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How long does it take for a sunflower to grow?

Most sunflowers take about 2-3 months to grow from a seed to a mature plant. Shorter types with a single head may bloom less than two months after the seed is planted, while giant sunflowers may not bloom until 3-4 months after planting. Some varieties can grow multiple flower heads, extending the blooming period until the first fall frost.

How long does it take a sunflower to grow
Mini sunflowers can bloom in as little as two months after planting!

How long does it take for a sunflower to grow?

It usually takes between 2-3 months for a sunflower to grow to the point where it blooms. The seeds will generally take another month to develop after the flowers open.

Most sunflowers grow relatively quickly and can reach maturity in as little as 60-90 days. However, it is not uncommon for some varieties to take longer to mature, up to 120 days or more.

The length of time it takes for a sunflower to grow from a seed to a mature plant can vary depending on factors such as the variety of sunflower, the growing conditions, and the time of year it is planted.

Sunflowers are annual plants, meaning one plant’s lifespan lasts less than one year. Sunflower seeds generally sprout in the spring as the soil warms, grow foliage so they can perform photosynthesis, and produce a flower head in the summer. Then seeds develop in the central disc of the flower head in early fall, and the plant is generally killed by frost in early winter.

Each variety of sunflower has different genes and grows at its own rate to a uniquely mature size and shape. Some varieties grow very tall, while others are very short. Some sunflowers grow multiple heads on many branches, while others (like those for flower bouquets) only grow a single flower head per plant. Some varieties have tiny seeds, and others have giant seeds. Some sunflower seeds are perfect for roasting and eating, while others are better for pressing into sunflower oil.

Sunflower lifespan

Expected time-to-maturity of common sunflower varieties

Here are some popular sunflower varieties and how long they are expected to take in terms of days to maturity. This usually represents how long it takes for the flower to bloom after the seed is planted in the ground outdoors.

  • Big Smile sunflower: 50-60 days (branching, dwarf plants)
  • ProCut White Lite sunflower: 50-60 days (single head, cream-white petals)
  • Velvet Queen sunflower: 75-100 days (branching, multiple heads, burgundy petals)
  • Autumn Beauty sunflower: 60-90 days (branching, multiple heads, bronze petals)
  • Mammoth sunflower: 90 days to bloom, 120 days to seed maturity (single head)
Different varieties take different amounts of time

Time-to-maturity for sunflowers

The lifespan of each sunflower variety has been tracked over the seasons by various seed companies and growers so that we know what to expect from each variety in terms of timing. The most common measure is days-to-maturity.

Days to maturity can mean different things for different types of sunflowers. For most flowers, the days to maturity represent the time between planting the seed in the soil outdoors and the time that the flower head is in full bloom. This simple measure applies to florist sunflowers and other varieties with a single flower head that’s small enough to be used in a bouquet.

Branching sunflowers that grow multiple heads usually bloom from mid-summer until frost. Individual heads will mature on the plant as new ones open. Here are some popular branching sunflower varieties to consider planting this spring.

For sunflowers grown for their edible seeds, particularly ones with large striped seeds preferred for roasting whole, the flower heads won’t be harvested until the back turns yellow-brown and the head begins to curl back on itself and droop. It usually takes about four weeks for the seeds to form in the flower head after it blooms.

For sunflowers grown as part of a height competition, the days-to-maturity is likely the height of the plant at its very tallest – before the head gets too heavy and starts to bloom and droop.

Sunflower festival  - mary jane duford

Sunflower growth stages

Sunflower plants go through many stages of growth, including seed germination, seedling development, vegetative growth, flowering, pollination, seed maturation, and end-of-life

Planting a sunflower

Seed germination

In this stage, the sunflower seed begins to sprout and grow roots. This process is triggered by moist soil and warm temperatures.

Sunflower seed germinating

Seedling development

Once the seedling has established a strong root system, it will begin to grow leaves and a stem. This stage is critical for the plant to establish itself and begin photosynthesizing to produce its own energy.

Sunflower plants

Vegetative growth

During this stage, the sunflower plant continues to grow and develop leaves, stem, and branches. It will also begin to develop a taproot, which is a deep, central root that anchors the plant in the soil.

Growing sunflowers

Flowering

As the plant matures, it will begin to produce flowers. Sunflowers have large, showy flowers that are usually yellow but can also be red, orange, or brown. The flowers are arranged in a spiral pattern around the central disc of the plant.

Growing sunflowers

Pollination

Sunflowers are pollinated by insects, such as bees, that transfer pollen from the male parts of the flower (the stamen) to the female parts (the pistil). This process is necessary for the plant to produce seeds.

Seeds maturing inside flower head

Seed maturation

After pollination, the plant will begin to produce seeds. These seeds are located in the sunflower’s central disc and encased in a shell. The shell begins as a pale, soft casing and matures to a rigid, hard shell with either a black color or grey-black and white stripes.

Zohar sunflower seed head in january
Zohar sunflower seed head in january

End-of-life

Eventually, the sunflower plant will die and enter the end-of-life stage. The back of the head will start to turn yellow and eventually brown. The head often curls as the size of the seeds increases. The head may also droop downwards as the seed weight increases.

At this point, the seeds will have matured, and the heads can be harvested for roasting, pressing sunflower oil, bird seed, or saving for planting next year. The sunflower heads are usually dried indoors for a couple of weeks before the individual seeds are separated from the head.

Growing sunflowers
Mary Jane Duford
Mary Jane Duford

Mary Jane Duford is a quintessential Canadian gardener. An engineer by trade, she tends to an ever-expanding collection of plants. In her world, laughter blooms as freely as her flowers, and every plant is raised with a dash of Canadian grit.

Mary Jane is a certified Master Gardener and also holds a Permaculture Design Certificate. She's also a proud mom of three, teaching her little sprouts the crucial difference between a garden friend and foe.

When she's not playing in the dirt, Mary Jane revels in her love for Taylor Swift, Gilmore Girls, ice hockey, and the surprisingly soothing sounds of bluegrass covers of classic hip-hop songs. She invites you to join her garden party, a place where you can share in the joy of growing and where every day is a new opportunity to find the perfect spot for yet another plant.

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