Grow Sunflower Seeds with Russian Mammoths

If you want to grow your own sunflower seeds, or if you just enjoy a showpiece in the garden, give Russian Mammoth sunflower seeds a try this year. We’ve had complete strangers stop their cars in the road to stare at our Russian Mammoth sunflowers! And with so many seeds per head they’re worth the effort to grow.

Grow Your Own Sunflowers with Russian Mammoth Sunflowers l Sunflower Seeds are great snacks for kids and wild birds l Homestead

Sunflower Seed Varieties

There are several different varieties of sunflower but only some of those will produce seed for eating. A few varieties to consider if you’d like to snack on sunflower seeds are:

  • Hopi Black Dye
  • Snack Seed
  • Super Snack Mix
  • Kong Hybrid
  • Sunzilla
  • Mammoth Grey
  • Giant White
  • And of course, Russian Mammoths!

Russian Mammoth Sunflower Seeds

Basic growing information for Russian Mammoth sunflowers (Helianthus annuus), or really any, mammoth-type sunflower seed:

  • Sunflowers are an annual, meaning they complete their life cycle in a year
  • They require full sun to bloom well, which they’ll do all summer and into the fall
  • Mammoths get to be 6’-10’ tall, though some of mine hit around 12′
  • Plant 1-2 weeks after your last frost date
  • You should see the seed emerge in around 10-15 days
  • Plant at about 1″ depth
  • Final plant spacing should be 1-3 feet apart
  • For everything you need to know about sunflower growing, visit the National Sunflower Association
  • Bonus! Sunflowers attract pollinators like bees, which help grow even more sunflower seeds

If you’d like to learn a little more about gardening with bee friendly plants, click here.

To learn more about gardening in climate, click  below:

Save Sunflower Seeds

Russian Mammoths are heirlooms and perform true to type every year. Be sure to save some seed back when you harvest to plant the next year. The added benefit of harvesting all the seeds, instead of letting them fall to the ground is that next year’s Russian Mammoths will be planting with deliberate spacing by you. If you let the seeds drop from the head, you’ll get smaller plants because they’ll be crowded in clumps where they fall.

To Save Russian Mammoth sunflower seeds:

  1. Wait to harvest the whole head of the sunflower until all the petals have dropped off and the seeds have turned from green to black
  2. Once the petals have fallen you can bag the sunflower heads in paper, if you don’t want to share any sunflower seeds with the birds. Still wait to harvest the heads until the seeds have turned dark.
  3. Once the seeds have turned black (black and white stripes), cut the heads off.
  4. Lay the heads on a large screen or any flat surface that will allow good air flow. If you have an extra screen door on hand, they work well.
  5. Flip the heads over every 3-5 days as the seeds cure (dry) to prevent mold from developing on the sunflower seeds. If you are concerned that the heads are too moist, place a fan gently blowing near them to better circulate the air.
  6. Once the heads and seeds are completely dry, they should pop out pretty easily. Wear some gloves to save your skin and begin working the seeds out of the heads.
  7. If you’d like to roast some seeds for eating, follow these instructions.
  8. Store your seeds in an air-tight container; eat within a year for fresh flavor.
  9. Compost the leftover dried plant matter.

Grow Your Own Sunflower Seeds l Russian Mammoth Sunflowers produce lots of sunflower seeds l Homestead

The Benefits of Russian Mammoths

I’ll never forget the first time I saw a Russian mammoth sunflower, its huge head dangling over the side of a fence looking for all the world like a peeping Tom. A Russian mammoth sunflower is visually stunning for its size alone. They get to be about 8-10 feet and their head diameter can be over 12 inches. They’re also a bright, happy yellow and have large, umbrella-like leaves.

The stalks are a good 3-4 inches in diameter when the soil is good. We have to saw them down at the end of the season! The stalks make great kindling, because they burn fast and hot when dried. Sometimes the heads get so large that the stalk begins to bend as it grows. However, quite often they grow up straight and tall and cut down into orderly shapes for your kindling pile.

Growing Your Own Sunflower Seeds

If you’re interested in either eating sunflower seeds or feeding them to animals, Russian Mammoths are useful indeed. They can produce over one thousand seeds per head! A few ideas for using up your sunflower seeds include:

  • Great supplement for your backyard chicken flock
  • Similarity, a nutritious boost for the wild birds that visit your backyard feeder
  • A tasty snack for you and the kids
  • Healthy addition to your homemade granola

These Russian Mammoth sunflowers do take up space in the garden, I’m not going to lie. However, it will be space well used!

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9 thoughts on “Grow Sunflower Seeds with Russian Mammoths

    1. I got my original seeds from Baker Creek, I think. It was a long time ago and, naturally, my garden notes are always scattered. I think Burpee and maybe Eden Brothers might carry some, too.

  1. Got a few of these seeds here in Nova Scotia from the local library seed lending program. Your post was very informative. Thank you for sharing.

    1. What a great program for a library! So glad the article was helpful. I hope you enjoy growing them – they are so fun in the garden!

    2. Hello! I work a library system in Tucson AZ where we also have a seed library. We chose the Black Russian seed as our “one seed” this year. We ordered lots of the black seeds and many folks from around the community have joined us in growing this variety. We are beginning to get seeds from them now but all of them so far are white and black striped, not black like the seeds we planted. Does anyone have any idea why this happened?

      We didn’t plant any other variety of sunflowers as we didn’t want them to cross breed.

      1. What a wonderful thing for a library to do!!

        The first thing that comes to mind is that the genetics have altered somehow, which usually means that a hybrid was planted and the unpredictable child is what resulted. From what company did you get the seed? Are you sure it was an heirloom seed? Have you contacted the seed company to pick their brain?

        More questions: are the seeds that are coming back all the same? Or, do you have some striped and some black? If each returned seed is the same, then the variation has to be coming from the source seed.

        I’m not a seed genetics expert, but that would be my first guess – something went wonky on the seed-house end! Seed growers are usually some of the nicest people you’ll ever meet and I bet if you called them up and asked their input, they’d be very willing to chat with you.

        Let us know if you figure it out and I’ll hope someone else can be more helpful in their comments. I’ll post your question in my FB group and see if anyone has an idea.

      2. I got some feedback from a few people and the consensus seems to be that your original seed stock was contaminated or mislabeled. Here’s this from Laurie Neverman of Common Sense Home:

        “It sounds like her original sample was contaminated.

        “I know with bean seeds, they can cross pollinate, and the first year the seeds still look like the seeds you expect. It’s only when you grow them out the second year that the cross pollination is visible. Sunflowers may be the same.

        “We grow Emerite pole beans. The dried seeds are black. We also grow Calypso shell beans, which have a pattern like a black Holstein cow. One year we put them a little too close in the garden. All the seeds looked normal at harvest time. The next year, we ended up with some plants that were obviously a love child of the two plants. Luckily, we keep seeds from a few years back, so we were able to revert back to seed from before the cross happened for the following year.”

  2. Have you ever eaten the Russian Mammoth Sunflower leaves when they are mature? Do you make oven chips – like Kale? How do you preserve them?

    1. I’ve only used sunflower leaves to wrap meats or cookies in when we cook over an outdoor fire, so I can’t speak to their edibility since I toss them into the fire when I’m done.

      Yes, we make kale chips and because they’re so delicate we store them in glass containers. They don’t last that long since we eat them so fast. We make them in the dehydrator.

      Hope that helped!

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