Soaking Sunflower Seeds Before Planting | How-to Guide

Planting sunflowers in your garden will brighten up your late summer garden thanks to their gorgeous yellow blooms. Sunflowers can grow tall and strong in surprisingly little time, especially if you prepare them for planting by soaking them beforehand.

Here is an easy guide to soaking sunflower seeds before planting.

5 Steps to Soak Sunflower Seeds Before Planting

Soaking sunflower seeds is a simple process that requires only four steps but yields plenty of benefits for your sprouting sunflowers.

Here are 5 easy steps to follow to soak your sunflower seeds.

1. Choose Your Seeds

The first step is to choose your sunflower seeds out of the many varieties that you have available. If you have a small space or want to grow sunflowers in pots, then choose a dwarf variety like ‘Double Dandy’ or ‘Elf’ that will only grow from 1-3 feet tall.

I chose 2 varieties, including Dwarf Eos that only grows to around 1 foot tall.

2. Prepare Your Beds or Pots

Prepare your garden beds so you can plant your sunflower seeds immediately after soaking. The right bed should be located somewhere with at least 6 hours of sunlight. You also need damp soil that is nice and loose to allow good drainage and promote air circulation.

You can plant sunflower seeds directly into pots. I like to plant straight into good quality potting soil rather than seed raising mix because it contains slow release fertilizer.

3. Fill a container with water

To soak your sunflower seeds fill a shallow container or jar with water. You will only need around 1/2 – 1 inch of water or enough to cover all of your seeds (a good rule of thumb is to use twice as much volume of water as you have seeds.

Use a small container and add a small amount of water.

Make sure that the water you are using is fresh and clean.

Slightly lukewarm water works best when trying to get your sunflowers to germinate. Warm water speeds up the germinating process, meaning that you will spend less time soaking your sunflower seeds.

Avoid adding hot water as it can damage your seeds.

4. Soak and Wait

Leave the sunflower seeds to soak in the water for 8–12 hours. Leaving the seeds to soak overnight is a good option.

You’ll know that they are ready when their skins are softer, they look larger, and the water is no longer clear but is the same color as the seeds.

Be careful not to let the sunflower seeds soak for too long, as waiting longer than 24 hours to plant them after soaking could damage the seeds.

These sunflower seeds have been soaking for 12 hours and are ready to plant.

5. Drain and Plant

Carefully drain the seeds and separate them (the moisture makes them stick together sometimes). You can pour them out onto paper towel and separate them. Plant them in your prepared beds at 1 inch depth.

After covering the seeds with soil, water them thoroughly. Within a few days you should see them germinate.

You can also carefully pick them out of the water if you find that easier.

3 Benefits of Soaking Sunflower Seeds Before Planting

Soaking your sunflower seeds is a simple step that makes it a lot easier for the seeds to grow.

Here are 3 benefits of soaking sunflower seeds before planting.

1. Soaking Breaks Down Cellulose Faster

If you’ve ever held a sunflower seed before, you’ve noticed that it has a tough outer shell that you need to hull if you want to eat the seed inside. This shell is made out of cellulose.

While the shell is great at protecting the seed from damage, it makes it hard for the germinating plant to break through and start growing properly. Soaking the seed softens its exterior, breaking down the cellulose and making it easier for the plant to grow.

Soaking sunflower seeds will soften their outer husk helping them to sprout faster.

2. Soaking Makes Sunflower Seeds Germinate Faster

Breaking down the exterior parts of the seed through soaking helps the sunflowers germinate faster. Germination is the first stage of growth when stems and roots first start to sprout out of the seed. Once the plant starts germinating, it can begin the rest of its growth cycle.

Not only will making your seeds germinate faster make your garden more interesting but it can also help you get ahead if you have to plant later than usual due to a late frost.

3. Soaking Saves Water

It seems surprising but soaking any seeds before planting actually helps you save water. Before seeds germinate, you have to water the beds very often to create optimal conditions for growth.

By soaking the seeds, you deliver the necessary moisture more efficiently and speed up the germination process. Pre-soaking seeds can help you save water if you are growing sunflowers in a dry climate.

Do You Need to Soak Sunflower Seeds Before Planting?

You don’t need to soak sunflower seeds before planting. You can just plant them directly in the garden beds and let them grow from there. However, soaking the seeds speeds up germination and improves the likelihood of success.

How Do I Make Sunflower Seeds Germinate Faster?

You can make sunflower seeds germinate faster by soaking them in warm water for 8–12 hours. You can also try germinating them in a damp paper towel, then planting the sprouted seedlings in the bed once you notice the seeds are growing.


Before you can plant seeds with a tough exterior, such as sunflower seeds, there is a recommended extra step called soaking. Soaking sunflower seeds in warm, clean water can help the seeds germinate faster because soaking softens the exterior. It’s an easy step to take for the reward of gorgeous sunflowers sooner.

Luckily, soaking sunflower seeds is easy because you just need to put them in a clean container with water for less than a day, then plant.