Seedless Sunflowers: Why Do They Occur?

I love growing sunflowers! They’re beautiful and easy to grow – plus the seeds make great livestock fodder.

But have you ever seen a sunflower without any seeds? Believe it or not, there is such a thing as a seedless sunflower. While they are not common, you can find them at specialty seed stores or online. So what are seedless sunflowers, exactly?

seedless sunflower
a seedless sunflower

Seedless sunflowers are sometimes referred to as pollenless sunflowers. These are sterile males that do not reproduce. They were created for the cut flower industry.

Neither pollen or seeds are aesthetically appealing when the flowers are part of a bouquet. There are some other issues that can cause seedless sunflowers, too, such as immature harvests or a lack of light.

So is growing seedless (and pollenless) sunflowers right for you – or are you just trying to figure out why your sunflowers didn’t produce any seeds? Keep reading to learn more!

Do All Sunflowers Have Sunflower Seeds?

Most people think of sunflowers as the happy flowers with big, yellow petals and dark brown seeds in the middle. However, there is more to these cheerful plants than meets the eye.

In fact, not all sunflowers have sunflower seeds. Some sunflowers, particularly hybrids, are grown for their oil, which is high in vitamin E and can be used in cooking or cosmetics.

These oil-producing sunflowers usually have smaller seeds that are used to make birdseed or animal feed.

Other types of sunflowers are grown for their colorful petals, which can be used to make dyes or decorations. While these flowers may be beautiful, they are typically sterile and do not produce seeds.

So, the next time you see a sunflower, take a closer look and see what type of seed it has – you might be surprised!

How Do Sunflowers Produce Seeds?

The process of seed production in sunflowers is a fascinating example of the way that plants have adapted to their environment. Sunflowers are native to North America, and they have evolved to take advantage of the continent’s long days and warm Summers.

The flowers are pollinated by bees seeking the nectar, which transfer pollen from the male stamen to the female pistil.

The pistil then grows a long tube, called the style, which carries the pollen down to the ovary. Sunflowers can be pollinated by a variety of creatures but the main sources of pollination are from our bee friends.

Here, the pollen grain germinates and produces a tiny embryo, which will eventually develop into a seed. The ovary also produces a second type of cell, called the endosperm. This cell provides nutrition for the embryo as it grows and develops.

Once the seed is fully formed, it is released from the ovary and falls to the ground, where it will grow into a new sunflower plant.

At What Stage of Growth Do Sunflowers Produce Seeds?

The plant has a large central head, which is composed of hundreds of small florets. The florets turn into seeds, which are encased in a hard shell. The process of seed production begins when the sunflower blooms.

During flowering, the plant’s stem grows rapidly, pushing the flower head upwards. At the same time, the flowers on the outer edge of the head mature and begin to produce seeds.

Once all the flowers have produced seeds, the stem stops growing and the plant enters a period of dormancy. Seeds can be harvested from sunflowers that are grown in greenhouses or outdoors.

Depending on the variety, sunflowers will begin producing seeds anywhere from 60 to 120 days after planting.

Pollenless Sunflowers: What to Know

Here’s what you need to know about pollenless varieties of sunflowers, which I always love seeing at farmers’ markets!

First, they were created through a process of genetic engineering. Second, they were designed to produce less pollen, which is known to cause allergies in some people.

The flowers are still able to produce seeds, so they can be planted and grown just like any other type of sunflower.

These flowers are usually slightly smaller than regular sunflowers, and their petals may be a different color.

These single stem varieties are ideal for florists who need to create bouquets for the sake of brides that don’t make a huge mess – it’s pretty self-explanatory.

Of course, pollenless sunflowers also do not produce seeds.

Finally, pollenless sunflowers are widely available and can be found at most major retailers. So if you’re looking for a beautiful and allergy-friendly flower, pollenless sunflowers are a great option.

Types of Pollenless Sunflowers

While there are many types of sunflowers that produce pollen, there are also several varieties that are pollenless.

Pollenless sunflowers are often grown for their visual appeal, as they make beautiful cut sunflowers. However, they also have several practical benefits.

For example, they are less likely to trigger allergies and can be used in foods without worrying about adding unwanted flavors. In addition, pollenless sunflowers are often used in commercial settings, as they produce higher yields and are less likely to attract bees.

Of course, you won’t be able to harvest seeds from a cultivated variety of pollenless sunflower – but they’re still gorgeous to look at! And that’s the most common reason why they continue to grow.


The most popular pollenless sunflower is the Buttercream, which has creamy yellow petals and grows to be about four feet tall.

Van Gogh

The Van Gogh sunflower is named after the famous artist, Vincent van Gogh, who painted several still lifes featuring this type of flower. The Van Gogh sunflower is a tall plant with large, yellow flowers.

Strawberry Blonde

The Strawberry Blonde sunflower is a shorter plant with light pink flowers.

Santa Fe Sunset

The Santa Fe Sunset sunflower is a medium-sized plant with orange and yellow flowers.

Moulin Rouge

The Moulin Rouge sunflower is a tall plant with red and yellow flowers. These cultivars are absolutely gorgeous to behold!


The Junior sunflower is a small plant with yellow flowers.


The Firecracker sunflower is a medium-sized plant with red and yellow flowers.

Chocolate Cherry

The Chocolate Cherry sunflower is a small plant with dark pink flowers.

Other Reasons Why Your Sunflowers Might Not Produce Seeds

Besides the mentioned causes, there are some other conditions which may result in your sunflowers not producing seeds.

Old Seeds

One common culprit is planting sunflower seeds that have been stored for too long. Sunflower seed viability decreases with storage time, so if your seeds are more than a year old, they may not germinate at all.

Heat or Drought Stress Following Pollination

One of the most important things that a gardener can do to ensure a healthy crop of sunflowers is to provide adequate water during the pollination period.

Pollination is when the pollen from the male flower combines with the female flower, and it is essential for seed production. However, if the plants experience heat or drought stress during this period, it can cause the flowers to produce fewer seeds.

To avoid this problem, gardeners should make sure to water their sunflowers regularly during the flowering period. Additionally, they should try to plant their sunflowers in an area that receives plenty of sunlight.

Your Sunflowers Weren’t Pollinated

One of the most likely culprits is a lack of pollination. Sunflowers rely on bees and other insects to transfer pollen from the male flowers to the female flowers.

If there are no bees or other insects around, the flowers will not be able to produce seeds. Additionally, if there are weeds or other plants around that deter insects, they may also prevent your sunflowers from being pollinated.

To ensure that your sunflowers are able to produce seeds, make sure to plant them in an area that is free of weeds and other plants that might deter insects.

Additionally, try to attract bees and other pollinators, like butterflies and other wildlife, to the area by planting other flowering plants.

If there are limited bees, then planting cultivars of native plants can help you attract more of them.

Worm Damage

Worm damage on sunflowers is a significant problem for farmers because it can prevent the flowers from producing seeds. The worms eat the flower’s petals, leaving behind only the stamen and pistil.

This damage can cause the flower to produce fewer seeds, or none at all. In addition, the worms often leave behind their own feces, which can contaminate the soil and make it difficult for new sunflowers to take root.

As a result, worm damage on sunflowers is a serious issue that can have a profound impact on a farmer’s crop yield.

Nitrogen or Phosphorus Deficiency

One of the most common problems is a nitrogen or phosphorus deficiency. This can cause the leaves to turn yellow or brown and the plant to produce fewer flowers.

In severe cases, the plant may stop producing seeds altogether. If you suspect that your sunflowers have a nutrient deficiency, consider adding some fertilizer to the soil.

Lack of Light or Water (Or Too Much Water)

Another possibility is that your sunflowers are getting too much water. Soggy soil can cause the flowers to rot, preventing them from developing properly. Conversely, if the soil is too dry, the flowers will wilt and fall off before they can produce seeds.

Finally, sunflowers need full sunlight to thrive, so if they’re shaded by taller plants or buildings, they may not produce as many seeds.


One of the most common problems that sunflower growers face is seedless sunflowers. While there are a number of reasons why this can happen, one of the most common is defoliation.

Defoliation occurs when the leaves of the sunflower are damaged or removed. This can be caused by a number of factors, including wind, insects, and disease. The damage to the leaves prevents the sunflower from producing seeds.

In some cases, the damage may be severe enough to kill the plant. If you suspect that your sunflowers have been affected by defoliation, it is important to remove the damaged leaves and provide the plants with extra water and fertilizer.

You Might Just Not Be Able to See the Seeds

Have you ever been disappointed when your sunflowers didn’t produce seeds? Don’t be too quick to give up on your plants – in many cases, the seeds are there, you just need to take a closer look.

Sunflower seeds are typically hidden behind the flower’s large petals, so it can be easy to miss them if you’re not paying attention. Once the flowers begin to fade and the petals start to drop off, take a closer look at the center of the plant.

You should see small, black seeds nestled in the green disc. With a little patience, you can harvest these seeds and use them to grow new sunflowers next season.

So next time your sunflowers don’t seem to be producing seeds, don’t despair – they may just be hiding in plain sight.

Can You Get Seeds from Sunflowers You Purchased as Cut Flowers?

When you purchase a bouquet of sunflowers from the grocery store, you are likely getting flowers that were cut in the early blooming stage.

This is done so that the flowers will have a longer shelf life. However, it also means that the flowers won’t have had the chance to produce seeds.

So, if you’re hoping to grow your own sunflowers from store-bought bouquets, you’ll probably be disappointed. The best way to get sunflower seeds is to purchase them from a garden center or online retailer.

This way, you can be sure that you’re getting seeds that are viable and will produce healthy plants.

My Seedless Sunflower Story

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.

Sunflowers are a beautiful addition to any garden, and with a little research you can find varieties that grow well in your area.

If you’re looking for an easy-to-grow annual flower, sunflowers might be the perfect choice for you – and seedless sunflowers are just as beautiful as the “seedier” counterparts!

21 thoughts on “Seedless Sunflowers: Why Do They Occur?”

    • 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.

    • Paper bags are great… 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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