Add glorious late-season color to your landscape with helenium, a sun-loving perennial that delivers long-lasting floral displays each year from mid to late summer through fall. Use it in borders, cottage gardens, and naturalized areas. Native to both North America and Europe, this sun-loving plant is sometimes called sneezeweed (because it was once used for making snuff). Not to worry, allergy sufferers, helenium won’t make you sneeze, but it does bloom about the same time as wild ragweed, a major source of hay-fever-inducing pollen. Helenium is also a fantastic pollinator plant, drawing all kinds of butterflies and bees. Many of the best cultivars are hybrids, and all are excellent for cutting.
Helenium features bright-green foliage that contrasts beautifully with velvety, daisylike flowers in shades of orange, yellow, dark red, and golden brown. Most varieties feature flowers with petals in a stiff skirt that spreads out from the center. Others sport flowers with downward-facing petals in the manner of a shuttlecock.
Related: Best Orange Flowers for Your Garden
Helenium Care Must-Knows
Plant helenium in full sun (at least six hours a day) to promote long-lasting displays of color. Although some varieties tolerate afternoon shade, this plant typically becomes floppy and leggy in part-shade conditions. Helenium also needs well-drained, slightly acidic soil and moderate moisture, which makes sense because its native setting tends to be low-lying meadows or the edges of damp woodlands. Water at least weekly, increasing frequency in times of extreme heat. Although similar in looks to both black-eyed Susan and coneflowers, this plant does not share their ability to withstand droughts. It also dislikes boggy areas, so make sure the planting bed doesn't retain standing water.
Helenium grows quickly and will require frequent deadheading in order to produce new flowers and reduce its fondness for self-sowing. Some of the taller varieties may require support or staking to keep plants upright. Pinch deer-resistant helenium back in spring to make it shorter and bushier, possibly at the cost of delaying flowering. Once it blooms, cut the flower stalks down to the foliage. Divide helenium every three years in the spring after it comes out of dormancy to ensure vigor.
More Varieties of Helenium
Helenium 'Butterpat' grows to 4 feet or even taller with bright yellow ray flowers and a prominent yellow disc. Zones 4-8.
'Dakota Gold' Helenium
Helenium amarum 'Dakota Gold' is a super-easy annual with a bonanza of gold flowers and finely textured foliage. Zones 6-10
'Double Trouble' Helenium
This Helenium cultivar has frilly bright yellow flowers with double petals encircling gold button centers. It stands up to summer thunderstorms. Zones 4-8
'Mardi Gras' Helenium
This Helenium selection bears 2-inch daisies in rich orange washed with yellow and red. Its upright clumps may reach 3 feet tall. Zones 4-8
'Moerheim Beauty' Helenium
Helenium 'Moerheim Beauty' seldom tops 3 feet. Its coppery-red ray flowers surround a darker disc. Zones 4-8.
Helenium Companion Plants
Obedient plant is named for the way flowers that are moved to a new position on the stem stay in place, much to the delight of children. It produces showy, unusual flower spikes with little tubular flowers in white, pink, or purple. They're excellent as cut flowers. Square stems carry pairs of mid-green (sometimes variegated), lance-shaped foliage, toothed along the edges. Obedient plant tolerates most soils, but tends to become aggressive when given ample water and full sun. It tolerates most soils.
Daylilies are so easy to grow you'll often find them growing in ditches and fields, escapees from gardens. And yet they look so delicate, producing glorious trumpet-shape blooms in myriad colors. In fact, there are some 50,000 named hybrid cultivars in a range of flower sizes (the minis are very popular), forms, and plant heights. Some are fragrant. The flowers are borne on leafless stems. Although each bloom lasts but a single day, superior cultivars carry numerous buds on each scape so bloom time is long, especially if you deadhead daily. The strappy foliage may be evergreen or deciduous.
How can you not fall in love with a perennial that has regal blue spires? And monkshood is that plant. Relatively unknown, it deserves a lot more attention. It produces tall spikes of hooded purple, blue, white, or bicolor blooms in late summer to fall. When not in bloom, its mounds of coarsely lobed foliage look great, too. Plants grow best in partial shade, although in cool climates they will grow well in full sun. In dense shade, plants will become floppy. All parts of monkhood are poisonous. Monkshood dislikes hot weather, so it's usually not a great choice for gardeners in hot-summer climates.