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How to Grow False Sunflower — Heliopsis

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Heliopsis — commonly called false sunflower or oxeye — bears yellow or orange daisy-like flowers from late summer to early fall. False sunflower is an upright medium-sized perennial with large lance-shaped leaves.

Heliopsis is a member of the aster family. Species members of the Heliopsis genus are native North American wildflowers. They bear sunflower-like flower heads with golden yellow ray florets or petals with darker yellow disk florets. There are about a dozen species in the genus.

Heliopsis are showy flowers that will stand out in mid summer to early autumn flower border.

False sunflower, Heliopsis helianthoides
False sunflower, Heliopsis helianthoides

Get to know Heliopsis

  • Plant type: Perennial
  • Growing Zones and range: Zones 4 to 9
  • Hardiness: Hardy to -30°F (-34°C)
  • Height and width: 3 to 6 feet (1-2m) tall; 1 to 2 feet wide
  • Foliage: Coarsley branched with ovate to lance-shaped leaves with toothed margins; plants are clump-forming
  • Flowers: Daisies in clouds of yellow and gold; bright orange-yellow flower heads are 3 inches wide or wider
  • Flower colors: Yellow, bright orange-yellow
  • Bloom time: Late summer to frost
  • Uses: Mixed borders; plant next to other plants False Sunflower can lean on; plant in groups
  • Common name: False sunflower, ox-eye
  • Botanical name: Heliopsis helianthoides
  • Family: Asteraceae
  • Origin: North America

Where to plant Heliopsis

  • Grow false sunflower in full sun.
  • Plant false sunflowers in humus-rich, moist, well-drained soil.

Heliopsis uses and companions

  • Use Heliopsis in beds and borders. Heliopsis combines well with ornamental grasses.
  • Good garden companions for Heliopsis include Anthemis, Aster, Chrysanthemum, Delphinium, Helenium, Hemerocallis, Sedum, Solidago.
False sunflower, Heliopsis
False sunflower, Heliopsis

When to plant Heliopsis

  • Set false sunflowers in the garden in spring.
  • Divide clumps in spring or fall and replant them immediately.
  • Start seed in spring.

Planting and spacing Heliopsis

  • Space false sunflowers 1 to 2 feet apart. Plant in groups so false sunflowers can support one another.
  • Sow seed 1/4 inch deep in well-prepared soil; seeds can be started indoors a few weeks before the last frost in spring.

How to water and feed Heliopsis

  • Keep the soil evenly moist.
  • Fertilize false sunflowers every 6 weeks with an all-purpose fertilizer or work a 9-month slow-release fertilizer into the soil early in spring.

Heliopsis care

  • False sunflowers lean so plant them next to a plant that can support them.
  • Trim spent flowers away to encourage more blooms.
  • Divide false sunflower every 2 to 4 years to keep the plant strong.
  • False sunflowers are susceptible to powdery mildew and rust.

Heliopsis propagation

  • Divide dormant crowns between late autumn and early spring.
  • Heliopsis seeds germinate in 21 to 28 days at 65° to 70°F (18
  • Divide dormant crowns between late autumn and early spring.
  • Heliopsis seeds germinate in 21 to 28 days at 65° to 70°F (18°-21°C).
  • Sow seeds in spring.

Heliopsis varieties to grow

  • Heliopsis helianthoides: upright yellow, daisy-like flowers up to 3 inches (7.5cm) across rise above lance-shaped green leaves to 6 inches (15cm) long. There are many cultivars with double and single flowers in gold and yellow, some with green centers; ‘Hohlspiegel’ has semi-double orange-yellow flowers and grows to 4 feet tall; ‘Goldgrunherz’ has semi-double flowers with lime-green centers and grows to 3 feet (1m); ‘Sommersonne’ has single yellow flowers and grows to 3 feet (1m) tall.

Written by Stephen Albert

Stephen Albert is a horticulturist, master gardener, and certified nurseryman who has taught at the University of California for more than 25 years. He holds graduate degrees from the University of California and the University of Iowa. His books include Vegetable Garden Grower’s Guide, Vegetable Garden Almanac & Planner, Tomato Grower’s Answer Book, and Kitchen Garden Grower’s Guide. His Vegetable Garden Grower’s Masterclass is available online. has more than 10 million visitors each year.

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