How Long do Sunflowers Last

Growing sunflowers is a favorite pastime of mine. I loved practicing my gardening skills and learning the science behind these easy-to-grow plants as a kid. As an adult, I still enjoy learning about all the varieties of sunflowers. I think that growing your own beautiful flower that can eventually be harvested for food is incomparable.

Inspired by my love of learning and gardening, I decided that it was time to write about the life of sunflowers. If you’ve ever wondered what the lifecycle of this plant is and how you might care for it during each part of its life, then keep reading. Together, we will discover the charm this flower holds and how to best utilize it.

Bottom Line Upfront

You may be anxious to learn everything there is to know about sunflowers but don’t currently have the time. If that’s you, then check out this summary for now, but do come back later for more details.

  • Variety plays a role in the length of a sunflower’s life
  • Care plays a role in the length of a sunflower’s life
  • What a gardener plans to do with the plant plays a role in the length of a sunflower’s life
  • There are eight stages in the lifecycle of a sunflower

sunflower field

Annual vs. Perennial

A sunflower’s lifecycle is often impacted by whether the plant is annual or perennial. Since these differences are so relevant, we need to take some time to look at them in detail. For your reference, I have listed the features of each sunflower type so you will be able to determine if you have or want an annual or a perennial sunflower in your garden.

Both types of sunflowers are great for their own reasons, but as I have learned more about sunflowers, I come to prefer the annual varieties over the perennial. But, you have your own motivations for gardening, so your opinion may be different than mine.

Annual Sunflower Features:

Large seeds

  • An abundant quantity of seeds
  • Roots that are shallow and stringy
  • Single stemmed flowers
  • The ability to produce blooms within a year after being planted
  • Quick growth
  • Sprouts that grow in late spring

Perennial Sunflower Features:

  • Minimal to moderate quantities of seeds
  • Roots that burrow deeply with attached rhizomes and tubers
  • Seed heads that are small in size
  • New plants do not sprout until two years after the seeds are planted
  • Slow growth
  • Sprouts that grow in early spring


Types & Varieties

We really need to open our discussion by stating that there are many types and varieties of sunflowers, many of which have a different lifecycle. It is not possible to be detailed about all seventy-plus varieties and cultivars in this one article, but I will try to cover a few here.

I also want to mention that sunflowers are organized into three basic categories – colored sunflowers, dwarf sunflowers, and giant sunflowers. These categories do not define the lifecycle of the flowers, but they do provide some order when comparing and contrasting these plants.

In this section, I want to showcase a few sunflower varieties for your consideration. These examples should help you to understand how different varieties live and grow.

Colored Sunflowers

This is my favorite category because it includes varieties that are not yellow. Grouped into this category are sunflowers with pink, purple, red, orange, and white petals. Some varieties within this group are annual, while some are perennial.

Colored sunflowers can grow large or stay small. Hybridized varieties are also included in this group. Some of these do not contain pollen and are hypoallergenic. It is these features, rather than petal color, that will determine how each variety lives and grows.

Iris Tectorum Rose Sunflower 50Pcs Pink Sunflower Seeds Pink Sunflower Seeds

Evening Sun

evening sun sunflower

I think this variety is so cute and whimsical. It is an annual sunflower whose blooms will last throughout the summer season, and those blooms can be used to attract pollinators to your garden. The Evening Sun variety is also an excellent variety to use as a decorative feature in fresh flower arrangements. For this reason, these may not live as long as other varieties.

Ms. Mars

mr. mars

This is one my very favorite sunflowers because it is a lovely purple color that does not grow very large. It is another annual sunflower that typically blooms from summer to autumn. Because it is uniquely colored, you may opt to cut its blooms early to use for flower arrangements. Again, this will shorten its lifecycle.

Dwarf Sunflowers

Nothing bad can be said about a group of sunflower varieties that stay small and don’t contain pollen. Seriously, many of these are so small that they can be placed in a plant container, and those without pollen are hypoallergenic.

Little Dorrit

little dorrit

This may be the ultimate dwarf variety. I think it is extremely cute, and its seed head grows full of wonderful seeds for harvesting. Since it is an annual,  I suggest that you let this flower fully develop so you can use its seeds in the following year’s garden.



What I love about this sunflower, even more than its name, is its looks and its hypoallergenic qualities. You may be stuck purchasing new seeds every year, but it is worth it. Since it is such a stunning flower, it is perfect for use in fresh-cut bouquets. This means it may not last the full four months that is its natural lifespan.

Giant Sunflowers

Within this category are what I consider the most quintessential-looking sunflowers. These are the giants that cover fields in the midwestern United States and are fascinating to watch as their cumbersome heads strain to stare into direct sunlight.

American Giant

american giant

If you want to show off, this is the variety you need to grow. I still can’t believe that it can grow up to 16’ in 75 days. Also, you can expect plenty of seeds at harvest time.

Maximilian Prairie

This is a quaint perennial sunflower variety. It reminds me of the scenery in old western TV shows where wagons are crawling along the midwestern prairies. I think they are great to use in fresh flower bouquets since they will come back on their own.

The 8 Stages of a Sunflower’s Life

Now that we have discussed the different types and varieties of sunflowers and how those categorizations can affect the plant’s lifecycle, we can look at each stage in the life of a sunflower. There are eight stages in a sunflower’s life, and we will look at each one in detail.


In this stage, the seed is planted in soil and watered to cause the lifecycle to begin. All varieties begin this stage in the same way – as a cypsela. I think this stage has so much potential for fun. My toddler loves to dig in the dirt, so we have a lot of fun planting seeds together. The next time you need to sow some sunflower seeds, bring your little ones.



This is the stage where new botanical life begins to sprout from the seed. Wispy roots and shoots develop and grow from the seed, searching for warm sunlight. This stage can last between 2 and 10 days. I am always anticipating this stage once I plant a seed.

I want to know if the seed is growing alright or at all. Fortunately, when it comes to a sunflower seed, it doesn’t take very long to find out.

Plant Development

In this stage, the seedling begins to grow quickly and produce small leaves. It is during this stage that indoor seedlings should be replanted outside. The development process takes approximately 20 days and should be worked into days 15 through 35 of the plant’s life.

This may be one of my favorite stages because I get to move my garden outside, where it should be. I really love planning out my garden and digging in the dirt, and that’s why I love this stage so much.

plant development


This is the stage every gardener longs to experience. When a sunflower comes to this point in its life, it feels like a success because a small bud promises a full flower in the future. Up to this point, the plant still requires moist soil and, of course, plenty of sunlight.

It can take up to 30 days for this stage to be completed, and it is usually worked into days 35 through 65 of the plant’s life.


It is within this stage that gardeners can celebrate successfully growing a sunflower. It is also within this stage that gardeners should decide whether they want to allow their sunflower to grow further and produce seeds or if they want to cut it for a fresh flower display (more on this later).

I don’t always plan to cut my flowers when I plant them. I want them to last as long as possible, which means they should remain in the garden bed. But, some years, I have reasons to cut my flowers. I may want fresh flowers for my kitchen table or to give away for someone’s special day.

It can take up to 20 days for this stage to be completed, and it is usually worked into days 65 through 85 of the plant’s life.



This stage actually runs parallel to the flowering stage. During days 65 through 85, when the buds begin to flower, pollinators are attracted to work their magic. If you don’t notice any pollinators in your garden, you may want to add a companion plant that is known for attracting them. Lavender is a personal favorite of mine, but there are other options too.


You can watch the seeds develop within the seed head during this stage. They eventually harden into the kernels we are so familiar with. Once sufficiently grown and hardened, the seeds may be harvested or allowed to fall to the ground for wildlife and future plants.

It can take up to 20 days for this stage to be completed, and it is usually worked into days 85 through 105 of the plant’s life.


This is the optimal time to get the seeds off the seed head to use in your many projects. Harvested seeds may be used as a food product or to sow in next year’s garden. I enjoy making nut and seed butters, and that is very often what I choose to do with my harvested seeds.

It can take up to 20 days for this stage to be completed, and it is usually worked into days 105 through 125 of the plant’s life.

sunflower seeds

Optional Usages

You may grow sunflowers to use for garden seeds and food products, but you may also want some sunflowers for decoration. If you have an upcoming event and want to feature fresh-cut flowers on the tables, try a few sunflowers. They are pretty, and they are easy to keep alive and lovely for up to 12 days. Here are my steps to ensure that your cut sunflowers stay fresh for over a week:

  1. Prepare a water mixture that includes 1 quart of water, one tablespoon of fresh lemon juice, one tablespoon of sugar, and half a tablespoon of bleach.
  2. Heat the water so that the sugar dissolves.
  3. Cool the water mixture to room temperature before placing the sunflower in it
  4. Choose  a healthy sunflower.
  5. Choose a sunflower that is in the flowering stage (the petals should point toward you when looking directly at the seed head)
  6. Cut the stem in the morning when it is cool outside
  7. Cut the stem with a clean knife
  8. Cut the stem about 30” below the flower
  9. Cut the stem at a 45° angle
  10. Remove all but the topmost leaves
  11. Place the flower into the prepared water mixture
  12. Change the water every two to three days or when it becomes cloudy

A few tips for caring for the sunflower while it is being used as a decoration:

  • Place the flower in a cool and shaded area
  • Trim off half an inch from the bottom of the stem each time you change its water
  • Ensure that none of the leaves touch the water

sun flower


Question: How Do Sunflowers Grow Best?

Answer: Sunflowers are not picky, but they do have a few requirements. Your sunflowers will grow best if you stick to the following:
• Eight hours of full sunlight every day
• Warm weather with no chance of frost
• Well-draining soil
• Plenty of airflow to prevent mildew and other moisture-related diseases

Question: What Type of Food Products Can Be Made From Sunflower Seeds?

• The first and most obvious food product is roasted sunflower seeds. These will require a little processing, but the end result is definitely worth the effort.
• Another option is sunflower seed butter. Once you have roasted your sunflower seeds, you can blend them into butter for use on toast and other tasty treats.
• A third food product is sunflower seed flour. While not as popular as sunflower butter, it has become a favored alternative for those with wheat allergies. Flour is made in the same way as sunflower butter; you just don’t blend it as much.

Question: Where to Purchase Sunflower Seeds for Gardening?

Answer: These seeds are readily available at nearly all gardening shops, so look for them the next time you visit your local store. If, however, you would like them delivered straight to your front door, you can find seeds at the following online shops:
• True Leaf Market
• Eden Brothers
• Pioneer

In Conclusion

As you can see, most sunflowers’ lifecycle and length of life are similar. They all grow through eight stages of life and end their lifecycle after approximately four months. Exceptions do exist, especially when you consider that the lives of some sunflower varieties are cut short due to creative usage (floral arrangement, etc.). Then, those varieties are specially grown for seed harvesting and food production, which means they live life to the fullest.

Learning all this about sunflower life and production is refreshing to me. It makes me want to immediately get my gloves and shovel and head out to a garden plot. My hope is that what I have shared in this article has informed and inspired you as well. Now, it’s time for me to get outside!

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