History & Origin

Native to North America. The name sunflower comes from the Greek helios "sun" and anthos "flower." Sunflower got its name because the flowers turn toward the sun. Some kinds of sunflowers are grown for food, seeds and oil. A sunflower head can produce up to 1,000 seeds. Argentina and Russia grow the most sunflowers. Kansas is the "Sunflower State."

When to Plant

Plant the seeds after the frost free date.

How to Plant

Plant seeds 1/2 inch deep. Thin the seedlings to about 2 feet apart. Sunflowers love and grow best in full sun. Some sunflowers will grow to 10 feet tall.

Special Care

Birds and squirrels will try to eat the seed before they ripen. Cover the flower heads with your Mom’s panty hose to keep birds and animals away. Morning glories and pole beans will grow up the stalk of a sunflower. Harvest the seeds when the back of the head is brown and dry; most of the yellow petals have dried and fallen; the seeds are plump and the seed coats are black and white striped. Cut the main stem about one foot below the head before the seeds start to loosen and shatter. Rub the seeds loose by hand, then dry and store for future use.

Sunflower seeds can be roasted (do this with an adult). They will have a nut-like flavor.

To roast sunflower seeds, cover the seeds with boiling water and allow to stand for five minutes. Drain and dry the seeds. Spread in a thin layer in a shallow pan. Sprinkle with salt and heat at 350–375°F for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. If desired, add two teaspoons of melted butter or oil to each pound of seeds. Drain on paper towels.

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