native wildflowers

Heliopsis helianthoides

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 –

http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.370.1457&rep=rep1&type=pdf

https://extension.umd.edu/learn/featured-plants-heliopsis

Cut-leaf Rudbeckia

Native to North America, cut-leaf rudbeckia (Rudbeckia laciniata) is thriving in my perennial garden. Further north it’s an herbaceous perennial, but here in Tallahassee it is usually evergreen. This edible wildflower, most often found in flood plains and moist soil, shoots up rapidly in spring. The new foliage can be used as a salad green or steamed. This time of year it is 4 to 5’ tall with robust, glossy green foliage and flower buds showing. It won’t be long until it blooms profusely with beautiful, yellow-green coneflowers.

Give cut-leaf rudbeckia full to partial sun and regular waterings – it is not drought tolerant. It’s a great perennial to divide and share with friends, and it holds up well as a cut flower.  It’s a good one to add to your butterfly garden – quite pretty alongside red pentas.

My co-worker, Mary at the nursery, likes it even when it’s not blooming because its knee-high basal foliage is very attractive. She cuts the flower stems out at the base once it’s done blooming so it won’t reseed. Cut-leaf rudbeckia does spread, but I do not consider it to be overly aggressive.

At Native Nurseries, we typically stock Rudbeckia laciniata (cut-leaf rudbeckia) in quarts and 1-gallon pots. Currently we have quarts 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.

Senecio a/k/a Golden Ragwort

­­­­­­­If you’ve been noticing a lot of yellow, daisy-like flowers in shady gardens this last week or so, you’ve most likely been seeing Senecio a/k/a Golden Ragwort (Packera aurea). This native wildflower forms an evergreen, perennial groundcover in the right conditions. It’s often used in the sun up north, but our southern sun is too strong for it, so plant it in full to part shade here in the Tallahassee area. It likes moist soil, but also does well in normal garden conditions. For this reason, it’s a great choice for rain gardens. It’s also a good choice for attracting bees and makes a good cut flower, too! American Indians used the roots and foliage for a medicinal tea. The foliage is mildly toxic however, so we would not recommend you try it yourself. Senecio’s satiny, heart-shaped basal foliage grows to a height of eight inches. Its flower stems grow to two to three feet and produce clusters of golden-yellow flowers up to one inch in diameter. It spreads easily - by both root colonization and seed and will spread and fill in faster if you let it go to seed. It will also go through a messy stage if you do so. Plants expend a great deal of energy to create seed – energy taken from other processes such as foliar growth. For that reason, it will look a bit scruffy for a period of six to eight weeks after seed dispersal. I let it go to seed in my yard for the first few years after I planted it; but once it had formed a nice thick mass, I started cutting the flower stems at the base as soon as they were past their prime. If you do so, you will avoid that scruffy period.

Once it’s established, maintenance is easy. Keep Senecio watered during dry periods, and you may have to do a little pulling to keep it contained. That’s pretty much it, other than cutting those spent flower stems. The only pests that ever seem to bother it are leaf miners, but they are easy to control. When you see their tracks on the foliage, simply remove those leaves and throw them away. Leaf miners do lay eggs inside the leaf however, so be sure to throw them in the trash and not on the ground.

At Native Nurseries, we stock Senecio most of the year in quarts and 1-gallon pots. Currently we have quarts 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 –

http://www.wildflower.org/plants/result.php?id_plant=PAAU3

http://www.missouribotanicalgarden.org/PlantFinder/PlantFinderDetails.aspx?kempercode=l350

Post Date: 3/13/15