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Growing Guide: Sorghum

A row of green stalks with large green leaves and small yellow and brown flowers on their tops

How to Grow Sorghum

Sorghum is grown for beer-making, syrup production, and for their edible grains. Some varieties of sorghum, such as broom corn, are used for crafts.

Time of Planting

Sorghum is a heat-loving plant. It grows best in climates with long summers. Many gardeners do not direct sow their sorghum until mid-May or even early June.

Spacing Requirements

Direct-sow sorghum seeds ¼” deep 8-12” apart.

Common Pests and Diseases

Protect your sorghum crop from predation by birds by covering maturing seed heads with bags or pieces of row cover.

When and How to Harvest for Food Consumption

Harvest sorghum grain when the seeds can no longer be dented with a fingernail. Cane sorghum should be harvested before the first frost by cutting down stalks with hedge trimmers or a very sharp knife.


Sorghum has numerous uses in the kitchen. Sorghum seeds can be cooked as a grain and enjoyed in dishes that call for brown rice or barley. The seeds can be popped like popcorn. Sorghum flour is also used in breads and other baked dishes. Some varieties of sorghum were bred for their stalks, or canes, which produce a sugary liquid. This liquid can be pressed and boiled down to produce sorghum syrup.

How to Save Sorghum Seeds

Life Cycle


Recommended Isolation Distance

When saving seeds from sorghum, separate varieties by 100-200 feet.

Recommended Population Sizes

You only need to plant one sorghum plant in order to harvest viable seeds. To maintain a variety over many generations, save seeds from between 10- 25 plants.

Assessing Seed Maturity

Sorghum seeds are best harvested when they feel dry and resist denting when you press them with a fingernail.

Cleaning and Processing

Seeds are easily threshed by rubbing seed heads by hand or by stripping the seed stalks. The seeds may still be inclosed in their casings, or glumes, after threshing, but this does not impact saving and storing seeds. Seeds can then be screened and winnowed.

Storage and Viability

When stored in cool, dark, and dry conditions, sorghum seeds will remain viable for 10 years.

Instructional Video

How to press sorghum and make syrup

Steffen Mirsky, former evaluation and trials manager at Seed Savers Exchange, walks you through pressing sorghum and making syrup in this video from the resilience garden video series.