Probably my favorite native wildflower is Heliopsis helianthoides, a member of the sunflower family (Asteraceae). Pronounce it heal ee OP sis heal ee ann THOY dees, or you can call it ox-eye sunflower or just plain old Heliopsis. Its genus and species are both Greek in origin. Heliopsis means ‘sun-eye’, and helianthoides means ‘like a sunflower’. That’s a pretty good description as far as it goes, but there’s a lot more to this native perennial and it’s pretty much all good. Here in the panhandle, Heliopsis blooms its heart out from late spring until frost; and it’s tough and drought tolerant. In the middle of July and August when so many other plants in our yards look hot and tired—and so do we unless we’re enjoying our gardens through the window of an air conditioned room—Heliopsis is still beautiful and blooming with a profusion of bright yellow, daisy-like flowers. That’s not to say it would not eventually succumb given no water at all; it just lasts considerably longer than most. I should warn you however that Heliopsis is not the most impressive plant during that first year after you introduce it into your garden. It doesn’t look like much in the pot either. I cannot tell you how many customers I’ve practically bullied into purchasing it. Most of them come back for more though. Once Heliopsis has had a season or two to fill in, it’s just gorgeous.
Plant Heliopsis in full sun to part—although full sun is best for lots more flowers. It tolerates a wide range of soil types from moderately moist to dry, including nutrient poor soils. It’ll grow two to three feet in height and spread and fill in by rhizome. It’s mostly pest and disease free, although it’ll sometimes get aphids. In most cases, I wouldn’t bother to treat them. Heliopsis is tough enough to stand up to them, and having a few aphids around will help attract beneficial insects to your yard.
You can divide Heliopsis in the fall, after you have a good thick clump of it. Use it to fill in bare spots in your garden or pass some on to a friend. They’ll be glad you did and so will their bees and butterflies. Heliopsis is a great pollinator attractant. It also makes a great, long lasting cut flower.
So what’s not to love about Heliopsis! There are cultivated varieties available in the industry, but why bother when the original is such a winner just the way nature made it.
At Native Nurseries, we typically stock Heliopsis in 4” and 1-gallon pots. Currently we have 4" pots only. As always, give us a call to check availability before making a special trip (although we’re always happy to see you). Sorry . . . we do not ship plants.
Some information for this blog post came from the following sources –