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.
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
- 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:
- 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
- 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.
- Once the seeds have turned black (black and white stripes), cut the heads off.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- If you’d like to roast some seeds for eating, follow these instructions.
- Store your seeds in an air-tight container; eat within a year for fresh flavor.
- Compost the leftover dried plant matter.
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!