The cause for the differences in germination ability of large and small confection sunflower (Helianthus annuus L.) seeds was investigated over 3 years. The source-sink relationship was manipulated to better explore the differences between seeds of various sizes and to study the role of the embryo and the pericarp (hull) in controlling germination ability. Percent germination of large seeds was significantly lower than that of small seeds when tests were performed at 15 °C. Increasing the ratio of leaf area to number of developing seeds caused an increase in mean seed mass, but resulted in a lower percentage of germination. Seed vigor, as measured by mean time to germination or to emergence of hulled seeds or by rate of root elongation, was negatively correlated with embryo mass, indicating that the low vigor of large seeds is not due to the mechanical barrier imposed by the hull. Analysis of electrolyte leakage confirmed the hypothesis that the low quality of large seeds results from a disturbance during the process of seed development.