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Heliopsis (hee-lee-OP-sis)

Common Name:  False sunflower

Light:  - Full sun to part sun

Soil:  Average to loamy, moist but well-drained

Moisture:  Average, drought tolerant

Blooms:  Midsummer into fall

Zones: 3 - 9


Heliopsis Loraine Sunshine
Heliopsis 'Loraine Sunshine' PP#10690

Heliopsis 'Prairie Sunset' PP#13379

Heliopsis Description and Cultural Information

Heliopsis helianthoides, false sunflower. (2 - 5') The false sunflowers are a wonderful, summer blooming daisy native to grassy prairies. They get their name from the greek sun god, Helios, and helianthoides literally means "helianthus (sunflower) like". They tend to be bushy plants with triangular leaves and stout stems that carry bright yellow flowers with golden yellow centers. In the wild they will be found in dry grasslands, along roads and rocky areas, or at the edge of wooded areas.

The variety 'Loraine Sunshine', PP#10690, is a Blooms of Bresshingham introduction with unique white foliage with strong green veins. 'Summer Sun' has semi-double, golden-yellow flowers. 'Asahi' is a compact variety with fully double, button-like flowers. 'Prairie Sunset' has golden-yellow flowers with a dark, reddish eye and purple stems. The variety 'Prairie Nights' is a seed grown strain from 'Prairie Sunset' that has highly variable colors from plant to plant in that sometimes the stems and flowers are tinted purple to maroon while others are simply green with yellow flowers. Most varieties are hardy in zones 3 to 9 although 'Loraine Sunshine' is not as heat tolerant as most.

How to Grow:  Heliopsis are fairly drought tolerant and easy to grow. They prefer full sun to part sun in moist but well-drained soil with average to low fertility. If the soil is too rich or if it is too shady then plants tend to get too leggy and heavy and spend their time flopped over at the peak of bloom. If flopping becomes a problem you can stake them or better yet consider cutting them back hard in late spring to encourage a more compact, bushy plant. This may cause them to bloom a little later but they will usually stand up better this way.

Self-sown seedlings are fairly common and the seedlings from 'Loraine Sunshine' are surprisingly often true to type with the same variegated foliage. Plants can be divided in spring or fall as needed for propagation or to control their size. They also root out easily from stem cuttings.

The only other occasional problems with Heliopsis is a tendency to get powdery mildew and aphids. Good soil and occasional moisture can help with mildew but a preventive spray of fungicide in mid and late summer is highly recommended. Aphids should be treated with insecticides to keep the plants healthy.

Landscape uses:  Yellow false sunflowers combine very nicely with purples and blues such as Platycodon (balloon flowers), Liatris (gayfeather), Veronica (speedwell), Vernonia (ironweed), Campanula (bellflower), Geranium (cranesbill), or tall garden phlox. Or you can really make a really bold statement by combining them with red, orange, or hot pink shades of plants such as daylilies, lilies, phlox, Gaillardia (blanketflower), or Crocosmia.

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