Originally appeared National Garden Bureau
Feelin’ Sunny: Make These Sunflower DIY Projects Now!
From crafts to cooking to kids’ parties, try these bright ideas for sunflower DIY projects.
Cheery, bright sunflowers: they’re the perfect plant to entice pollinators, add garden drama (the good kind, that is!), lure little ones to play among the towering stalks, and brighten celebrations with brilliant, charming blooms. If you’re not growing sunflowers…well, why AREN’T you growing sunflowers? After all, it’s the Year of the Sunflower, and you should join the sunflower craze! Our Year of the Sunflower article gives tips on what types of sunflowers to grow and basic how-to-grow information.
Once you’ve grown your favorite varieties, take a look at these fun Sunflower DIY projects that will make your whole family adore these sunny blooms, whether they enjoy tasty treats, dress up, bird watching, or just enjoying pretty blooms.
Taste the Sunny Goodness of Sunflowers
Birds and other wildlife love sunflower seeds—but so do we! Do you know that you can expand your sunflower menu to include more than just salty seed snacks? Add healthy, nutritional (shelled) sunflower seeds to your favorite bread recipes, try them in muffins, sprinkle them in desserts, or add them to pasta, salads, veggies, and egg dishes. Naturally, they’re also the perfect addition to trail mix.
But how do you know when your sunflower seeds are ready—and how do you harvest them?
- First, make sure your sunflowers are pollinated. You’ll see seeds starting to form.
- Cover the flower heads with a lightweight fabric, like tulle or a tightly woven mesh bag, to let the airflow in—but keep the birds and critters out! Secure the fabric or bag tightly at the base of the flower head.
- When the petals wilt and the back of the flower head is dry and brown, it’s time to harvest the seeds.
- Cut the flower heads and hang them in a cool, dry place inside for about four weeks.
- When the flower head is completely dry, it’s time to harvest the seeds. Remove the hanging flower heads, and place a container under them. Pull the heads apart to release the seeds, using your fingers to pop them out of the flower head.
- Store seeds in an air-tight container in a cool, dry place, or place them in the refrigerator or freezer.
Roasted Sunflower Seeds
Recipe from NGB Member Botanical Interests
- Spread sunflower seeds in a single layer on a cookie sheet or shallow pan.
- Roast in a 300-degree oven for 30 or 40 minutes until golden. Stir the seeds occasionally.
- Seeds develop a small crack down the center as they roast. Taste a few seeds to make sure they are completely roasted.
- Want to add some fun flavors to your sunflower seeds? Mix a teaspoon of melted butter with a cup of seeds while they are still warm from the oven, then sprinkle the seeds with your favorite seasoning, like barbeque, taco, or ranch. Yum!
Salted Seeds in the Shell
Recipe from NGB Member Botanical Interests
- Soak seeds overnight in salted water (1/4 to ½ cup salt in 2 quarts of water).
- Drain and pat seeds dry with paper towels.
- Roast as instructed above.
Do you know that not only are the seeds edible, but so are the flower petals and buds? Use the pretty petals to add a burst of brightness to salads, or decorate your favorite desserts with a bit of beauty! If you love the taste of artichokes, try cooking homegrown sunflower buds for a garden-to-table treat.
DIY Sunflower Oil
Sunflower oil is a staple in many kitchens. It’s a great ingredient in salad dressings, a terrific option for frying foods, and even makes perfectly preserved veggies. But sunflower oil is also used in homemade beauty products, an ideal ingredient that softens skin and moisturizes hair.
Guess what? You can extract the goodness of sunflower oil from your homegrown flowers! Here’s how:
- Start with black sunflower oilseed. These seeds produce almost double the amount of sunflower oil compared to other types. Grow the seeds according to directions on the packet, and harvest the seeds when mature.
- Peel the seeds and make sure they’re free from debris.
- Using a blender or food processor, blend the seeds into a smooth paste. You’ll see some traces of oil mixed with the paste.
- Add 2 tbsp. water to the paste and blend. Continue to add 1-2 tbsp. of water and blend until more oil emerges and the paste thickens. (Don’t add too much water, as the paste will become sticky.)
- Place the paste into a bowl and massage it with your hands until oil flows out easily.
- Scoop a small portion of the paste into your hands, and squeeze the oil into a second, clean bowl. Repeat until all the oil has been extracted.
- Sieve the oil to remove impurities.
- Pour oil into an air-tight container and store in the refrigerator for up to a month.
Homegrown Sunflower DIY Bird Feeder
Creating a cute bird feeder with homegrown sunflowers makes a great project for kids—with a little adult help. While you can easily just let your mature sunflowers stay in the garden to feed the birds (and squirrels), this grapevine wreath bird feeder makes a pretty, practical way to feed your feathered friends where you can see them up close. Hang it on a shepherd’s hook near a window or a porch overhang, and watch the birds flock to it for a snack!
What You’ll Need:
- Grapevine wreath (homemade or from the craft store)
- Spatter screen (same diameter as the wreath)
- Florist wire
- Jute or twine for hanging
- Sunflower seed heads (optional: additional bird favorites, like zinnia, echinacea, or black-eyed Susan seed heads)
- Harvested sunflower seeds
- Shepherd’s hook or porch hook for hanging
- Cut 4, 6-inch lengths of florist wire.
- Insert the ends of the wire into the splatter screen, making a “U” shape, with the open ends of the wire facing up. You’ll use these to attach the grapevine wreath. Imagine a clock face, and place the wire at 12, 3, 6, and 9.
- Loop the wire ends into the bottom of the grapevine wreath. Twist the wire ends to tightly attach the wreath to the screen so there are no gaps between the screen and wreath.
- Cut 4, 12-inch long pieces of jute or twine. Tie each piece of twine to the top of the wreath securely, again at 12, 3, 6, and 9 positions. Gather the four top ends above the center of the feeder and tie the ends together securely. Make sure the top knot is centered so the feeder hangs straight.
- Tuck the sunflower heads into the grapevine wreath, both for decoration and bird snacks. You may want to use additional floral wire to secure the flower heads to the wreath to avoid squirrel thievery!
- Hang the feeder where you can enjoy the view.
- Add harvested sunflower seeds to the feeder. The splatter screen holds the bird food, while also allowing rainwater to drain quickly.
- Sit back and watch wildlife enjoy your pretty flowers and scrumptious seeds!
Sunflower Crown Dress-Up
Who doesn’t adore a sunflower crown? Kids and kids-at-heart love the fairy-like feeling of wearing flowers in their hair. (Just look at the resurgence of bridal flower crowns!) Celebrate special summer memories by proclaiming a floral fashion show, and create your own fabulous floral sunflower crown. Sunflower crowns are really cute party favors to make, wear, and then send home.
Here’s how to create sunflower crowns:
What You’ll Need:
- Thick craft wire. Look for wire that’s covered in moss for a comfy, pretty base.
- Thin floral craft wire.
- A dozen sunflower heads. Smaller sunflower varieties work best, especially for kids’ crowns. (The actual number of flowers needed depends on the size of the crown, as well as the size of the flower heads.)
- Optional: ribbon to wrap and embellish the crown.
- Optional: additional greenery or flower varieties for filler.
- Gather sunflowers and remove stems at the base of the bloom.
- Measure the wearer’s head, and cut the thick craft wire to size, adding 2 to 3 inches of additional length for twisting the ends together.
- Shape the wire into a circle and twist ends to secure. Try on the crown base and adjust for a perfect fit before adding flowers.
- Cut 12, 4-inch sections of the thin floral craft wire.
- For each flower head, take one of the thin wires, form it into a “U” shade, and thread each end of the wire through the center of the flower so that the ends exit behind the flower head. Attach the flower to the crown base by wrapping the floral wire around the base, twisting the ends together, and tucking the wire ends behind the blooms so they don’t poke the wearer.
- Repeat for each flower head, spacing the blooms so that they slightly overlap.
- Add optional greenery or additional flowers, attaching them with floral wire to the crown.
- If you like, carefully wrap ribbon around the crown base to cover the wires and add embellishment. You may want to add several long pieces of ribbon in the back of the crown for decoration.
- Crown your fairy prince or princess with their very own Sunflower Crown and let the garden games begin!
How to enjoy cut sunflowers –
- Start a clean ceramic container (or anything opaque)
- Cut a piece of chicken wire about 1 inch larger than your container
- Gently squeeze chicken wire to fit into the container securely at the top of the container
- Fill with clean water about 3/4 full
- Cut different lengths of SunBelievable™ blossoms at an angle 1 to 3 inches above the rim of the container
- Remove the leaves below the waterline before placing them in your container
- For a natural feel, use odd numbers and place them around the vase in small irregular triangles.
- Cut some natural greenery from your yard, such as mint, basil, rosemary for a fresh twist.
- Look for different textures, sizes, and colors of leaves to make your arrangement more interesting.
- Add in something unexpected such as Billy Balls (Craspedia)
- Keep the arrangement fresh by changing out the water every 2 to 3 days.
Sunflower DIY Houses
Have you seen adorable sunflower houses on Pinterest? Check out the article “How to Plant a Sunflower House” that NGB member KidsGardening.org shared with us, and you’ll be ready to make a happy sunflower hideout. We guarantee that you’ll win the “cool grownup award” when you make this for your favorite small people.
Are you ready to join the sunflower celebration?
We’d love to see what DIY projects you create with your sunny blooms! Tag your sunflower photos with #yearofthesunflower, @national_garden_bureau on Instagram, or @nationalgardenbureau on Facebook.
We can’t wait to see what you create!
“This post is provided as an educational/inspirational service of the National Garden Bureau and our members. Please credit and link to National Garden Bureau and author member when using all or parts of this article.”