Heliopsis helianthoides.

(Oxeye or false sunflower, giizisobagoons)


Zone: 3 to 9

Soil: Sand to clay

Light: Full sun to part sun

Bloom colour: Yellow

Bloom period: Early to late summer

Height: 3 to 6 feet

Moisture: Dry to medium

Attracts: Bees, butterflies and goldfinches

Notes: Heliopsis helianthoides is both a fantastic garden plant and an attractive plant for wildlife. It is native to Ontario, New England and much of the mid-west. It is a fairly tough plant that blooms for most of the summer, producing a good cover of large yellow flowers.

Heliopsis looks like a sunflower, but it does not behave like one. It does not spread aggressively. The clumps will grow a little bit wider each year and you will find some seedlings growing elsewhere in your bed. It is easy to identify this plant as it starts blooming in June while a typical sunflower does not get going till August. In sunflowers, the lowest vein pair runs parallel to the midrib.

While the double flowers still attract a good share of bees such as the Megachile sp. shown, I would still plant the single flower cultivars. In this case, the cultivars are just as good as the native species in attracting pollinators. This plant may sometimes be plagued with red aphids (Uroleucon sp.). In these years most flowers will not form unless the aphids are mechanically removed. Goldfinches, ladybirds and lacewings will help to keep the aphids under control if given a chance.

Heliopsis helianthoides 'Loraine Sunshine" is a short cultivar with rather unusual variegated leaves that curl up. Its flowers are smaller than other cultivars, but it works well in rock gardens or low island beds where it can take the heat. It has single flowers, a long bloom time and it is attractive to bees just like the native species. Both 'Loraine Sunshine' and 'Tuscan Sun' would work out well in containers.

The species grows in a range of soils and is quite adaptable. It even tolerates dry sandy soils, but it may do better with some shade. In full sun, give this plant more moisture if you want the leaves to look their best. If you are looking to use a native plant in an ornamental bed, then Heliopsis is an outstanding choice. The straight species is widely available at native plant nurseries and due to its size, you should plant it at the back or in the middle of a large bed.

Single flowered heliopsis
Heliopsis helianthoides - The straight speces
Heliopsis helianthoides - The straight species
Double flowered heliopsis
Heliopsis loraine
Heliopsis 'loraine sunshine' is only about 2 feet high.
Heliopsis loraine with leaf cutter bee
Heliopsis 'loraine sunshine' with a leaf cutter bee
Uroleucon infesting Heliopsis
Uroleucon is a parasite of Heliopsis. If you look carefully, you can see the large aphid on top is in the process of giving birth to a live aphid nymph.
Heliopsis in meadows Heliopsis with swallowtail
Heliopsis can dominate woodland meadows in August. The melanic form of the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail on Heliopsis.