into a variety of dishes.

However, sunflowers aren’t just a tasty snack. Besides being rich in protein, sunflower seeds have an assortment of trace nutrients like potassium, iron, magnesium, and calcium, and are an excellent source of vitamins E and B complex.

How to Dry Sunflower Seeds

How to harvest sunflower seeds

Timing is everything for sunflower seed harvesting. Letting the seeds mature fully is the key to a fruitful harvest.

Harvesting too early may lead to inedible white seeds that are useless for replanting, whereas harvesting too late may lead to desiccated seeds that are impossible to roast. The seeds are ready for harvest (and consumption) when they have the familiar black-on-white stripes on their surface.

Most people agree that the best time to harvest sunflower seeds is when the plant itself has started to wilt. The stalks and calyx would turn yellow, the petals have all wilted off, and the seeds are at their plumpest.

At around this time, the plants become very attractive to birds and small mammals, so you might want to harvest sooner rather than later. If the danger of wildlife eating all the seeds is too much, you can dissuade most of them by covering the wilting flowers with bags.

Drying sunflower brooms

Although sunflower seeds can be allowed to dry off while on the stalk, it is often prudent to harvest the flowers the moment they appear ready.

This will further minimize the losses from animals eating the flower heads while ensuring that the seeds are at their best before storage or consumption. As a result, sunflower seeds are dried multiple times over the course of the harvest to allow the seeds to mature further.

Once removed from the plant, the wilted flowers—now called brooms—should be allowed to dry to allow the seeds to harden for ease of removal. This would also allow the seeds to ripen fully if they were harvested early.

When drying out the brooms, ensure that there is ample air circulation. Avoid stacking them one over the other; this will interfere with the brooms’ ability to lose moisture and may even invite rot and decay.

Among the best ways to dry sunflower, brooms is to hang them. Tie the brooms together with twine and suspend them securely in a cool, dry, and well-ventilated place such as a garage. In optimal conditions, the brooms will take up to four or five days to fully dry out.

The ease that the seeds fall off of a broom is a good indicator of whether they are ready; if they prove difficult to remove, they are not yet dry enough. Once sufficiently dry, the seeds can be brushed off the brooms by hand and onto a bucket or cheesecloth.

Drying sunflower seeds for eating

Once the seeds have been removed from the brooms, they should be washed and dried again before storage and consumption.

The number of steps you can take at this points depends largely on how you would use the seeds. Seeds you’re saving for replanting or plan on feeding to animals can simply be washed and dried, while sunflower seeds that you plan to eat are roasted afterward.

  • Washing the seeds cleans them of dirt, flower particles, and other plant matter mixed in during the removal process. Once the seeds are soaked and cleaned, they can be left to dry fully before storage. Sunflower seeds that are allowed to completely dry remain viable for planting for much longer.
  • Sunflower seeds are typically air-dried. Spread the seeds out in a single layer over a thick towel laid on a flat surface. Allow the process to run its course for over several hours until the seeds are completely dry. Use this time to inspect for and remove broken seeds and other debris.

Cooking sunflower seeds

Varieties of sunflowers that produce large, striped seeds make the best candidates for snacking and cooking. Although they usually can be eaten once washed, sunflower seeds taste better and are more useful in a broader assortment of dishes when cooked.

The simplest way to prepare sunflower seeds is by toasting them. After a quick rinse, they can be briefly toasted in an oven as a quick and healthy snack.

Add a bit more flavor to the seeds by salting them before roasting. Soak them in a saline bath of about two quarts of water to about 1/4 to 1/2 cup of salt overnight. Drain them in a paper towel and spread them out on a shallow baking sheet.

Roast the sunflower seeds between 30 and 40 minutes in an oven heated to 300 degrees Fahrenheit. Mix the seed occasionally as they cook to ensure that they all roast evenly. Let it completely cool and flavor with olive oil, salt, and spices.

They also make an excellent nutrient-rich ingredient to add to healthy dishes.


Now that you’re done drying sunflower seeds, it’s time to learn about proper storage. Sunflower seeds, whether cooked or dried, should ideally be stored in airtight containers.

Cooked sunflower seeds should be refrigerated and can last for several weeks. Meanwhile, unroasted sunflower seeds can last for up to 2 to 3 months when stored in the pantry. They can also be placed in the freezer, where they can keep for several months to a year.

When storing sunflower seeds for replanting, don’t forget to properly label them not only with the specific variety of seeds they grew, but also the date they were harvested. This will help you keep track of how long the seeds are viable.

Save Sunflower Seeds for Birds

How to dry sunflowers

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How to dry sunflowers

jeffreyw / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

  • Working Time: 30 – 45 mins
  • Total Time: 3 days – 1 wk
  • Skill Level: Beginner

Growing sunflowers is easy and inexpensive and, as most bird-lovers know, sunflower seeds make great bird food. With a bit of planning and some care while your sunflowers are ripening, you can easily harvest dozens of sunflower heads bulging with seeds that backyard birds will appreciate. Carefully saving the seeds can provide a rich supply of winter bird food that is ideal for all types of visiting birds just when they need good nutrition the most. Plus, if you save a few individual seeds for the following spring, you can be sure of another great harvest and an ongoing supply of nutritious, attractive, inexpensive food for your birds.

When to Harvest Sunflower Seeds

While birds won’t mind eating unripe sunflower seeds—and they may even try a bite or two before you’re able to protect the flower heads—ripe seeds have larger kernels with more calories and better nutrition. Several clues can help you determine when your sunflower seeds are ready to harvest:

  • The back of the flower heads turn pale yellow, and the edges begin to brown.
  • The seeds themselves, which are white at first, darken considerably.
  • The soft ends of the buds on each seed dry up and fall off, exposing the full seed.

Of course, if birds are giving your sunflowers even more attention than they give your feeders, it’s a good bet that the sunflower seeds are ripe for harvesting.

What You’ll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Pruners


  • Pantyhose
  • Cheesecloth, flour sacks, or netting
  • Paper bags
  • Twine


Protect the Unripe Seeds

You’ve spent all summer watching your sunflowers grow to amazing heights crowned with stunning blooms, and those blooms are beginning to turn into heavy seed crops. However, even though the seeds may have already formed, they are not necessarily ripe for harvesting right away, despite the presence of eager birds that nibble as soon as the seeds appear. To make the most of your sunflower seed crop, it’s necessary to protect the seeds from sharp and hungry bills until they are ready to harvest. Cover the seeds to prevent the birds from eating them prematurely, choosing a cover that permits air circulation so the seeds can continue to ripen.

Try Pantyhose

Stretch a pantyhose stocking over the sunflower heads.

Wrap the Heads

Wrap the heads with cheesecloth, flour sacks, or netting.

If you have more space, you might consider positioning netting over the entire sunflower bed or patch, using hoops or stakes to support the cover. Keep in mind that this netting must be fine enough to keep birds away from the plants, and it can be difficult to manage over a large patch or in areas with severe summer weather.

Use Paper Bags

Tie paper bags loosely over the blooms with twine. Avoid tying the bags so tightly that air cannot freely circulate around the bloom. Punch several small holes in the bags to ensure good airflow around the flower heads.

Do not use plastic bags because moisture will condense inside them, causing rot on the seeds. This makes the seeds less appealing and increases the risk of mold or fungus that can be dangerous to birds.

Harvest the Seeds

Cut the Heads

Cut off the flower heads with sharp pruners, leaving 2 to 4 inches of stalk on each one.

Store the Heads

Until you are ready to feed the birds, store the heads in a dry area, such as a shed or garage, in a secure container away from mice or other pests. The drier the flower heads are, the easier it will be to extract the seeds, whether you want to do this yourself or let the birds handle that task.

Feeding the Birds

Many birders struggle with the idea of prying out the hundreds or thousands of seeds from each flower head to feed the birds, but there is no need. Birds’ bills are ideally suited for extracting their seeds. The easiest way to feed homegrown sunflower seeds to birds is to set out the whole, dried sunflower heads on a tray or platform feeder and let the birds enjoy it.

You can also use the end of the stalk to poke through a fence or trellis to hang the sunflower heads for the birds to feed on. For the very largest, broadest sunflower heads, consider wrapping string or twine around them and hanging them, seed side up, for an impromptu hanging platform feeder. After birds have eaten all the seeds, you can sprinkle mixed birdseed on the empty sunflower head, and the small seed pockets will hold the mixed seed securely, allowing birds to continue using the natural feeder.

If you want to loosen the seeds before putting flower heads out for the birds, rub your hand across the seeds in alternating circles (wearing heavy gloves will make this more comfortable). Some seeds may detach as you do this, but it is easy to save those seeds for replanting the next spring. Keep them in a small, labeled envelope or jar stored in a cool, dry place. If you replant the seeds, they may not have the exact qualities of your first crop, depending on the crossbreeding of the original seeds and any cross-pollination that took place to produce your first flowers.

How to dry sunflowers

Drying Sunflowers

Sunflower seeds can be dried easily with relatively small quantities of moisture removed during the process. Producers have a tendency to over dry sunflowers due to their experience with corn. For example, drying corn from 25% to 15% moisture removes about 6.6 lbs. of moisture per bushel. Drying sunflowers, however, removes only about 3 lbs. of moisture per bushel when going from 20% to 10% moisture. To compensate for this, you’ll want to increase the flow rate through the dryer or decrease the drying air temperature.

Crops are best stored when cool, dry and clean. Mold growth is based on temperatures and crop moisture content. The maximum recommended moisture contents of clean sunflower grains for storage with aeration is:

  • Confectionary sunflower: 11% for short term i.e., less than 6 months and 10% for long term.
  • Oil sunflower: 10% for short term and 7-8% for long term.

Sunflowers can be dried at temperatures between 160-220 degrees Fahrenheit (F) without having an adverse effect on oil yield or fatty acid composition. That said, drying non-oil varieties at high temperatures can cause the nutmeats to be steamed, wrinkled or even scorched. Operate continuous-flow dryers and recirculating-batch dryers at plenum temperatures of 160 degrees F. Batch and bin dryers should be operated at 110-140 degrees F, respectively.

Preventing Dryer Fires

Drying sunflowers presents a greater risk of fire than other crops because the seed has fine hairs or fibers that can be rubbed off during handling. The hairs float in the air around the dryers and can ignite when drawn through the drying fan and open burner. This presents a fire hazard unless the ignited particles burn themselves out before contacting the sunflowers.

An effective way to help prevent dryer fires is to ensure the fan draws in clean air free of these hairs or fibers. This can be performed by using a portable dryer and turning the fan into the wind. Another option is to build an intake duct over the air inlet, which can help decrease the number of hairs and fibers drawn into a stationary dryer. Long snorkel tubes can be attached to the drying fan.

Guidelines for dryer use:

  • Use good housekeeping practices. Clean around the dryer and in the plenum chamber daily.
  • Make sure all sections of recirculating-batch and continuous-flow dryers have continuous flow. Uneven flow will cause over-dried spots and increase fire hazards.
  • Don’t leave drying equipment unattended.

Cleaning Sunflowers

Crops that contain substantial plant material are more susceptible to mold and insect damage, so cleaning your crop before storing can help reduce this hazard. Fines can accumulate under the down spouts and hinder aeration, making it difficult to maintain uniform air through the seeds. Stalks and trash have a higher moisture content, leading sunflowers to heat even though the seeds are below 9%.

Be sure to remove large pieces of head and stalk as this is the highest moisture fraction of the seed. Early harvested seed contains 1-2% of the small flower (floret) that is fastened to each seed in the head. The florets disappear after a hard frost or later as the head dries out. The fraction of dockage containing florets is high in moisture and tends to heat in storage.

Seed cleaning is tough to accomplish during the busy harvest season, so plan on performing this work once fall fieldwork stops if you have a center unloading system and access to a seed cleaner. Trash is heaviest in the center of your bin, so that’s the best place to start.

Storing The Crop

Grain is a good insulator, so since you’ll likely fill the storage when temperatures are much warmer than winter temps. The crop in the center of the bin will hold its temperature from harvest even after outside temperatures have dropped well below freezing.

Using airflow to control temperature is critical, as crops should be held near average outdoor temperatures during the fall. Doing so creates an unfavorable environment for fungi and insects and helps prevent moisture migration. Aeration helps maintain a uniform temperature throughout the seeds. Fans should be operated in the fall when the average outside air temperature is about 10-15 degrees F cooler than the stored sunflowers and turned off once the temperature of the stored seeds are uniform and near the outside temperature. Repeat this cycle whenever the average outside temperature is 10-15 degrees F lower than the seed temperature, or until the grain temperature reaches 25 degrees F.

A cooling cycle typically takes 5-7 days of continuous operation. Aerating for exactly a week should do the job and makes it easier to remember when to turn off the fan.

Follow the same procedure when warming seed in the spring, except in reverse. Aerate when the average outside temperature is about 10-15 degrees F higher than the seed temperature. Continue aerating in stages until the grain temperature is between 50-60 degrees F.

Cover the fans and unloading tubes when not aerating to keep natural air movement from over-cooling or drying the seeds near the ducts or floor. A canvas cover or plastic bag held in place with an inexpensive elastic cord works well. Temperature changes can occur, so make it a practice to remove the cover and operate the fan for about a day several times over the course of the winter, when outside temperatures are about the same as the grain temperature. This will help keep grain temperatures even.

With proper management, sunflowers can be dried and stored safely, provided you operate your aeration fans and keep the seeds at ideal temperatures. Some producers choose to not run the fans due to high energy costs. However, it’s critical to utilize the aeration system whenever necessary. Don’t let energy cost be a factor because you’ll get hit a lot harder if your grain spoils.

Looking for more sunflower storage tips, or have questions that are specific to your operation? Contact the grain drying and storage experts at your local university extension office. For additional agronomic insights related to growing sunflowers reach out to your local WinField ® United retailer.

1 Drying and Storing Sunflowers, KSU Extension Service, Joseph P. Harner, based on numerous articles released by Dr. Kenneth Hellevang, NDSU Extension service engineer.

All photos are either the property of WinField United or used with permission.

© 2021 WinField United. Important: Before use always read and follow label instructions. Crop performance is dependent on several factors many of which are beyond the control of WinField United, including without limitation, soil type, pest pressures, agronomic practices and weather conditions. Growers are encouraged to consider data from multiple locations, over multiple years and to be mindful of how such agronomic conditions could impact results. WinField ® is a trademark of WinField United.

By Mavis Butterfield on August 5, 2014 – 9 Comments

How to dry sunflowers

I have the most amazing readers, and most of the time, it is me learning from you, but every once in awhile, someone sends in a question that I think, “Hey, I bet lots of people would love to know the answer to that.” So, I am going to try to feature some of your questions and answer them, the best I can.

Do you have a preferred or recommended way to dry the sunflower heads to gather seeds? I have tried several times and mine always seem to mold before seeds are ready to harvest. I have tried a few ways with no luck! We decided to try again and the seeds went in the ground today ……would appreciate any tips! Thanks! On another note…your garden inspires! Thanks for rocking and growing!

How to dry sunflowers

First off, thank you! Second, good question. To dry sunflower seeds, it is best to leave the sunflower in the ground. You will know you are ready to start drying your seeds when the flower has lost its petals and the head begins to droop. As it starts to die back cover the head of the flower with cheese cloth or a paper bag and rubber band or tie around the base of the flower head.

The cheese cloth/bag will keep the birds from attacking your seeds, and catch any seeds that may fall off during the drying process. If you live in a wet climate, which you may, since you mentioned mold is an issue, you may have to cut the head off of the stalk and dry it in a covered area . If you do bring it inside, make sure to still cover the head with the cheese cloth or bag, and hang the plant upside down to dry.

How to dry sunflowers

Allowing the seeds to dry ON the head of the flower gives the seeds enough time to harden up. When the seeds are completely dry, keep the head of the flower in the paper bag

I hope that helps. Thanks again for the question!

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Sunflowers not only attract pollinating insects while they’re blooming, but at season’s end they become an excellent food source for wild birds

  • How to dry sunflowersSunflower seeds are a good source of protein for birds. Photo: Samuel Agudinio under the Creative Commons Attribution License 2.0.
  • How to dry sunflowersThis goldfinch wasn’t about to wait for someone to craft this sunflower head into a feeder. Photo by Audreyjm529 under the Creative Commons Attributionb License 2.0.

Sunflowers not only attract pollinating insects while they’re blooming, but at season’s end they become an excellent food source for wild birds.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Sunflower heads—the bigger the better
  • Florist’s wire
  • Screwdriver
  • Craft or Exact-o knife*
  • Ink pen*
  • Millet sprays and raffia*

Birds appreciate a little help finding food for the cold season. Between that and the natural entertaining antics of birds, kids are thrilled to be a part of bird feeding by making a natural bird feeder out of sunflower seed heads. They’re super easy to make, and this simple craft shows kids how nature comes full circle from the flower seeds that they planted in their yard becoming bird food when the new seeds are formed.

Birds that are attracted to sunflower heads include jays, grosbeaks, goldfinches, juncos, buntings, pine siskins, titmice, bluebirds, blackbirds, finches, cardinals, and chickadees. They all benefit from the high nutritional value sunflower seeds provide—especially heading into the winter months. They’re loaded with minerals like potassium, calcium, magnesium, and iron, as well as vitamin B complex. Sunflower seeds are also valuable as a source for protein, fiber, and polyunsaturated fat.

The best sunflower varieties for the job are the larger ones like Sunzilla, Giant Gray Stripe, Russian Mammoth. These sunflower types because they’re easier to work with and end up lasting longer as a feeder. If you’ve grown sunflowers in your yard, when the sunflowers look well formed and the heads begin to dry out, cut the top ¼ off of the sunflowers and let them dry out in a cool and well-ventilated area. They can be hung upside down or placed in a large empty vase (without water). If you confine them to a bag or container, mold could form before the heads have properly dried.

If you haven’t grown any this year, don’t give up just yet. Ask friends and neighbors if they have any spent sunflower heads in their yards, or check out your local farmers market. You’ll know they’re dry when the fronts of the heads turn a crispy brown and the backs of the heads are yellow.

Cut off the remaining stem from the sunflower when the flower heads are completely dry. Make a couple of holes near the top of the head with the screwdriver an inch or two apart. The florist’s wire can now be threaded through the holes and the ends secured together so it can be hung on a fence or tree branch for wild birds to feast on. Of course, the sunflowers can be left on the dead plants right where they grew and the birds will find them, too, but it’s nice to bring them closer to your house or window to enjoy the wild dining.

A variation of this craft is to lay the front of the flower face down and use your pen to make a circle in the middle of the back of the flower head. Then carefully cut the circle out with the craft knife or blade. (The knife should only be used by an adult.) When you turn it back over, the flower head will now resemble a wreath. You can also tie long millet sprays onto the sunflower wreath as an added decoration and snack for the birds. Also, tying earth-colored raffia as a natural bow makes it extra festive for the winter season.

Growing sunflowers? How to harvest and roast the sunflower seeds from your sunflowers.

How to dry sunflowers

Elise founded Simply Recipes in 2003 and led the site until 2019. She has an MA in Food Research from Stanford University.

How to dry sunflowers

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How to dry sunflowers

Looking out my living room window one afternoon I saw the strangest sight, a squirrel, about 8 feet off the ground, upside down, with his tail sticking straight up in the air.

Quietly walking closer to investigate, I found that the squirrel had climbed up one of my tall sunflower plants, the top of which was bending over due to the weight of the squirrel, who, clutching the plant stalk with his hind legs, now greedily was digging into the sunflower flower to eat the ripening seeds.

Oh, where is the camera when you need it? By the time I had retrieved mine, the squirrel was already heading down the plant.

How to dry sunflowers

But that did get me thinking, why leave all the sunflower seeds to the squirrels? The sunflower variety the squirrel was enjoying produces small seeds, too small for me to bother with.

But I had other sunflowers, the mammoth variety, which produces big seeds, the kind that can easily be roasted.

How to dry sunflowers

By the time I got around to it, the squirrels and birds had already eaten all the seeds from every flower except one. The seeds were clearly visible, I pulled one out to check to make sure the size was big enough, cracked it open and ate the raw seed inside. Perfect!

I then placed the flower head on a table (outside, it’s rather messy) and rubbed out as many of the big seeds as I could. This would be a fun activity to do with kids if you grow big sunflowers in your garden.

I then boiled the seeds in salted water, drained them, laid them out in a roasting pan, and roasted them.

How to dry sunflowers

The question that you may have, and I certainly did, is, is there any way to easily shell the seeds, so you don’t have to go through the painstaking process yourself for each nibble?

There is, but it requires expensive commercial machinery. Oh well. The good news is that in-shell, these seeds are hard to overeat! You have to work for it.

How to Harvest and Roast (in Shell) Sunflower Seeds

If you grow your own sunflowers, the flowers will tell you when they are ready. They’ll be droopy, and the petals around the center will be dried. The seeds should be clearly visible.

The best seeds for eating come from the larger varieties of sunflowers.

Just cut away the flower head from the stalk, place the flower head on a flat surface, and rub the center to dislodge the seeds from the flower. If squirrels and birds can get to these seeds, so can you!

These directions are for salted, roasted sunflower seeds. If you don’t want them salted, just rinse them off and roast them. Because they aren’t soaked through with water, they’ll roast much more quickly, perhaps only a few minutes at 400°F.

* Add more or less salt to taste, up to 1/4 cup Kosher salt for 1 quart of water.


1 cup raw in-shell sunflower seeds

2 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt , or 2 tablespoons table salt*

The sunflowers in front of Green City Growers’ Somerville office are bright and in bloom, stretching high above the rest of the garden. With their soaring stalks and bright yellow petals, sunflowers bring color to almost any plot of land. However, sunflowers can do more than just add aesthetic appeal; in fact, they are an entirely edible plant.
How to dry sunflowers
From root to leaf, sprout to stalk, you can use your sunflowers to make everything from salads to sunflower tea. Before chowing down, though, make sure the sunflower you’re about to enjoy has been grown organically, without pesticides, or any other toxic substances that might not be so kitchen-friendly.

Once you’ve confirmed your plant is safe to eat, there are plenty of ways to make the most of your sunflower. With a little creativity, you can use all of the following parts of the plant:

Sunflower Roots

The roots of the sunchoke, a species of sunflower also called “Jerusalem artichoke” or “sunroot,” can be roasted, sliced thin and fried, shredded into slaw, steamed, mashed with potatoes, marinated, or even chopped raw and added into salads. Green City Growers regularly plants sunchokes at our production sites such as Whole Foods and Fenway Farms .

Sunflower Sprouts

Once hailed as a salad’s “secret weapon” by The New York Times , sunflower shoots can be used in the same way you might use alfalfa or soybean sprouts. Sunflower sprouts have a taste somewhat similar to sunflower seeds—a slight nuttiness but with more of a fresh, plant-like flavor—that adds an unexpected element to salads and sandwiches.

Sunflower Stalks

Interestingly, sunflower stalks are the lightest natural substance known to man, with a specific gravity one-eighth that of cork. Science aside, sunflower stalks make great snacks, too. With a satisfying crunch and a taste comparable to celery, the stalks of young sunflowers can be added to salad, or eaten raw with hummus or peanut butter.

Sunflower Leaves

Sunflower leaves can be used as a greens for salad, boiled in the same way you might cook spinach, or even baked like kale chips. The leaves are also used as an herbal supplement, with the leaves steeped to make tea.

Sunflower Petals

While sunflower petals might make for pretty garnishes, they can actually be used in salads, too, and they add more than just a dash of color. Known for their unique bittersweet taste, they can be used as a compliment to sweeter flavors in your dish.

Sunflower Seeds

A sunflower is ready to have it seeds eaten when the disk flowers on the back of the plant have turned from green to yellow. While sunflower seeds are often sold in stores, it’s easy to make your own. You can eat them raw, or soak them over night in a salt water and then roast them at 250-300 degrees Fahrenheit for several hours.

Try incorporating sunflowers into your own home garden this summer. Don’t have a garden? Request a consultation and we’ll help you get started.

6 thoughts on “ Making the Most Out of Sunflowers ”


I beg to differ. Jerusalem Artichoke, aka sunchokes, are a totally different plant than sunflowers.

I agree ..artichokes are a different plant

That’s not a correct assessment. Both Jerusalem Artichokes and Sunflowers are members of the Sunflower genus. The Jerusalem artichoke, also called sunroot, sunchoke, earth apple or topinambour, is a species of sunflower native to eastern North America, and found from eastern Canada and Maine west to North Dakota, and south to northern Florida and Texas.

You left out “eating the sunflower bud like an artichoke”. Oh, and sunchokes are perennials, while sunflowers are annuals. And I’ve never heard of anyone roasting sunchoke seeds.

Sunflowers will reseed themselves if a few heads are left in the fall. The young seedlings can be transplanted if tied to a stick so the stalk isn’t bent while the roots resettle.

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For many of us, the thought of sunflowers evokes childhood memories of growing plants that would eventually tower over us, with some that can grow up to 16 feet tall . When sunflowers are planted in full sun, the seeds germinate, thrive, and bear bright and cheerful blooms that resemble sunshine. If you’re a sunflower lover, consider harvesting their seeds before you toss them out. Harvesting sunflower seeds is an exciting summer and autumn activity, with a fairly simple process. Keep reading to learn how to harvest sunflower seeds in five easy steps.

How to dry sunflowers

How to Harvest Sunflower Seeds

Step 1: Select & Cut The Sunflowers

The harvesting process begins with selecting cut sunflowers. Gently uproot the plant from the ground and cut about an inch off the bottom on the stem. Or, skip this step by ordering pre-cut, vase-ready sunflowers. We can help you with the latter option here .

Step 2: Remove The Water Supply

When you’re ready to harvest the seeds from your sunflowers, prepare them by removing them from their water supply. They can be left to air dry in a vase, but chances are you won’t want to display them when they’re less than their best.

Step 3: Dehydrate The Flowers

Find a dry place to hang your sunflowers upside down, so they can dehydrate. If you choose to place your flowers outdoors, cover them with a breathable and protective material, such as produce netting, cheesecloth, or a paper bag. This will protect your sunflowers from nature as they dehydrate. After all, birds and other critters won’t realize that you’re saving seeds, and they’ll start to snack on the tasty treats.

Step 4: Prepare To Extract

As the petals wilt and fall off, it is normal for the underside of the blooms to start to brown. Your sunflower heads should dry out completely so that you can extract the seeds. They are ready once the seeds are plump and start to loosen from the flower head.

Step 5: Extract Your Seeds

Once the seeds are ripe for harvesting, prep an area with a bowl or tray to catch the seeds, and lightly brush the sunflower heads. Let the seeds fall onto your prepped surface, and remove any stubborn ones with pliers, tweezers or tongs. Quickly rinse and thoroughly dry your seeds , and then store them in a cool, dry place until you are ready to use them.

How to dry sunflowers

What to Do with Harvested Sunflower Seeds

You might feel quite domestic after harvesting your seeds. It’s quite a sense of accomplishment! There are several things you can do with them–that include (and go beyond) planting.

  • Roast and eat them. If you want a yummy treat, soak, season, and roast your seeds for a high-protein snack that’s also rich in Vitamin E and magnesium. There are recipes for making them both in the shell and without (with instructions on how to de-shell your seeds) .

How to dry sunflowers

  • Fill your bird feeder. Just like humans, our fine feathered friends (and squirrels!) enjoy sunflower seeds as a treat. You can either fill your bird feeder with harvested seeds or hang the dried, full blooms for the critters to savor.

How to dry sunflowers

  • Make suet. Instead of filling your feeder, make and hang handmade suet cakes for your neighborhood birds. Take a peek at this recipe for making enriched suet at home.

How to dry sunflowers

  • Get crafty. Kids (and crafters) love crafting with just about anything they can get their hands on, including beans, seeds, and dried berries. This sunflower made out of seeds and clothespins is an adorable project that you can create while reminiscing about growing your beautiful blooms.

How to dry sunflowers

  • Plant your sunflower seeds. Sunflower seeds yield sunflowers, and if you want more of the stunning blooms, planting is the way to go. Plant your seeds 1.5” deep and about 6” apart in full sun for best results, and see complete instructions in this article .

How to dry sunflowers

Next time you receive a beautiful bouquet of sunflowers, think about all of the possibilities beyond their cheerful beauty. Enjoy the sunny blooms, then get creative and decide what’s next for your harvested sunflower seeds.

If we convinced you to add sunflowers to your garden this year (read 13 Sunflower Varieties To Brighten Up the Garden if you need more convincing), then you might be wondering what to do with them at the end of the season.

While you could simply cut them down and add them to the compost pile, there are so many uses for this quintessential summer flower that that seems almost criminal. But first, you have to harvest them in order to store properly for future use. Here’s how.

How to dry sunflowers

When to Harvest Sunflower Seeds

Sunflowers bloom through the summer and even into the autumn months, depending upon where you live. At the end of your sunflower season, keep an eye on your flowers to determine when the right time is for harvesting. Signs your sunflowers are ready:
The foliage has died back completely
The backs of the flowerheads are brown
The seeds are plump and somewhat loose

How to dry sunflowers

Materials Needed to Harvest & Store Sunflower Seeds

  • Pruners
  • Bucket
  • Twine
  • Colander
  • Cardboard box
  • Paper towels
  • Storage containers
  • Labels & marker

How to dry sunflowers

How To Harvest Sunflower Seeds

  1. Cut. Using sharp pruners, cut the stalks of each flower head about one foot below the bloom. Wear gloves — the stalks can be a bit prickly! Place them in a large container that catches any seeds that fall out in the process. Some may be ready to harvest right now — if so, go to Step #3. If not, continue to Step #2. Are you sunflowers ready to harvest, but you’re not? Tie paper bags around the seedheads in the garden to keep the birds from harvesting for you.
  2. Dry. Bundle your sunflowers together with twine in bunches, then hang them upside down in a warm and dry area for 4-5 days. To keep pesky birds from eating your seeds before you have a chance to harvest them, hang them to dry indoors.
  3. Remove Seeds. Grab a 5-gallon bucket and your sunflower heads, and rub the surface of the seedhead over the bucket. The seeds will fall right out. You’ll also get other bits and pieces like petals and dried plant bits, but you’ll take care of that next.
  4. Remove Debris. Place the seeds in a colander and rinse thoroughly. Remove any unwanted plant parts or debris and discard them.
  5. Store. Finally, line a cardboard box with paper towels or newspaper, and spread the seeds evenly in a single layer, leaving space between each seed. Allow to dry out overnight before storing in an airtight glass or plastic container with lids with proper labeling (sunflower variety, date harvested).

How to dry sunflowers

Congratulations! You’ve successfully harvested and stored your sunflower seeds for future use. From snacking to baking, creating suet cakes for birds over the winter, or replanting into next year’s garden, sunflowers are easy and fun to grow and harvest — get the family involved, as it’s an ideal project for children to learn the soup-to-nuts (or seeds) entire lifecycle of a plant.

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How to dry sunflowers

How to dry sunflowers


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Thanks for sharing. I just planted my seeds. They usually get about 6-7 feet.

How wonderful, if you are on Instagram or Facebook connect with us we would love to see pictures of your sunflowers.

When planting seeds is it point down or butt down?

Point down! This gives the seed a head start as the root will emerge from the radicle and head straight down, while the shoot or stem will work toward the sun! Hope this helped!

Do you have to rinse the ones that will be used for planting? They seem clean and dry, so I wasn’t sure how important it is to get wet and then dry again before storing

You certainly don’t have to, but rinsing the seeds will remove any traces of dirt or bacteria that may have gathered on the seed while outdoors. Rinsing them for a few seconds and immediately letting them dry will not affect the seeds, as long as you let them completely dry before storing them in an airtight container. It’s up to you, but if you think they look clean, either way is fine. 🙂

I planted 1 seed per small pot, (total 25 small pots) It’s been 3-4 weeks, an none has sprouted. What am I doing wrong? I water it everyday. I wanted to plant them like a seedling, then transfer to the ground. Can you give me advise on what’s the best result to plant the sunflowers. I would like to be ready for the next season.
Maybe I harvested the sunflowers too early? Please, I need your expert advise.

Hi Gina, sunflowers love well-draining soil with a pH between 6.0 and 7.5. When growing sunflowers from seed you’ll typically see a sprout within 7 to 10 days, one common problem is planting the seeds too deep. Aim to plant your seeds 1 to 2 inches deep in your soil. Another issue could be overwatering as sunflowers don’t like soggy or wet conditions. Starting seeds can be tricky, check out this video for some great tips and tricks,

If you save your seed to use for replanting you have to make sure the seed inside the shell is fully formed and plump before you cut the head off the stem in order to be viable to grow next year.
If the seed-germ inside the shell isn’t formed like the store bought sunflower seeds you buy and eat then they won’t germinate.
Love my 12 footers here in Alberta

Excelente artículo. Educativo. Gracias por esa orientacion..

Dried sunflower bunch – perfect to use in a dried bouquet, or on their own as a statement. Each round yellow dried flower is held on a natural green stem.

Approx. 50-60 cm long.

Bunch size as photographed – 5 stems of assorted sized sunflower heads on green natural stems with green dried leaves.

Dried flowers are carefully wrapped and packed in a sturdy box to ensure they arrive with you safely.

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How to dry sunflowers

This year wasn’t ideal for growing much of anything in our garden. The rain drownd just about everything except the corn my daughter planted in my flower bed (of course, that grew vigorously) and the sunflowers we planted on the edge of the garden.

Now, we find ourselves patiently awaiting our first sunflower seed harvest. I never really considered how different the process would be from a typical vegetable.

Knowing when it’s time to harvest sunflower seeds

Apparently, patience is paramount to sunflower seed harvests.

Leave the sunflower alone if:

  • most of the petals are still attached.
  • the back — calyx — is still green.
  • the seeds are still white and immature.

Signs the sunflower is ready for harvest:

  • The seeds are plump, developed and black and white striped.
  • The flower petals have dried and fallen off.
  • The back of the sunflower has turned from green to brown or yellow.
  • The foliage has turned yellow.

While you’re waiting for your sunflowers to mature enough to harvest, make sure you protect them from critters. Birds and squirrels like sunflower seeds too.

How to dry sunflowers

Once you notice the petals wilting, cover the heads of your sunflowers with fine netting, perforated plastic bags, cheesecloth or paper bags so the seeds are more difficult to retrieve.

Harvesting sunflower seeds

Harvesting sunflower seeds depends on your preferred drying method. Some growers prefer to cut the stems earlier, when the backs of their sunflowers are yellow and dry them completely indoors, while others let them dry out completely on the stem and harvest them when the backs turn brown.

If you want to harvest earlier and dry indoors, follow these steps:

  1. Cut off stalks 4 inches below heads when outer seeds are mature and inner seeds are approaching maturity.
  2. Hang upside down in a warm, well-ventilated area.
  3. Cover heads with paper sacks.
  4. Wait for seeds to dry out and fully mature.
  5. Follow steps 3-5 below.

If you decide to let the seeds harvest on the stalks, follow these steps:

  1. Protect from critters.
  2. When seeds are fully ripened, cut the stem 1 inch below the head.
  3. Rub the seeds from the head with your hand to collect in a bucket.
  4. Rinse harvested seeds.
  5. Allow the seeds to dry out on a paper towel or newspaper overnight before storing.

Roasting sunflower seeds


If you want to roast plain sunflower seeds, preheat your oven to 300 F. Spread your seeds on a cookie sheet. Then cook them for 15-20 minutes.


If you want salted sunflower seeds, cover them in a mixture of 1/4 to 1/2 cup of salt per 2 quarts of water. Then, bring the seed-saltwater mixture to a boil and simmer for two hours. Alternatively, you may soak your seeds in a saltwater brine overnight to cut boiling time to a few minutes. Next, spread the seeds on a cookie sheet or shallow pan and preheat your oven to 300 F. Cook the seeds for 30 to 40 minutes until crisp, stirring occasionally. After taking them out of the oven, mix in one teaspoon of melted butter for every cup of seeds. Last, salt your seeds to taste as they cool on an absorbent towel.

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Posts Tagged ‘how to dry sunflowers’

Plant now for fall decor

There are 162 days until Thanksgiving, so you’d better hurry if you plan on decorating this year. For a cornucopia of color, get your seeds in the ground before the end of June, popping in everything you need to stuff that horn in November.

Start by planting two staples of fall décor – miniature gourds and tiny pumpkins. These must-have accents nestle into centerpieces and are easy to grow in our hot, dry summer. Each vine produces enough decorative fruit to make any decorator happy, but because they like to ramble, give them room or train them up a trellis. How to dry sunflowers

Customize your plants to fit your decorator’s style, by planting a mix of orange and white mini pumpkins. If you favor a flat pumpkin, orange Jack be Little or white Baby Boo is what you need. But for perfectly round, miniature Jack O’ Lanterns, check out Little October at Botanical Interests .

For a striking red accent, grow Love Lies Bleeding (Amaranthus caudatus), an amaranth with long, pendulous seed heads. Pop in full sun, giving these three-to-four feet tall plants elbow room and a stake for support. Water, but keep them a bit on the dry side. Clip mature flowers and hang them in a cool, dark location to dry. Seeds of change has this.

Ornamental corn is available in a variety of sizes and colors, from diminutive, two-inch strawberry ears to huge, nine-inch Seneca Red Stalker whose stalks and ears delight in fall on porches, tables, and doors. Direct sow seeds in full sun, planting at least five rows to ensure pollination. Water often so ears get large, then wait to harvest until after the silk turns completely brown and the kernels are dry and hard. How to dry sunflowers

Pluck the ears from the stalk by pulling them down, peel back the husk to reveal the kernels, and then hang upside down in a cool, dry location that is free of mice. Leave the husk attached to the cob for a decorative look, or peel it completely off before drying the ears. For a large selection of colors and sizes, check out Seed Savers Exchange .

Normally seen springing up from straw mulch by accident, wheat is an unusual addition to cut flower gardens. But its spiky, bearded seed heads are gorgeous in arrangements and bundled in sheaves on the table. Plant it like grass seed by sowing onto a prepared bed, covering it with one-quarter-inch of soil. Keep the ground moist but not water-logged. Johnny’s Selected Seeds has black tipped wheat, or try Silver Tip, a wheat/rye cross with huge seed heads.

How to dry sunflowers Small to medium sized sunflowers are cheerful in dried arrangements, and keep long into the fall once prepared. Harvest when flowers are partially open, cutting the stem off at the length you want for arranging. Then bundle the sunflowers into groups of three, making sure the heads aren’t touching, tie with twine and hang them upside down in a cool, dark place to dry. The flowers will unfurl as they dry.

Try the pollen-less Pro Cut sunflower series; the orange, yellow peach and bi-color blooms were developed for cut flower use. Johnny’s Selected Seeds has them.

Make your own fall wreath or swag with broomcorn (Sorghum bicolor). The name is misleading – this isn’t corn – but the seed sprays of this sorghum come in bronze, burgundy, black, and cream. Harvest after the seed heads have colored up but before the stalk becomes hard and woody. Cut the stem, then hang the sprays upside down to dry. But if you want them to have a decorative arch once dried, stand them up in a vase for drying. Victory seeds has an heirloom mix.