Last Updated on February 12, 2022 by Cristina
If you harvested white sunflower seeds, you’re doing something wrong during the growing, harvesting, or drying process. A bad harvest can be devastating; you’ve spent so much time growing the plant and end up with a useless product. What can you do to save the seeds, and is it too late? You’re questioning why are my sunflower seeds white?
Sunflowers thrive in locations with long, hot summers and barely acidic soil. They bloom in the middle of summer and ripen as early fall approaches. The flower head that hosts the seeds can grow up to 24 inches in diameter!
These gracious plants can grow up to 16 feet and take approximately 3 months to mature in a good sunny site. Join us to learn how to care for these vibrant plants to avoid white sunflower seeds.
Reasons Why Your Sunflower Seeds Are White
The only way to notice your sunflower seeds are not correctly colored is after you’ve shelled them. Start by checking the variety of sunflowers you’ve planted. Some have entirely black shells, while others have thick black straps on a white base. But if you have entirely white sunflower seeds, you’re making one or a couple of mistakes.
1. The Sunflower Heads Are Immature
You’re in for white seeds if you harvest your sunflower heads before they’ve matured. The sunflowers mature in 80 to 95 days but don’t take this period for a guarantee. You need to inspect each head before cutting them off. Depending on weather and position, the sunflowers can grow faster or slower.
Immature seeds are not only white-colored but underdeveloped too. As a result, the seed inside is minuscule, or the shell is empty.
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2. You Didn’t Protect The Plant
Mature sunflower seeds are food of preference for birds and squirrels. Unfortunately, they also attack the sunflowers while developing. Once they damage the immature head, it disturbs the maturing process, resulting in white sunflower seeds.
Wonder what birds eat white striped sunflower seeds? We’ve covered that below too!
3. Drying Inside Dark And Moist Places
Harvesting immature sunflowers and then storing them to dry in a bunch is a big mistake. You can cut the sunflower heads when not 100% ready, but you can’t dry them stacked in your basement, attic, or shed.
The immature seeds stay white and might even rot. This process is accelerated if you place them in dark and moist places.
Best Time To Cut Your Sunflowers
‘But, what if the sunflower seeds are white can I pick them? The season is almost over!’ Don’t rush! Even if you planted all your sunflowers at the same time, they might mature at a different time. So it’s necessary to harvest each head individually to avoid white sunflower seeds.
Turn the sunflower head around and look at the calyx. When the sunflower is mature, the calyx has a soft yellow color, and there might be some brown spots. If it’s still green, it’s still not ready.
Another point to look at is the petals. On mature sunflowers, all petals need to be dry and fully desiccated. Turn the head towards you, and notice how all seeds are covered in tiny flowers. These flowers are self-pollinating, and the seeds are their product. When the sunflower is ready for harvest, you can easily brush off the flowers with your hand.
And finally, look underneath the tiny flowers. If the seeds are ready, they have well-developed color and feel loose. White sunflower seeds are not ready for harvest. The mature seeds will start popping out on their own.
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Harvesting Sunflower Seeds
The harvest time depends on what you plan to do with your sunflower seeds. If you’re going to feed your birds with them, you can let them dry on the plant and harvest later.
If you want to roast your sunflower seeds, you must harvest them before they dry entirely. Cut the sunflowers and place each head in a paper bag. Hang them upside down to dry. The bag will catch the seeds that fall out and stop any birds, mice, or squirrels.
Sunflowers are a wildlife magnet. So if you want to cut all of them simultaneously, it’s still an option. But make sure that at least 2/3 of the seeds look well developed. To harvest, use larger garden shears and cut 8 to 10 inches below the head.
When the seeds are ready, you can simply remove them from the head by swiping your hand across the head. You can also turn the head upside down on a gripping surface resembling a washing board. Swipe it left and right, and the seeds will detach.
Use a fork for any remaining seeds stuck on the head.
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What To Do With White Sunflower Seeds
Once you correct your mistakes and have correctly colored instead of white sunflower seeds, it’s time to taste some!
Farmers plant sunflowers to have bird food for the winter. But as a gardener with a handful of sunflowers, your best option is roasting them. You can consume them raw, remove the shells, toss some in a salad, or make sunflower butter.
If you plan to roast them, don’t let them dry completely. Remove the seeds from the head, rinse them and place them in a single layer to dry overnight. If they’re too dry already, soak them in salted water overnight.
Place on a baking sheet and roast around 30 minutes on 300℉, tossing a few times.
Planting White Sunflower Seeds
Store your seeds in an airtight container if you plan to replant some the following season. The sunflowers are annuals, so you need to sow the seeds each spring after the last frost has passed and the temperatures are above 50℉. But don’t store the white sunflower seeds, as they’re not likely to grow. After all, no farmer wonders where to buy white sunflower seeds?
Bottom Line: What Color Should Your Sunflower Seeds Be?
Sunflowers are one of the most striking plants you can grow. They’re low maintenance and yield a great harvest from a single plant. But as with any plant, it’s easy to make mistakes and end up with white sunflower seeds that are tasteless.
Make sure to protect the sunflower heads and harvest them when they turn yellow. Always let the seeds dry in a place with good air circulation, covered with a paper bag or cheesecloth.
Have you tried planting sunflower seeds? Let us know if you’re up for this challenge!
Why are my sunflower seeds white?
The white sunflowers are immature and not ready for consumption. You need to leave the head to mature until the seeds develop bold stripes before cutting. If the head is damaged by wildlife, it might never mature.
Where to buy white sunflower seeds?
You can purchase Italian white sunflower seeds online or from your garden center. They're planted from seeds, so choose a reputable seller, as you'll see the actual result after months.
What birds eat white striped sunflower seeds?
Sparrows, cardinals, mourning doves, finches, some woodpeckers, juncos, and American goldfinches are just some of the seed-loving birds.
Birds love sunflower seeds as they're packed with calories and easy to eat.
What if the sunflower seeds are white can I pick them?
You shouldn't pick white sunflower seeds as they're not ready. They will be tasteless or even empty inside. You can't replant them either. Pick only when the calyx is yellow, and the seeds pop out.
Mary is a passionate gardener who loves spending her days getting her hands dirty and nurturing her plants. She‘s an avid reader of gardening magazines and is always looking for new ways to make her garden thrive. When not outside tending to her plants, Mary can be found inside reading up on the latest gardening trends, comparing notes with fellow gardeners, and finding the perfect pottery planter for her next planting project.