FIRST IMPRESSIONS: Heliopsis helianthoides is an upright clumping perennial wildflower. The toothed leaves are opposite and oval or lance shaped. In summer, plants are adorned with terminal clusters of clear yellow 2-3” daisies. The flowers look like those of Helianthus spp. but they are held on stems above the foliage like those of Rudbeckia.spp. Plants thrive and form colonies in sunny or partly sunny sites with average or dry soil.
HABITAT & HARDINESS: Heliopsis helianthoides occurs in the southern Canadian provinces as far west as Saskatchewan. Plants are also widely distributed in the eastern United States 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 and disturbed roadsides or railroad rights of way.
Plants are hardy from USDA Zones 4-9.
PLANT DESCRIPTION: Heliopsis helianthoides is an erect or bushy perennial with sturdy glabrous or slightly pubescent stems.
The stems are clothed in pairs of opposite coarsely serrate leaves. The blades are sharply pointed and 2-5” long. They have slender petioles and a lanceolate or ovate shape.
Stems terminate in numerous 2-3” daisy-like heads that are displayed on slender stalks. The heads consist of 8-20 golden yellow ray florets surrounding a darker cone shaped cluster of disc flowers. The rays are oblong and slightly notched at the tip.
Blooming occurs through most of the summer and into early autumn. Clusters of dark colored achenes appear when flowering has finished. The achenes differ from those of their composite cousins in that they have no tufts of hair or significant scales.
Plants grow 3-5’ tall with 1-3’ spread.
CULTURAL & MAINTENANCE NEEDS: Heliopsis helianthoides is easily cultivated in sunny sites with well drained soils. Plants prosper in light shade and are often found growing at woodland’s edge.
This species tolerates some drought but thrives in heavy moist soils. Plants adapt to clays, shallow rocky soils and infertile soils.
In garden situations, spent blooms can be removed to extend the flowering season.
Heliopsis helianthoides is not noticeably rhizomatous but will self-sow. Seedling volunteers may be useful since plants are sometimes described as “short lived” perennials.
This species is pest resistant and unpalatable to deer and other herbivores.
LANDSCAPE USES: Heliopsis helianthoides is a useful Accent, Mass or Grouping for a Wildlife Garden or Meadow. Plants provide Showy Blooms and Erosion Control and are useful as Butterfly Nectar Plants or Cut Flowers. This species is appropriate for Cottage Gardens, Water-wise Landscapes, Low Maintenance Plantings, Perennial Borders, Roadsides and Shade Gardens.
COMPANION & UNDERSTUDY PLANTS: Try pairing Heliopsis helianthoides with Eupatorium coelestinum, Liatris spicata, Monarda fistulosa or Phlox paniculata.
Helianthus divaricatus could serve as a replacement in some naturalized areas. In garden situations, the cultivar Heliopsis helianthoides’Summer Nights’ would be a worthy substitute.
TRIVIA: The flowers are visited by honey bees, native bees, beneficial wasps, pollinating flies, butterflies, skippers and beetles. Seed is relished by songbirds.
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.
Sometimes called Oxeye, Smooth Oxeye or Oxeye Sunflower.
For more information on this plant, visit the USDA PLANTS Database: http://plants.usda.gov/java/profile?symbol=HEHE5