How to grow a sunflower from seed with kids

Top tips from Gardeners' World Magazine

Help your child to grow a prize-winning sunflower with this step-by-step guide that includes tips from BBC Gardeners' World Magazine. You don't need specialist equipment - did you know you can grow seeds in an egg box? Scroll down for advice on how and when to grow, and tips to win any tallest sunflower competition!
  • 5-10 minutes
  • sunflower seeds (e.g. Russian giant), egg carton (or a small pot), multi-purpose peat-free compost, a lolly stick, pens, plastic bottle
  • 3+

Growing sunflowers is a fun way to get kids into gardening. They’re easy to plant, forgiving of the most inexperienced gardener and grow to jaw-dropping heights! Why not set up a competition with friends or family to see who can grow the tallest flower? You’ll have a head start with these top tips from Gardener’s World Magazine.

Planting sunflower seeds: Need to know

  1. When to plant: You can plant most varieties of sunflower seed indoors in March, April or May. Check the seed packet just to make sure. Plant out (transfer the seedlings to a bigger pot outside) after the last frost – from around May.

  2. Where to plant: Start seeds off on a sunny windowsill indoors. Bear in mind you’ll need to move them outside at some point. Some varieties will outgrow even a balcony. If you live in a flat, see if you can pop a pot in a sunny spot outside the building. This flower will bring smiles to everyone who passes by.

How to create an egg box planter

Simply fill the cups of an egg box with compost. You can use all 6 as a tray (and plant 6 seeds). Or, snip off however many you need.

TIP: If the wall between each pair of cups is shallow, keep them in pairs at this stage so you can add enough compost to each cup. You can snip them apart when you’re ready to move the seedlings to a bigger pot. 

How to plant sunflower seeds

Step 1: Prepare the pot

Ask your child to fill the eggbox cups or a small pot with the compost. Tap the pot gently.

If you’re struggling to get hold of gardening supplies, Gardeners’ World Magazine has a handy list of suppliers that have stock and deliver.

Poke a hole in the soil with a finger – to approximately 1cm (or your child’s first finger joint.)

Step 2: Plant the seed

Ask your child to drop a seed into the hole – only use one seed per pot. 

Ask them to cover the seed gently with some more compost and pat gently, as though they’re tucking it up in bed.

Step 3: Make a lolly stick plant label

Give your child pens and a lolly stick to draw or write the name of their plant on.

This is a good thing to get into the habit of doing. When you’re growing more than one type of seed, you need to remember what’s in each pot! Plus, kids love to personalise their seed projects.

If it’s cool where you live, you might want to try a homemade plastic bottle cloche to keep the seeds warm.  

Step 4: Water the seed

Make sure the watering can has a rose attachment so you can gently water the newly potted seed. It’s best to help little kids. We had a few pot/seed casualties from over-enthusiastic watering! 

Give them a small amount of water each day, don’t let them dry out.

Step 5: Move your seedlings to a bigger pot

The first shoots should begin to appear in one to two weeks. When they are a few inches tall, move them to a bigger pot filled with multi-purpose compost. If you’ve made an egg cup planter, you can plant it straight into the soil, where it’ll break down.

Once the shoots grow tall, tie the stalks to sticks using soft string.

Now carry on growing green fingers with these 10 tips for Gardening with Children from Gardener’s World Magazine.