FIRST IMPRESSIONS: Heliopsis helianthoides ‘Summer Nights’ is an upright clumping perennial. This cultivar has red tinged oval or lance shaped toothed leaves. In summer, plants are crowned with golden 2-3” daisies. Each flower has a striking mahogany colored center and is displayed on a long maroon colored stem. This colorful selection prospers in sunny or partly sunny sites with average or moist soil.
HABITAT & HARDINESS: The parent species Heliopsis helianthoides occurs in the southern Canadian provinces as far west as Saskatchewan. Plants are also widely distributed in the eastern United States and as far west as North Dakota and New Mexico.
Habitats include open woods, woodland borders and clearings, thickets, grassy meadows, savannas, limestone glades, tallgrass prairies, Blackland prairies, stream banks, roadsides, railroad rights of way and other disturbed sites.
This cultivar was selected by Dale Hendricks of North Creek Nursery and introduced in 2004 by Jelitto Seed.
Plants are hardy from USDA Zones 4-9.
PLANT DESCRIPTION: Heliopsis helianthoides ‘Summer Nights’ is an erect bushy perennial with sturdy red tinted stems. Plants form robust clumps but are not aggressive or invasive.
Stems are clothed in pairs of opposite coarsely serrate leaves. The blades are sharply pointed and have slender petioles and a lanceolate or ovate shape. Foliage is red tinged especially when young.
In summer plants are topped by numerous golden daisies held on long wine red stalks. Each flower head consists of a whorl of glowing ray florets surrounding a burnished orange-red cone of disc florets.
Blooming continues through most of the summer and into early autumn. Clusters of dark colored achenes appear when flowering has finished.
Plants grow 3-4’ tall with 2-3’ spread.
CULTURAL & MAINTENANCE NEEDS: Heliopsis helianthoides ‘Summer Nights’ is easily cultivated in sunny sites with well drained moist fertile soils.
Plants tolerate light shade and drought. They are sturdy and seldom need staking.
In woodland gardens, it may be necessary to cut stems back by half in early summer to promote bushier growth and stronger stems. Spent blooms can be removed to extend the flowering season and discourage self seeding.
This cultivar is pest resistant and unpalatable to deer and other herbivores.
LANDSCAPE USES: Heliopsis helianthoides ‘Summer Nights’ is a colorful Accent or Butterfly Nectar Plant for a Wildlife Garden or Meadow. Plants provide Showy Blooms which are valued as long lasting Cut Flowers. This species can be planted in Masses or Groupings in Cottage Gardens, Water-wise Landscapes, Low Maintenance Plantings, Perennial Borders and Shade Gardens.
COMPANION & UNDERSTUDY PLANTS: Try pairing Heliopsis helianthoides ‘Summer Nights’ with Agastache ‘Blue Fortune’, Liatris spicata, Monarda didyma ‘Jacob Cline’ or Phlox paniculata ‘David’.
The parent species would be a worthy substitute if this cultivar is not available.
TRIVIA: The flowers are visited by honey bees, native bees, beneficial wasps, pollinating flies, butterflies, skippers and beetles.
Both disc and ray florets of Heliopsis helianthoides are fertile and capable of producing seed. Most other composites like Rudbeckia spp. and Helianthus spp. have sterile ray florets and seed producing disc florets. Siphiium spp., however, has fertile ray florets and sterile disc florets.
Other common names include Oxeye, Smooth Oxeye or Oxeye Sunflower.