Why Are My Sunflower Seeds White?

Sunflowers are one of the brightest garden flowers to grow. Their beautiful dramatic heads have made them consistently popular for decades. There are over 70 different sunflower species which means there’s bound to be a sunflower just for you. However, when it comes to their seeds and collecting them from your homegrown blooms, you need a lot of patience, or you could end up without their telltale black and white seeds.

So why are my sunflower seeds white? White sunflower seeds are the result of being harvested too soon; they have not been given a chance to fully mature. Although, maturity can sometimes be interrupted by environmental conditions – some of which are entirely out of your control. Either way, white sunflower seeds are much less likely to grow if planted, although they can still be eaten.  

There are two types of sunflower seeds that are used commercially. 

The very recognizable black and white striped seeds, which are suitable to eat, and then sunflower seeds that have turned fully black – these are more commonly used for oil processing.

Either way, you don’t often see white sunflower seeds unless you are growing these plants yourself.

So if you are growing sunflowers and wish to harvest their seeds but you keep finding all white seeds in your harvest, read on to find out exactly why this is happening to you and how to avoid it in the future.

What Does It Mean If My Sunflower Seeds Are White?

If your sunflowers seeds are still white, it usually means that you harvested the seeds far too soon. Of course, nature is a fickle beast, and there are always anomalies. Sunflowers that are ready to be harvested can still bear white seeds, but this is more of an unfortunate event than anything you may have done while growing your sunflowers.

Sunflowers, like any other plant, have growing stages. 

Starting with the young seedlings, then the adolescent sunflower, the adult in-full-bloom sunflower, and finally the elderly sunflower. 

Are the stages really called this? Well, no, but it makes it easier to understand if you compare it to our life stages like human beings.

The only time you should harvest a sunflower for its seeds is when it reaches its ‘elderly’ stage. 

The signs to look out for to be sure your sunflower is prime for harvesting is once the petals have died back, the callax (the green back of a sunflower head) is no longer green, and the seeds are wiggly and loose. 

If you cut your sunflower too soon, not only will the seeds be difficult to remove from the head, but they will not be mature enough to do much with. 

When they are still immature, they are fully white.

The only thing you need to watch out for when leaving your sunflower seeds to fully ripen before harvesting them are the birds. 

Birds will not eat immature sunflower seeds. 

Yet, the minute they are ripe enough, they will see them as a free meal and quite happily help themselves.

What Is The Difference Between White And Black Sunflower Seeds?

The most obvious difference between a white and a black sunflower is their color. However, they also have different nutritional contents, and black sunflower seeds will always have bigger kernels than their younger white versions.

Although it is preferred to wait until your sunflower seeds turn blank before you harvest them, especially if you plan to eat them, you can still eat them when they are still white, but their nutritional content will be lower.

This also means that they are lower in calories too. So immature sunflowers could prove to be a good snack if you’re trying to be more weight conscious.

The kernels within a white shelled sunflower seed will also be much smaller than a black shelled sunflower seed. 

This is purely down to the length of time they have been given to grow. 

A black sunflower seed has been given the opportunity to mature fully and will grow a full-sized kernel. 

Whereas a white sunflower seed was picked much earlier in the sunflowers’ life cycle.

What Color Should Sunflower Seeds Be?

The color a sunflower should be depends on the phase of its development. If it’s a young seedling, it should be white; however, if it has been harvested or you are preparing them to eat, it should be black or at least black and white striped. 

Sunflower seeds come in three common colors – white, black & white striped, and fully black. 

The colors of sunflowers seeds will usually be a telltale sign for what stage of the flower’s life cycle it has currently reached. 

A sunflower with white seeds is still fairly immature, although it may be in full bloom and still have white seeds. This is common with all sunflower species.

The next two colors will vary depending on the species of sunflower that is being grown. 

Sunflowers that are grown purely for their oil content will have fully black seeds once the plant has reached full maturity and is ready to harvest. 

The Black Peredovik genus of sunflowers is a popular oil crop that produces fully black sunflower seeds. 

Although the flower itself looks very similar to the giant sunflower, we are all so accustomed to.

Sunflowers that produce seeds that are black with white stripes are either garden cultivated sunflowers that are grown for either just their beauty or for seed harvesting, or commercially grown sunflower crops that are grown for eating seeds.

Are White Sunflower Seeds Plantable?

It’s pretty unlikely that any immature, white sunflower seeds will be able to grow into a plant. However, that doesn’t mean you should not plant them and try. Just be prepared that your efforts may reap no rewards.

Most plants require fully matured seeds to grow more little plant babies, and sunflowers are no different. 

If you do find you have harvested your sunflowers too soon, there are still a few things you can do with them. We will give you a hint – they are all edible things you can do.

What Can I Do With White Sunflower Seeds?

Although your white sunflower seeds are too immature to grow more little sunflowers, you can use them for many different edible treats. 

You still have to remove them from their tough shell, but once that is done, you can do some fantastic things with them, such as:

  • Roasted with different herbs and spices
  • Eaten raw
  • Baked into bread or cakes
  • Sprinkled on salads or desserts
  • Use them in place of nuts in a pesto.

And that is just to name a few. 

The only differences between a white sunflower seed and a black one when you are eating them are that the white sunflower seed will have a slightly lighter taste, is lower in calories, lower in nutrition, and has a lower oil content than a mature black seed.


It can be a little concerning when you harvest your sunflower seeds and they are all white.

But once you become more accustomed to when a sunflower is ready to be harvested and can spot the signs, your risk of producing white sunflower seeds will be greatly reduced.