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Helenium

Sneezeweed
Asteraceae (Compositae)
Perennials, Flowers

Rather coarse-looking plants, but they are valuable for profuse late summer and autumn bloom. Numerous leafy stems yield great sheaves of daisylike, typically brown-centered blossoms with yellow, orange, red, or coppery rays. In many sneezeweeds, the ray flowers are reflexed. Trim off faded blossoms to encourage long bloom. Perform best in hot-summer areas.

Can survive an occasional missed irrigation but look better with regular moisture. Give good drainage. Need little fertilizer. Taller kinds require staking and are best in the back of borders. All need division and replanting every few years.

Helenium autumnale (photo courtesy of Annie’s Annuals & Perennials)
Helenium autumnale (photo courtesy of Annie’s Annuals & Perennials)

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Helenium autumnale

Native to much of North America. Grows to 5 ft. tall and 1 1/2 ft. wide. Yellow, 2-in.-wide flowers have reflexed rays. Most plants sold under this name are really hybrids; see Helenium hybrids.

Helenium hybrids
Helenium hybrids

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Helenium hybrids

Most types of sneezeweeds sold are hybrids—even if often sold as H. autumnale. Flowers are 2–3 in. across and come in shades of yellow, orange, red, rust, copper, and blends of these colors.

Tall types (4–5 ft. high and 2 ft. wide) include ‘Baudirektor Linne’, brownish red with a brown center; ‘Butterpat’, light yellow with a deeper yellow center; ‘Mardi Gras’, yellow splashed with red and orange, and a brown center; and ‘Waldtraut’, with coppery brown rays around a dark central disk.

Compact varieties (about 3 ft. high and 1 1/2 ft. wide) include ‘Coppelia’, copper orange with a brown disk; ‘Crimson Beauty’, dusky deep red with a brown disk; ‘Moerheim Beauty’, coppery red with a brown center; ‘Rubinzwerg’, rusty red with a yellow-and-brown center; and ‘Wyndley’, butter yellow with a yellow-brown central disk.

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