Attract More Backyard Birds by Growing Sunflowers

Updated: Mar. 07, 2024

Save money feeding songbirds by growing sunflowers. After the sunny flower petals fade, sunflower seeds feed hungry birds.

Easy to grow and useful all year-round, sunflowers are crowd-pleasers. Summer’s bright blooms bring joy to gardeners and pollinators, and naturally dried seeds provide local wildlife with a food source in winter. They thrive in most soil types and climates, as long as they’re in a sunny spot. Follow these proven tips for growing sunflowers.

Enjoy 30 stunning sunflower pictures that radiate beauty.

Sunflower Care and Growing Tips

251875297 1 Danna Cable Bnb Bypc2020Courtesy Danna Cable
Sun-loving sunflowers are easy to grow

Sunflowers are truly one of the easiest plants to grow, but they do have a few requirements. They need at least six hours of sunlight per day and well-drained soil. They benefit from organic matter. Keep the area under sunflowers mulched for better results.

  • Common name: sunflower
  • Scientific name: Helianthus annuus
  • Zones: Annual
  • Attracts: Birds, bees, butterflies
  • Light needs: Full sun
  • Size: Standard varieties grow up to 10 feet tall
  • Grown for: Sunflower heads contain 1,000 to 2,000 seeds and feed birds all year
  • Foliage: Stalks fade to brown in the winter

Grow Mexican sunflower in pollinator gardens.

Pick the Right Sunflower Varieties to Grow

Bnbbyc16 Kimberly Coffey 001Courtesy Kimberly Coffey
Mammoth grey stripe sunflowers

You can find many sunflower options on the market today, but not all of them are suitable food sources for birds. If you’re planning on growing sunflowers, make sure they produce a good supply of seeds. Super Snack Mix, Royal Hybrid, and Mammoth Russian all produce seeds in abundance.

Check out the top 10 sunny sunflower varieties to grow.

When to Plant Sunflower Seeds

Sunflower plantFernando Trabanco Fotografía/Getty Images
Direct sow seeds after the last frost date in your area.

Sunflowers have the best seed buffet in late summer to early fall. For longer harvest time, stagger your planting time from spring to midsummer. This way, you can attract birds and enjoy the blooms for months.

Did you know—tomatoes make great sunflower companion plants.

Sunflower Bird Benefits 

278027819 1 Steven Bloemendaal Bnb Bypc 2021 1Courtesy Steven Biomendaal
American goldfinch eating from a dried sunflower seed head.

In late summer, gather your sunflower heads and put them in a dry place to dehydrate (or simply stop pruning). You can then hang them out by your feeders. This will create a supply of high-fat seeds for birds that last well into winter.

Do hummingbirds like sunflowers?

Birds that Eat Sunflower Seeds

growing sunflowersCourtesy Julia James
Black-capped chickadee started feeding on sunflowers
  • Northern cardinal
  • Chickadees
  • Finches
  • Tufted titmouse
  • Grosbeaks
  • Nuthatches
  • Woodpeckers
  • Pine siskin
  • Jays
  • Sparrows

Next, learn how to choose sunflower seeds for birds.


Why Trust Us

For nearly 30 years, Birds & Blooms, a Trusted Media Brandhas been inspiring readers to have a lifelong love of birding, gardening and nature. We are the #1 bird and garden magazine in North America and a trusted online resource for over 15 million outdoor enthusiasts annually. Our library of thousands of informative articles and how-tos has been written by trusted journalists and fact-checked by bird and garden experts for accuracy. In addition to our staff of experienced gardeners and bird-watchers, we hire individuals who have years of education and hands-on experience with birding, bird feeding, gardening, butterflies, bugs and more. Learn more about Birds & Blooms, our field editor program, and our submission guidelines.