Add perennial sunflowers to your garden.

When you hear the word sunflower, you think of cheerful, familiar, large annual sunflowers. (Sunflower). These vibrant, happy flowers are annuals and are derived from seeds sown earlier in the season. You may not realize it, but these aren’t the only sunflowers that can light up your garden. There are also perennial sunflowers that come back every year and are wonderful plants and worth learning more about and growing some. In recent years, many new varieties have come on sale and some of them are quite charming. They are native to the United States and will brighten any dull spot in your garden. You’ve probably seen it growing along a country road in late summer to mid-fall.

There are also other types of sunflowers, which are true perennial sunflowers (Helianthus) And false sunflowers (Heliopsis helianthoides). Both are great in their native stage and there are some hybrid varieties worth growing as well. The flower tends to be smaller than an annual but the quantity and beauty of the flowers makes up for the size. These are some of the best pants for late summer.

Perennial sunflowers range from 2 to 10 feet in height and are drought tolerant and not fussy about their growing conditions. The dark green leaves create a striking contrast with the bright, mainly yellow flowers and attract a variety of pollinators. I will mention some of the people I know or have grown up with but there are also others you may have encountered.

Swamp sunflowers are native perennials and can be found from New York to Florida to Texas. Bog sunflowers are large, bright plants that share an affinity for sunlight. As their name suggests, bog sunflowers prefer moist soil and even thrive in clay or poorly drained soil. This makes swamp sunflowers an ideal choice for wet area, including swampy sites that remain waterlogged for long periods. They are large perennials that can reach 8 feet tall with showy, daisy-like yellow flowers from mid-to-late summer and into fall. You can prune these plants again in June to encourage branching or reduce their height. They will tolerate partial shade but flowers best in full sun. This plant is a favorite of pollinators and songbirds.

Another tall sunflower is the Michaelmas or Maximilian sunflower (Helianthus maximiliani) Which grows to a height of 3-10 feet. The leaves are long and narrow, up to 10 inches long near the bottom and as short as 2 inches near the top. They are rough and hairy, slightly wavy at the edges, often folded lengthwise, slightly serrated and very pointed. The flower head is up to 5 inches across, with 15-19 ray flowers, deeply veined and slightly serrated at the tip. The center is an inch or more wide, and green to dark brown in color. These perennials can form large colonies as well as produce heavy yields of seeds making them a valuable plant for wildlife. It was named after the naturalist Prince Maximilian of Neuwied, Germany, who led an expedition to the American West in the 1830s.

There are many other plants that I have seen or grown that are charming plants that suit small spaces. I can’t list them all but here are some worth growing to bring great color to your late summer garden. They are more manageable due to their size compared to the ones I mentioned above.

The perennial ‘Tuscan Sun’ sunflower may not only be sexy but it’s also charming. They are a clumping perennial with a shrubby habit that produces flowers on sturdy stems above beautiful green foliage. Its flowers are smaller than annual sunflowers, but the quantity and beauty of the flowers make up for the size. These are some of the best pants for late summer.

‘Lemon Queen’ (Helianthus), It is large, beautiful and free flowering. It will light up a late-summer garden and cover itself in 3-inch yellow blooms. This is tall and looks great at the back of my permanent border. ‘Lemon Queen’ is a naturally occurring American Midwestern favorite. In the spring, Helianthus “Lemon Queen” begins to ascend into the sky and only stops when it reaches 6 to 8 feet tall. In our garden, the sturdy stems are covered in broad, soft, conspicuous lemon-yellow flowers that are 2 inches wide in mid-August and last a long time. The clumping sunflowers at the back of the border are tolerant of wet or very dry conditions. Dry soil. This is a plant that will stand upright on the ground. It can be quite large so don’t plant it in front of the border.

Heliopsis helianthoides ‘Bleeding Hearts’ is a very beautiful plant although it defies the usual yellow color. It is long-flowering and has hot red flowers that then turn reddish-orange before turning bronze. The flowers on beautiful dark stems mature to mango orange and then warm autumn orange. It’s a statuesque beauty for the back of the border, growing to about 4 inches tall with dark purple foliage. ‘Bleeding Hearts’ produces an endless supply of flowers until October.

Although sunflowers are drought-tolerant, they are happiest and healthiest when they get regular watering. If you want to grow annual sunflowers, plant the seeds after the last chance of frost in the spring or early summer. If you decide to grow perennial sunflowers, people usually buy plants that you can plant in the fall or spring, and once established they will give you years of enjoyment.

Betty Montgomery is an accomplished gardener and the author of “Hydrangea: How to Grow, Plant, and Enjoy” and “The Southern Garden for Four Seasons.” She can be reached at

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