Sunflowers - Knowledgebase Question

Chicago, Il
Question by theshepherds
September 8, 2010
PLEASE EXPERT help me with sunflowers (SF)! I know they are annuals but a friend of mine has SF blooming each year but not me! He brings me baby plants, about 4 each season, they grow but next season NOTHING. I have tried cutting dead blooms, live blooms, crumbled dead blooms, watered them, buried them. NOTHING. I have tried hybrid seeds, ALWAYS planted in SUNNY areas. PLEASE HELP!


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Answer from NGA
September 8, 2010

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Since you know sunflowers are annuals, you can expect that they will die at the end of the season. But, they should flower and develop seeds which you can save and plant the following year. The seeds must ripen before you harvest them which means you need to let the flower die on the plant. You'll see the flower begin to bow down towards the ground and the petals fall off the flower head, but that doesn't mean the seeds are ripe enough to harvest. You'll need to allow the seed head to dry on the plant for the seeds to ripen. When the back of the seedhead turns from green to a tannish brown and becomes dry to the touch, cut the seed head from the plant and set it in a protected place until it begins to wither or crumple up. At that point you can harvest the seeds by rubbing two seedheads together to release the seeds, or by physically removing the seeds by rubbing your hand over the top of the seed head. Ripe seeds will fall right out when the seed head is dry enough. Save the seeds over the winter by storing them in an airtight container in a cool, dark place. In the spring you can plant the seeds and they will grow into healthy new plants.

Sunflower seeds have a chemical on the hulls which prevents other seeds from germinating so if you are trying to plant sunflowers in the same spot year after year there may be some of this chemical still in the ground that might prevent the seeds from germinating. That would explain why seedlings your friend gives you grow, but your seeds won't sprout. Either plant your seeds in a different part of the garden, or start them in containers and transplant them into your garden, just as you do the plants your friend gives you. Hope this explains why you're having such a hard time getting your sunflower seeds to germinate and grow!

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