Germination, emergence and seedling growth are considerably restricted by salinity. The study aimed to compare safflower with sunflower during germination and seedling growth for tolerance to salinity. Four safflower cultivars (Asol, Balci, Linas and Olas) and sunflower hybrids (Esbella, Oliva, Cartago and C-180) were subjected to various NaCl levels (control, 5, 10 and 15 dS m(-1)) and their seedling growth and ion concentration were investigated. Classification for salinity tolerance was performed by a combination of Principal Component (PCA) and Cluster Analysis considering germination percentage (GP), mean germination time (MGT), vigor index (VI), Na+ and Na:K ratio in seedlings. The results elicited that genotypes exhibited varying responses to salinity, MGT significantly prolonged and a dramatic reduction in seedling growth of sunflower was observed. The highest seedling fresh weight was observed in Esbella among sunflower and Asol among safflower and, Na+ concentration of seedlings increased with increasing calinity levels. The safflower seedlings absorbed a higher Na+ than that of sunflower. Safflower cv. Balm had the highest Na+ concentration in seedling and it maintains its ion balance (Na:K ratio) at all levels of NaCl. Cluster analysis revealed that there were two groups for salinity tolerance, and the safflower cultivars were apparently more salt-tolerant than sunflower hybrids.