Skip to Content

What To Do With Dead Sunflower Heads (5 Solutions)

Sunflowers are a lovely addition to any garden, and they are well-known and enduring garden flowers distinguished by their tall, eye-catching stems and huge, colourful heads. But after their blooming season, many gardeners are unsure what to do with dead sunflower heads.

The heads of dead sunflowers can be used as feed for chickens, cows, and other farm animals. The sunflower’s petals can be used as a natural dye for fabrics. The seeds from the heads of dead sunflowers can be gathered and used for birdseed or seeding next year’s sunflowers.

It is possible to make the most of these lovely sunflowers even after their blooming season has ended. You just need to know how to properly care for and maintain sunflowers. To assist gardeners in maintaining a healthy and thriving garden, this article will offer some insights into when to cut sunflower heads off and whether sunflowers can grow back after they die.

Read the article till the end to explore the world of dead sunflower heads and learn about the opportunities these lovely blossoms offer even after their death.

What To Do With Dead Sunflower Heads
via Flickr

How Long Do Sunflowers Thrive?

There are annual and perennial kinds of sunflowers. Most sunflower varieties begin to bloom after 60 days of planting, while other varieties might bloom after 120 days. Late summer to early fall is the usual time for plants to bloom.

These tall, open-faced flowers are a wonderful blessing for bees as they provide a great supply of pollen and proteins.

A sunflower blooms and thrives fully for almost 20 days before it dies. But do sunflowers grow back after they die? Not really. So, removing the dead sunflower heads is what you need to do for the plant to produce new flowers.

Is Deadheading of Sunflower Heads Necessary?

Before knowing what to do with dead sunflower heads, you need to know whether deadheading is necessary. Well, sunflowers do not require deadheading.

However, it can be useful as the plant will continue to create fresh blooms rather than concentrating its energy on seed formation. Deadheading can also help the plant extend its flowering time.

To collect sunflower seeds before birds or other animals take their share, it is recommended to deadhead the sunflowers when their petals begin to dry out and turn brown but before the seeds are fully developed.

On the other hand, leaving the blossoms dry on the plant is helpful if you’re letting the sunflowers for seeding. The seeds will be ready for harvesting once the flower head has dried.

Finally, deciding to deadhead a sunflower head or not depends largely on personal preference and the intended use of the sunflowers.

When to Cut Sunflower Heads Off?

As soon as the petals on your sunflowers start to droop, you can start deadheading them. Getting rid of dead sunflowers immediately after their death is better than waiting to cut them all at once until the end of the growing season. Sunflower plants continue to produce new blooms if they’re regularly deadheaded.

Below are some indicators that tell if a sunflower should be cut down.

  • At least 60% of the flower’s petals have fallen off.
  • The plant is sagging as a result of the drooping flower head.
  • The flower’s brightness is fading.
  • The flower heads no longer attract the pollinators.
  • The stem attached with the flower head is degrading.

Watch This Video To Learn More About Sunflower Deadheading:

How To Remove Deadheads?

Use sharp, sterilized scissors or garden shears to clip the stems 6 to 8 inches below the flower to remove dead sunflower heads. With one hand, hold the flower stem; with the other, cut it off. Just watch out, so your fingers don’t get trapped in the blades.

Any sunflower heads that are visibly dead should be removed. However, you can also get rid of withering flowers. The plant can store more energy by cutting off dead heads, which it can use to grow more flowers.

However, if the dying flower heads are removed, the plant will not set seeds for that particular flower.

How Can Dead Sunflower Heads Be Used?

Now, the main question is, what to do with dead sunflower heads? Sunflowers are a great aesthetic to your garden when alive. But dead sunflower heads do have their purposes too. There are different ways by which you can use the dead sunflower heads. Below listed are some ideas.

1.     As a Healthy Snack & Toppings

Harvest the seeds from your dead sunflowers and roast them as a tasty snack. Sunflower seeds are abundant in minerals like selenium and manganese, as well as vitamins E and B6. The seeds’ linoleic acids have also been discovered to strengthen the heart and lessen the risk of coronary artery disease.

Set the dead sunflower heads on a counter or tabletop, gently massage the flower in a circular motion, and collect the seeds. Some seeds need to be peeled out with your fingertips. Remove any sunflower leaves, stems, or other debris before washing the seeds into a sieve and giving them a cold water rinse.

The seeds should then be added to a medium pot, covered with an inch of water and a pinch of salt, and simmer for 15 minutes.

Drain the water, then distribute the seeds uniformly onto a baking sheet covered with parchment paper.

Enjoy them after roasting for 10 to 15 minutes at 400 degrees Fahrenheit with a little salt.

2.     As Food for Birds & Squirrels

Another way to utilize dead sunflower seeds is by feeding birds and squirrels. You can always feed the dead sunflower seeds to the local birds if roasting them seems too much or if you simply don’t like them. The sunflower seeds do not require any special preparations before feeding birds. After removing them from the dead sunflower, you can put the heads in your bird feeders.

These dead sunflower heads are a healthy snack for birds. Birds such as Blue Jays, Woodpeckers, Cardinals, Tufted Titmice, Chickadees, Goldfinches, and Nuthatches are just a few of the birds observed to love snacking on sunflower seeds.

Sunflower seeds are great food for squirrels as well. The lipids and proteins found in sunflower seeds are just what squirrels need to prepare for winter. Although squirrels can be fed from bird feeders, they enjoy removing the flower heads and eating.

However, you can still put the sunflower heads on a fruit feeder spike or simply place them close to your bird feeder on the ground, where the squirrels will discover them. Leaving the sunflower’s seeds at a place goes well with squirrels’ innate foraging instinct and keeps them occupied.

3.     As Seeds for the Next Year

Do sunflowers grow back after they die? Certainly not! So to grow fresh seedlings the following year, you need to save the seeds from your dead sunflower heads. For seedlings, just collect the flower heads and spread them out on a newspaper to dry.

The seeds should be easy to collect once the sunflowers dry out. The seeds should then be spread out in a single layer to dry even further on an old tray or baking sheet.

Place the tray in a warm location where birds and rats can’t reach it. When the seeds are completely dry, place them in a brown paper bag and keep them somewhere cold and dry.

Your seeds will be ready to grow when you start a new sunflower crop the following year. Always collect sunflower seeds from the healthiest, best-built plant when saving them for a future crop.

4.     As a Manure for the Flower Bed

Throwing dead sunflower heads into the mulch in your flower beds is a quick and simple way to get rid of them. They can also be carefully incorporated into the soil mixture using a weed fork. By doing this, you don’t have to worry about what do I do with a dead sunflower.

Over time, the flower heads will decompose, releasing nutrients gradually into the manure. It is best to remove the flower heads of sunflowers before they set seed if you plan to add the dead sunflower heads to your mulch.

Sunflower seedlings should not outgrow your flower beds. So, let the sunflower heads dry out, extract the seeds for the birds, and then mix them with your mulch to prevent further weeding.

5.     As a Manure in Compost

If you are still thinking about what to do with dead sunflower heads, then you can also add dead sunflower heads to your compost pile.

Compost should ideally contain equal amounts of dark and green components. Egg cartons, cardboard boxes, shredded paper, and dead leaves can be added to the compost pile first. After that, fresh grass clippings, vegetable peels, clipped plant foliage, and flower heads are to be added.

The organic components in a pile will help in the decomposition and produce a wholesome organic fertilizer. Compost is a great nitrogen source, promoting strong, lush green vegetation.


Sunflowers are a stunning and well-liked addition to any garden. However, what to do with dead sunflower heads after their flowering season is over is a concern for many.

Dead sunflower heads can be fed to birds and squirrels and also to farm animals like chickens and cows. Sunflower petals can be utilized as a natural fabric dye. The seeds from the dead sunflower heads can be collected and used to seed sunflowers the next year.

Sunflowers don’t require deadheading, but removing those dead heads does help. Doing so can extend the flowering period and collect the seeds before birds, or other animals do.

Knowing how to properly care for and preserve sunflowers will allow you to get the most out of these magnificent flowers even after their blooming season.