The Q&A Archives: Sunflower Birdseed Killing Plants

Question: I have problems keeping my hostas and other plants alive that are planted underneath my bird feeder with black oil sunflower and millet seeds. I have heard that there is a chemical in sunflower seeds that can harm plants. Can you give me some information on this?

Answer: There is an alleopathic chemical in the hulls of sunflower seeds. It is a growth inhibitor and may very well be affecting the plants directly below the birdfeeder. The purpose of this alleopathic chemical is two-fold. It keeps competing weeds from overtaking an area where the new plant will grow, and it prevents the seed inside the hull from emerging at the wrong time of the year. Once rain has washed the chemical off the hull, which generally takes fall, winter and spring rains, the seed inside can emerge, expecting warm spring weather and the conditions it needs to grow into a healthy plant. You can try putting a tray beneath your birdfeeder to catch the hulls, or move the feeder so the hulls won't fall on your plants will solve the problem.

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