Sunday, March 25, 2012

Helianthus salicifolius, Willow-leaf Sunflower

Helianthus salicifolius, 
 Willow-leaf Sunflower (Asteraceae Family)
This perennial occurs naturally in limestone prairies from Nebraska to Colorado, south to Missouri, Arkansas, Oklahoma and Texas. It is a tough and hardy plant, flowering brilliantly in autumn with characteristic canary yellow sunflowers on tall stems to about 1.5 metres. I planted mine at the base of a Dracena draco and the bright flowers are a good contrast to the strappy blue-grey leaves of the Dracena. Before it comes into flower this Helianthus forms a rather scruffy clump of drooping leaves which is not very appealing, so a foreground planting of the earlier flowering Gaura helps to hide it somewhat. The drab foliage also makes it a less saleable nursery plant and getting such a tall plant to flower in a pot is also difficult. There are dwarf compact forms available but I have not come across any. The plant spreads by underground runners and will probably form a clump about a metre across. It can be divided after flowering or in spring in cold climates.

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