Growth Stages
Growth Stages of Sunflower
Sunflower in R.2 growth
The creation of a standardized growth stage scheme into vegetative and reproductive stages gives producers, scientists, and the industry a common basis to discuss plant development. Photos associated with each of the stages can be found in our Photo Library or by clicking on the link within each stage.

The total time required for development of a sunflower plant and the time between the various stages of development depends on the genetic background of the plant and growing season environment.

When determining the growth stage of a sunflower field, the average development of a large number of plants should be considered. This staging method can also be used for individual plants. The same system can be used for classifying either a single head or branched sunflower. In the case of branched sunflower, make determinations using only the main branch or head. In stages R-7 through R-9, use healthy, disease-free heads to determine plant development if possible, because some diseases can cause head discoloration.

Growth Stages

Vegetative Emergence
Seedling has emerged and the first leaf beyond the cotyledons is less than 4 cm long.
V (number) Vegetative Stages
(i.e. V-1, V-2, V-3, etc.)
These are determined by counting the number of true leaves at least 4 cm in length beginning as V-1, V-2, V-3, V-4, etc. If senescence of the lower leaves has occurred count leaf scars (excluding those where the cotyledons were attached) to determine the proper stage.
R-1 Reproductive Stages The terminal bud forms a miniature floral head rather than a cluster of leaves. When viewed from directly above the immature bracts form a many-pointed star-like appearance.
R-2 The immature bud elongates 0.5 to 2.0 cm above the nearest leaf attached to the stem. Disregard leaves attached directly to the back of the bud.
R-3 The immature bud elongates more than 2.0 cm above the nearest leaf.
R-4 The inflorescence begins to open. When viewed from directly above immature ray flowers are visible.
R-5 (decimal)
(i.e. R-5.1, R-5.2, R-5.3, R-5.4, R-5.5 through R-5.9, etc.)
This stage is the beginning of flowering. The stage can be divided into substages dependent upon the percent of the head area (disk flowers) that has completed or is in flowering. Ex. R-5.3 (30%), R-5.8 (80%) etc.
R-6 Flowering is complete and the ray flowers are wilting.
R-7 The back of the head has started to turn a pale yellow color.
R-8 The back of the head is yellow but the bracts remain green.
R-9 The bracts become yellow and brown. This stage is regarded as physiological
From Schneiter, A.A., and J.F. Miller. 1981. Description of Sunflower Growth Stages. Crop Sci. 21:901-903.

Note: The above information is excerpted from the NDSU Sunflower Production handbook, EB-25.
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