Plant of the Week: False Sunflower

Fiery skipper on false sunflower
Fiery skipper on False Sunflower

This week’s plant of the week is a long blooming, summer flower: false sunflower (Heliopsis helianthoides). This native, perennial wildflower has been cultivated by many nurseries. We have a selection of cultivars to choose from.

What more can I say about this perennial? It is a very long-blooming flower, opening in late may and June and often blooming until September. The native species reseeds easily and and can grow in many soil conditions. It is a great cut flower and the even the spent flowers hold their colors well as they dry.

Culture and Care

False sunflower grows native in prairies and prairie remnants across the Great Plains and Midwest. It grows best in full sun and well-drained soils.

I have not noticed any disease or pest issues with false sunflower or any of its cultivars. Powdery mildew could be an issue in wet, shady locations, but this is just a possibility, not confirmed.

Pollinator Benefits

A wide variety of bees, butterflies, and other pollinators visit false sunflowers. Because this native blooms for a long time ( from June to September), the potential for pollinator benefit is great.

Expect to see a lot of bees, flies, and moths visit these flowers.

Cultivars

‘Burning Hearts’ is one of the newest cultivars available. It has deep, almost red centers with bright orange ray petals. It grows 3 to 4 feet tall in a clump. The leaves are dark, nearly purple in color.

Burning Hearts heliopsis with Rozanne geranium
‘Burning Hearts’ false sunflower with ‘Rozanne’ Hardy Geranium

‘Tuscan Gold’ is a smaller variety (3 feet tall and wide), with bright yellow-gold flowers.

‘Sunstruck’ has variegated white and green foliage, but has never really taken off, as the foliage makes the plant appear sickly.

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