The Seedless Sunflowers

We thought it would be fun to plant sunflowers this summer, for the first time. Jada and I carefully planted each “Big Mama” seed into the ground, and anxiously watched them grow. I couldn’t wait to pick the seeds and snack on them, or toss them to the chickens to enjoy over the winter.

But I must have missed something somewhere.

My sunflowers grew no seeds.

I kept waiting, thinking maybe they needed to be pollinated or something. But they eventually wilted and died, producing nothing but small flower heads.

What’s up with that? I thought all sunflowers made seeds. Anyone know what might have happened? Seedless sunflowers are no fun!

About Kendra 1103 Articles
A city girl learning to homestead on an acre of land in the country. Wife and homeschooling mother of four. Enjoying life, and everything that has to do with self sufficient living.


    • Its my understanding that the center is where the concentration of seed to space is so tight they generally don’t develop into full seed. I have always just turned these back into the soil. There are seeds in enough of them that I don’t plant my garden with purchased seeds. They just keep growing each season. Depending on the season and weather my return varies. Good luck

  1. Great disappointment,I actually grew my sunflowers next to two bee hives to ensure maximum pollination, but very few bees visited the blooms,as a result,seeds with no embryos inside . Will try them again until I win.

    • Find out what the bees are repelled by…there may be something in your garden, birds, bugs, other pests that keep them away. Good luck.

  2. Omg i have the same problem big sunflower head lots of seeds but nothing in the seed?? Whats wrong anybody has an answer?

  3. Kendra, definitely break open the head and look for seeds. They are produced all over behind the hundreds of tiny “flowers” that make up the whole big center of the sunflower. They keep maturing as, and for a while after, the flower dies and starts drying out and turning brown all over. Here’s a good informative web article:

    “If you’re growing sunflowers to harvest the seed heads, whether for human or animal consumption, don’t cut the heads until the green disk at the back of the flower has begun to turn yellow. At this point the seeds will mature properly if left on the head and kept in a dry, well-ventilated place. Birds will eat the maturing seed if the heads are not protected. After the ray flowers have fallen off, cover the head with a cheesecloth or paper bag to keep birds away until you cut it and bring it inside. Seeds are ready to store or eat when the disk at the back of the flower has turned dark brown. You can easily remove the seeds by rubbing two heads together, or just rubbing your palm over the seeds. Store raw seeds in a cloth bag in a place with good air circulation. Airtight containers such as jars or tins encourage mold development. Many gardeners put the entire seed head outside to feed the birds, rather than removing the seeds.”

    Hope your flowers do have seeds. Chickens love them, and you can save a bunch to plant again next year. We just give entire heads to the chickens, and they actually even eat a lot of the head, too, in addition to the seeds themselves.

    • paperbag r the bomb…..they helped me. Keep them on for a day or two once picked to allow the final growth spurt and it helps them dry out better.

  4. Yes, there are many different varieties of sunflowers. The type that most people eat that have the large seeds are usually identified as “Gray stripe”. Another potential problem that can prevent seeds from forming is the lack of pollinators. Sunflowers are dependent upon bees for pollination and seed formation. If you try growing sunflowers again next year, a fun project that you might want to do with your kids is the Great Sunflower Project. Here is a link with more information:

  5. I had this happen to me – and I had planted a patch of them that was a mix of different kinds. I work outside the home during the week so it wasn’t until a random Satuday afternoon when I looked out and saw a flock of birds eating them – and a squirrel hanging out on the nearby garage roof waiting his turn. That explained it for me. 🙁

  6. I just learned a couple of weeks ago at our local farmers’s market that there are seedless sunflowers. They are usually the ones for flower arranging and such. They also do not produce the pollen. Unfortunately, I do not know more specifically which ones are which, sorry.

  7. I grew Arikara sunflowers for the first time this year. While I did get seeds, they weren’t as big as I expected them to be (kind of tiny and not worth the effort to open them), by the description I got from the seed catalog. Also, the flowers did not get as tall as the catalog said they would. The sunflowers opened and were beautiful for about three days before they wilted and died. Maybe it was just a bad year for sunflowers. It was way hotter than normal where I live, so I’m blaming the heat for my less desirable crop.

  8. Okay…I asked Josh and what Babychaser said was right.If you are expecting the flower to have seeds behind it.It won’t.They grow on the flower face.If you split a head in half you should be able to see the sides of the seeds.We just split one of ours to see.:)Good science lesson on our first day of school this year.Nikki

  9. Well… I can’t tell you everything without spending some time researching again (and I don’t have time now), but when I did look into sunflowers before, I found that there are many varieties. There are some whose seed is good for oil, some good for bird seed, etc. Only one variety, if I remember correctly, provides the greyish seeds we’re familiar with from the store. Another gives what they usually put in bird feed. Then there are those that just have little soft seeds like some flowers give.

    The craziest thing of all is what the flower is made of. The outside pedals aren’t true “flower” pedals after all. They are “false”, or something. The actual head of the sunflower is made up of tons of little individual flowers, each producing a seed. Isn’t that crazy??? I thought so.

    Anyway… sorry my information is not full of references and specifics… it’s out of my memory. But hopefully it helps! 🙂 Just do some research about which seeds to plant next year.

  10. Hi Kendra,
    I will ask my hubby about this.Maybe he knows something I don’t.We planted sunflowers six years ago when we moved here and now they come up each year on their own.The birds love them too!!:)Nikki

  11. What’s on the seed head if it’s not filled with seeds? Can you show us a picture? I grow sunflowers every summer and I’ve never had one with no seeds. Hmmmm, very interesting.

  12. I have no idea why this happens, but we had a similar problem in the last place we lived: the sunflowers in our garden had “seeds” in them, but once you opened them there was nothing inside of them! No edible seed or anything. Don’t know what the problem was, but i have since wondered the same thing.

  13. Well that’s a bummer… We grew several different sunflowers this year. Some are seeded and some are pollenless. What does “Big momma” have for details? I tried to search your cultivar but got a bunch of results unrelated to the sunflower plant.

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