Are you curious about how to grow sunflower microgreens at home? Let’s dive into the world of growing sunflower microgreens (a complete guide without soil) so that you can start growing your own.
Sunflower microgreens are so fun to grow! And you can harvest them in about 10-14 days.
Add them to salads, sandwiches, smoothies, sushi, rice paper rolls and as a garnish to many savoury dishes.
This simple guide provides answers to some of the most often-asked questions about growing sunflower microgreens, from selecting the right seeds, the type of container to use, and my step-by-step process for growing them at home without soil.
Are you curious about sprouting? If so, then do check out my sprouting series on the blog here to get more familiar with it all.
My other current sprouting recipes include: How to grow broccoli sprouts, how to sprout quinoa, sunflower sprouts, sprouting buckwheat, how to sprout chickpeas, sprouting adzuki beans and how to sprout lentils.
- Sprouting Series
- What are sunflower microgreens?
- What do they taste like?
- How long do they take to grow?
- Are they easy to grow?
- Buying the right sunflower seeds for microgreens
- Can I grow them without soil?
- Why grow without soil?
- What can I use instead of soil?
- What container can I grow them in?
- Seed planting density
- Step by Step Instructions (with images)
- How do I prepare sunflower microgreens?
- How do you get the hulls off?
- How to avoid floppy sunflower shoots
- What can I do with them?
- Do I have to grow them in the dark?
- Common problems
- Food safety
- 💬 Comments
I love growing sprouts and microgreens regularly in my kitchen at home, so I thought it might be nice to share my growing tips with you.
Hopefully, you'll love growing them as much as I do! 😃
It’s easily one of my favourite things to do in the kitchen and takes very little time each day, so they're totally worth the effort.
What are sunflower microgreens?
Sunflower microgreens (also known as sunflower shoots, sunflower greens and sunnies) are the tiny green shoots of sunflower plants that have grown past sprouting to the next stage.
They’re often harvested at about 6-8 inches tall.
Plant growing stages:
🌱 Seeds -> Sprouts -> Microgreens -> Baby leaf greens -> 🌻 Fully mature plants
What do they taste like?
Sunflower microgreens have a crisp, slightly nutty, naturally fresh, sweet flavour and are delicious served in salads, wraps, rice paper rolls and soups.
How long do they take to grow?
Sunflower shoots take 10-14 days to grow, depending on their environment. They naturally grow faster in warmer weather.
Are they easy to grow?
They're easy and rewarding to grow, especially as you can grow them without soil. They’re good microgreens for beginners, too.
The seeds and shoots are pretty large compared to the smaller ones like broccoli and alfalfa seeds, so you get a good amount of sunflower microgreens each time you grow.
Buying the right sunflower seeds for microgreens
I find that the best seeds to buy are organic black sunflower seeds (black oil sunflower seeds) produced specifically for growing microgreens.
If you can’t find the right seeds in your high street stores, search online at Whole Foods stores and look for specialist microgreens stores near you.
Just note that the seeds’ black outer casings are tough and shouldn’t be eaten. They do mostly fall away during the growing process, so you can discard them as you go along.
I don’t recommend buying sunflower seeds that are packaged for feeding birds and wildlife, as these can be treated differently than seeds produced for human consumption.
Can I grow them without soil?
Yes, you can grow sunflower microgreens without soil. I prefer to use a microgreen growing mat instead. You can find these online.
Some people like to grow them in coconut coir. It's down to your own personal preference as our circumstances and growing environments differ.
Why grow without soil?
I grow sunflower microgreens without soil because I find the process easier and cleaner this way. Soil is heavy to lug about and messy in our small kitchen.
I recommend you trying to grow them both with soil and without, if you can, to find out which way suits you best.
What can I use instead of soil?
> Microgreen growing mats
I love these! They're my absolute favourite way to grow micro's. You can also use them to grow smaller seed microgreens like alfalfa, clover and broccoli etc.
They come in various materials, including hemp and jute, which are also compostable (check individual packets for confirmation).
You literally just need to cut a growing sheet to size and water it before adding the seeds.
Spread the seeds evenly across the growing sheet and spray them daily to keep them moist and prevent them from drying out.
> Coconut Coir
Significantly lighter to carry than soil and more compact, coconut coir expands when watered and makes a fabulous soil alternative.
Unlike soil, it's much lighter to carry around, which is a HUGE plus.
Water the coir well before adding your pre-soaked seeds, but don’t oversoak it. Lightly cover the seeds with a little more coir and keep them moist by spraying every 8-12 hours so they don't dry out.
Some people like to grow sunflower microgreens in a 10x20 growing tray with no growing medium at all, just by watering.
Give it a go. Why not?
What container can I grow them in?
I can recommend starting with a seed growing tray or a ceramic/glass dish to begin with. Something that's a couple of inches deep.
I use a 6x8-inch glass dish 2 inches deep, which is quite small. Great if you're starting out too.
If you're going to buy a seed tray, 10x20-inch shallow seed trays are really popular. I have one of the green trays with a white inner tray that you find online, and it's fab. Does a great job!
Do look for seed trays with two layers: an inner layer with holes to drain excess water and help with airflow, plus an outer tray without holes to hold it all in.
Seed planting density
You often find seed density instructions on the seed packets themselves. However, with some, including sunflower seeds, I use this fab seed density chart Microgreen Seeding Density Calculator - JSCalc.io
See the recipe card below for the exact quantities I used.
Step by Step Instructions (with images)
- Soak. Add sunflower seeds to a jar and soak in water for 8-12 hours, overnight works well. This is the only time your seeds should sit in water.
- Rinse and drain seeds. Rinse the seeds well and drain them using a strainer. Repeat this every 8-12 hours until they start to germinate. Watch the tiny cream shoots appear in 3-4 days.
- Add seeds to a growing mat and tray. Wet the growing mat before adding it to the tray or dish that you're using. Spread the sunflower seeds evenly across the top.
- Cover the seeds. Cover the seeds to block out the light while they start to grow. Add some weight to help them to grow nice and strong. Here I cover the seeds with parchment, then add a lid and a tin can.
- Keep seeds moist. Mist the seeds with a light spray of water every morning and evening to prevent them from drying out or developing mould.
- Expose to sunlight. When your sunflower greens are about an inch tall, remove the weight and lid, then place near direct sunlight to grow and photosynthesize.
- Water twice daily. Check your sunflower shoots morning and evening and water lightly. At this point, the roots will have started to grow through the growing mat so I switch to watering them from under the mat. Leave for a few minutes to soak up what they need, then drain the water off so that they're not sitting in it all day.
- Harvest at the right time. In about 10-14 days, your sunflower microgreens will be ready to harvest by snipping them at the base of the stem with a pair of scissors. Give them a rinse and allow them to dry for a few minutes on some kitchen towel before using.
Step 1. Soak seeds
Step 2. Rinse and drain seeds.
Step 3. Add seeds to a growing mat and tray.
Step 4. Cover the seeds and add a weight.
Step 5. Keep seeds moist by watering twice daily.
Step 6. Expose to sunlight after a few days when they're growing.
Step 7. Water your microgreens twice each day.
Step 8. Harvest sunflower shoots when ready, day's 10-14.
How do I prepare sunflower microgreens?
Snip them with scissors just above the mat, at the stem base, once they’ve grown to the size you want. Then, rinse with a strainer or colander and leave them to dry for a few minutes on some paper towel before using.
Once the stems have been cut, they won’t regrow.
Store sunflower microgreens in a lidded container in the fridge on top of a piece of kitchen paper. They’re best used within five days. Give them a quick rinse before use.
You’ll need to keep your sunflower seeds moist but not too wet, otherwise they’ll develop mould. If this does happen, discard them and start again.
How do you get the hulls off?
As your sunflower microgreens begin to grow, some of their black outer shells will fall off.
To help this process along, all you need to do is pick up the tray and, holding it at a slight angle, brush your hand lightly across the top of the greens a couple of times. Some of the hulls should fall off.
If you do this daily, most hulls should have fallen off by the time they’re ready to harvest. 😀
At the end of your growing, remove any that are still there as you can’t eat the hulls.
How to avoid floppy sunflower shoots
If you find that your sunflower shoots grow floppy, there are a couple of things that you can do to help.
> Are they getting enough light? Sunflowers are attracted to the sunlight, which helps them grow nice and strong. Place them in direct sunlight for at least six hours daily. If that’s tricky, then consider buying a set of grow lights to do the job.
> Apply some weight. Another thing you can do is to place some weight on top of them while they’re in the initial stages of growth.
After watering the seeds, place an inverted lid over them and add something heavy, such on top (I use tin cans). This will push down on the seeds/shoots as they grow and help them to be more robust.
Once the shoots are an inch or more tall, remove the cans and place them in direct light or somewhere bright to continue growing.
What can I do with them?
Like most microgreens, you can add them to smoothies, salads and more. I love using them in wraps, rice paper rolls, raw vegan sushi and to garnish soup.
Do I have to grow them in the dark?
It’s popular to keep them in the dark during the first few days, by covering them with an inverted seed tray lid or a kitchen cloth, but it’s not essential.
If you don't have a tray lid that fits, it's easy to improvise. I use a flat like a lid borrowed from something else.
The best thing to do is to try growing them both with and without a covering to see how they respond in their environment. There's no hard and fast rule, as experiences do vary.
Like with growing any microgreens, there are a few common problems to be aware of that will be helpful to you along the way.
- Mould and fungus: This can be caused by overwatering, poor ventilation and overcrowding of seeds.
- Damping off: This fungal disease can affect young seedlings, causing them to wilt and die. Ensuring everything is clean, that there is sufficient air circulation and avoiding overwatering can help.
- Leggy growth: This sometimes happens if the seeds are spaced too closely together, and the greens aren’t exposed to enough light.
- Poor germination: This can happen with older or poor quality seeds and if the seeds aren’t soaked for long enough.
- Uneven growth: This is quite common and can be helped with more consistent exposure to light and watering.
- Overcrowding: Planting too many seeds closely together in the tray can cause overcrowding and mould.
Sunflower microgreens are filled with plant-based protein, fibre, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants (source).
Sunflower microgreens are edible and can be enjoyed raw. However, the UK Food Standards Agency recommends people in vulnerable groups always cook any sprouts until steaming hot all the way through before eating them.
They’re commonly eaten in salads, wraps, smoothies, sandwiches and as a garnish for their mild nutty, sweet flavour and crisp texture.
In this guide, we’ve explored how to grow sunflower microgreens without soil. I'd love to know how you get on if you decide to give them a try. Feel free to comment below to let me know how it went. 🙂 Thank you!
Looking for other recipes like this? Try these:
Sunflower Microgreens (Complete Guide without Soil)
- Glass jar with a lid for soaking seeds
- 6x8-inch Growing tray or dish plus lid
- Growing mat cut to size
- Spray bottle
- weight, such as a tin can
- 24 g Black sunflower seeds
- Soak sunflower seeds. Add sunflower seeds to a jar and top with plenty of water. Allow them to soak for 8-12 hours or overnight. This is the only time the seeds should sit in water.
- Rinse and drain. Rinse and drain the seeds well using a strainer. Do this every 8-12 hours (twice daily) until they start to germinate in 3-4 days.
- Add seeds to a growing tray. Wet the growing mat, squeeze excess water out and place it inside the tray or dish. Now spread the seeds evenly across the top of the growing mat. See notes for
- Cover. Cover the tray with an inverted lid and add something heavy on top to weigh them down while they start to grow, during the first few days. I use a tin. For larger trays use more than one tin or maybe a brick.
- Keep seeds moist. Mist lightly with water twice each day (morning and evening) to keep them moist, being careful not to over wet.
- Expose to sunlight. Once they have germinated and the sprouts are about an inch tall, remove the lid. Place the tray somewhere bright so they can grow tall, strong and to photosynthesize.
- Water twice daily. Check the sunflower microgreens daily, morning and evening, and water them lightly. See notes below.
- Harvest when ready. You can harvest the sunflower microgreens from a few inches tall, typically after 10-14 days. By this time they may be 6-8 inches tall. Using a pair of scissors, snip them above the mat. Rinse and lightly dry on paper towel before use.
WateringAs the roots begin to grow under the mat, I like to then add water to the bottom of the tray. Leave them for a minute or two so that the roots can soak up what they need, then tipping the tray at one end, drain all the water out from the tray. This is important so that the microgreens are not sitting in water.
StoringStore your sunflower microgreens in a suitable container in the fridge for up to 5 days.
GrowingFor standard 10x20-inch growing trays I use 60g of black sunflower seeds. Check your seed supplier or use an online seed growing calculator for exact details to match the size of your container.
The UK Food Standards Agency recommends people in vulnerable groups always cook any sprouts until steaming hot all the way through before eating them.
This is because sprouts sometimes contain bacteria, which some people may be susceptible to. Vulnerable groups include the elderly, young children, those with a weakened immune system, and pregnant women.
Never eat sprouts or microgreens that look or smell bad or weird. If you're unsure, then throw them out and start again.
Not all seeds or beans are suitable for sprouting or eating raw. Please be sure to check first.
Check the FSA website for more details.