On this page
Heliopsis (Heliopsis helianthoides var. scabra), aka oxeye sunflowers, false sunflowers
This is one versatile plant, taking a variety of soils, while yielding rich yellow flowers that are excellent for cutting and long-lasting in the vase. Wonderful for pollinators, especially butterflies, Heliopsis also supports many beneficial insects for your garden.
Not a true sunflower, but in the aster family (Asteraceae), Heliopsis flowers are a rich yellow daisy, up to 3 in. wide. It blooms early in the season and with deadheading they’ll bloom longer. Here in northern California, it blooms in early summer, providing a rare strong yellow color for late spring to early summer bouquets. In other areas it may not bloom till mid-summer.
The single Heliopsis flowers have all of their center discs exposed, and one attractive feature of these is that a ring of some pistils (I think?) are tall, upright, and dark. They give the flower a nice added dotted touch.
USDA Zones: 4-9
Full sun to part shade
Heliopsis is an herbaceous perennial that grows to 2 ½ – 3 ½ ft. tall with a bushy form, and with attractive, dark green foliage. Its leaves are quilted and are nice if left on the stem to add greenery to a bouquet.
Growing the Plants
It grows in a wide variety of conditions and soils from water edges to meadows to hot, dry sites, and tolerating average to clay soils. In dry conditions, give it deep soakings every few weeks so it doesn’t dry out too much.
If it’s watered too much, or in a high water situation, it may get too tall and flop over. To prevent this, you may cut back the stems halfway in the early stages of its growth and before any buds form. This will encourage thicker, bushier, shorter growth. Or simply stake the stems up.
As mentioned earlier, deadhead the flowers to keep the bloom going longer. But also, these plants are strong self-sowers! So when you’re done cutting the flowers, like when your other yellow flowers are taking your attention, you may want to let the seeds develop because the birds will like them. But keep in mind that there will be many seedlings next year, which is really great if you want more plants.
These are said to be deer resistant. I have no first-hand experience with these, and, of course, it depends on your deer and other factors. But since the species is a wild meadow flower, it’s well worth a try. The plant is native to North American prairies and meadows, so deer may be eating only the young plants in the wild.
Plants in several varieties are available for purchase. The plant forms a clump and can be divided after a few years. But they are also very easy to start by seed. Or you can buy one plant and let it go to seed, and you’ll end up with lots of plants.
Stems on Heliopsis are nice and long, and thin but pretty strong. Remove the lower leaves and either leave the upper ones on to add greenery to the arrangement or remove them.
Since this flower has a center disc, the outer rings of anthers opens first. Pick the flowers just before or as these open for best vase life. If they get ahead of you, the pollinators will enjoy them, but deadhead them before they set seed!
Cut fairly low on the stem, where there is a node but no buds have formed. (Remember, that will make the next set of flowers have nice long stems.)
‘Summer Sun’ is a semi-double daisy-like flower with a rich golden yellow color. Many of these may end up being singles if they self-sow in your garden.
‘Tuscan Gold’ is the only one I can find that is what I think is the simplest and prettiest flower for cutting. It’s a single flower and I think it’s the most elegant one…for a daisy even! So this one is my favorite.
‘Bleeding Hearts’ is the next one I will be trying. It has a single flower that starts with an orangey-red fading to a warm orange…and all on black stems with dark purple foliage! It gets 3-4 ft. tall! Best in full sun.
How Many Plants
One to three plants would be plenty to start with.