How to grow sunflowers

Planting sunflowers is a fun activity for the whole family, and one of the easiest ways to provide food for birds in your garden.

A field full of sunflowers as the sun rises over the treeline.

Feeding birds is a great way to help them through difficult times of year. But using your garden to 'produce the goods' is really fulfilling and better for your carbon footprint. 

Sunflowers are great plants to have in a wildlife-friendly garden. Bees, and sometimes butterflies, love the nectar and feed on the flowers when they’re in full bloom. Then greenfinches and goldfinches will munch on the seedheads.

If you don't have a garden, don't worry. Sunflowers can be grown in pots if you have a nice bright and sunny balcony or indoor space to put them. Kids will love the challenge of seeing who can grow the tallest sunflower!

Estimated time: Under an hour Season: Spring Skill level: Easy


Sow your sunflower seeds

You can sow the seed directly into the ground in late April or early May, but we'd recommend sowing them in pots in late March or April.

Fill a 7.5 cm pot (or slightly larger) with peat-free compost. Poke one seed per pot down into the compost. Cover with about 1 cm of compost, and then water.

Place in a warm position. Use a propagator lid if you have one. Or you can make your own mini cover to protect your plants by cutting the top off a plastic bottle.

Keep them on a sunny windowsill or in a greenhouse to keep them safe from slugs and snails until they are planted out.

Rows of cardboard tubes, planted up with compost and young sunflower seedlings.

Plant them out when they're around 30cm tall

Plant out in a sheltered position once the risk of frost has passed. Sunflowers like to grow in a rich soil.

Protect them as best you can from slug and snail damage by using copper bands, broken eggshells, or any other organic slug control methods. You might need to do an evening slug patrol to keep them from eating your new shoots.

Partnering with

The RSPB is a member of BirdLife International.More