The Best Time to Plant Sunflower Seeds

The sunflower (Helianthus annuus) grows well in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 1 through 11. These annual plants are tall, with a height of 8 to 15 feet. The plant produces a large head of seeds that can be saved for planting the following season or left as an ornamental feature that birds eat. Sunflower seeds are simple to plant in either the winter or spring season, depending on your preference.

Sunflower in a field
credit: mihakonceptcorn/iStock/Getty Images
A close-up of a sunflower growing in a field.

Germination Requirements

Sunflower seeds planted either indoors or outdoors require a minimum soil temperature of 46 to 50 degrees Fahrenheit in order to stimulate germination. Seeds can germinate in a soil temperature lower than 46 degrees Fahrenheit, but the germination rate significantly drops.

Spring Planting

Test the soil temperature when you are ready to plant seeds in spring by inserting a thermometer a minimum of 1 inch into the soil to verify the temperature before planting. The best planting date varies by geographical location and can range from February to May.

Winter Planting

Start sunflower seeds indoors in late winter to produce hardy seedlings for planting directly into the garden. Sow the seeds into a growing tray about six weeks before the approximate last spring frost for your area. The seedlings can be transplanted directly into the garden when the risk of frost is gone.


Jennifer Loucks

Jennifer Loucks has been writing since 1998. She previously worked as a technical writer for a software development company, creating software documentation, help documents and training curriculum. She now writes hobby-based articles on cooking, gardening, sewing and running. Loucks also trains for full marathons, half-marathons and shorter distance running. She holds a Bachelor of Science in animal science and business from University of Wisconsin-River Falls.