With its bright, warm flower colors, the sneezeweed provides a summer highlight in the garden.
Profile of sneezeweed:
Scientific name: Helenium
Plant family: daisy family (Asteraceae)
Other names: Helen’s flower, dogtooth daisy
Sowing time: from February on the windowsill
Planting time: autumn and spring
Flowering period: July to September
Soil quality: loamy, nutrient rich, humus rich
These information are for temperate climate!
Use in: flowerbeds, flower bouquets, group planting, planters, rose companion, cottage garden, flower garden, prairie garden, rose garden, potted garden
Winter hardiness: hardy, USDA Plant Hardiness Zones: 6 (-20 °C / -5 °F)
Bee and insect friendly: Yes
Plant characteristics and classification of sneezeweed
Plant order, origin and occurrence of sneezeweed
The Sun Bride (Helenium) owes its botanical name to Carl von Linné, who was reminded of a sun by the shape of the blossom and therefore took the name from the Greek sun god Helios. Thus the name Helenium was created.
Altogether, about 40 species belong to this genus, some of which are also annual or biennial. Most of the plants, however, which all belong to the daisy family (Asteraceae), are counted among the group of perennials, which means they are herbaceous and perennial. From a horticultural point of view, the numerous hybrids are particularly interesting, in addition to the species orange sneezeweed (Helenium hoopesii) and common sneezeweed (Helenium autumnale).
Characteristics of sneezeweed
No matter what shining color the sneezeweed bloom in, what they all have in common is that the flowers sit on upright stems, which sometimes grow simply, sometimes densely branched. The height of growth varies from variety to variety: The smallest ones only grow about 60 centimeters (24 in) high, but among the late-flowering varieties there are also varieties that reach heights of up to 150 centimeters (60 in).
The leaves are alternate, lanceolate, slightly toothed and sit numerously on the stem.
The main flowering time of the sneezeweed is between June and October. The flowers come in many shades of yellow, red, orange and reddish-brown; often also multicolored. The flowering time is from July to September, depending on the variety. Thanks to their striking flower colors, sneezeweed are often visited by bees.
Sneezeweed – cultivation and care
Its name leaves no doubt where the sneezeweed feels comfortable. Therefore, plant the flower in a full sunny to sunny location. The perennial wants to be warm and protected from the wind, so that wind does not destroy the beautiful picture.
The soil should be nutrient-rich, humusy and fresh and moist.
Sneezeweeds can be planted in both autumn and spring. But if you bring your plant into the ground already in autumn, it will have an advantage, because it already develops roots until the first frost and sprouts vigorously in spring. This time of planting is also rewarded with a richer flowering than you would have had if you had planted it in spring. Important: In the first year the new plant must be watered regularly. Higher varieties can be given more stability with a perennial support and prevent them from falling over. A planting distance of about 50 to 60 % of the height of the variety should be kept.
If the flower is under stress from summer drought, this means the immediate end of the flower’s splendor. Water sneezeweed regularly and abundantly without causing waterlogging. Ideally, the summer flower should receive water directly at the roots and not receive water on the leaves or flowers.
If you regularly apply fertilizer in the spring, like compost or horn shavings, you will not only promote flower formation, but also ensure that the plants are less prone to disease.
On these occasions, you cut the sneezeweed correctly:
- In May/June, prune the shoots for bushy growth and a vital abundance of flowers
- Clean out withered stems during the flowering period to make room for a second flowering
- Cut in the early morning as a decorative vase decoration
If regular pruning seems too time-consuming to you, cut off the wilted flower pile by a third in one go in July. This will allow the flowers to continue flowering until autumn. Cutting back close to the ground can be done in either October/November or February/March.
Every two to three years you should divide your sunbride to rejuvenate the perennial. This will allow you to propagate simultaneously. A regular division is especially important on poorer sandy soils, where the perennials age very quickly.
If you wish to have more specimens for your garden, there are two methods of propagation to choose from.
- Division of the rootstock in spring or autumn
- Harvesting the seeds in autumn and sowing them from February on the windowsill
However, seedling propagation by means of self-harvested seeds has the drawback that the resulting young plants only bloom for the first time after 2-3 years.
Diseases and pests
The new shoots of sneezeweed are popular with snails. Occasionally they can be infested by powdery mildew, leaf spot diseases or viruses. Sick plants should be cut back vigorously as soon as they are halfway withered. In case of virus infestation, it is best to remove the whole perennial from the bed.
In mild climates, the sneezeweed can cope with winter without any explicit precautions to be taken. If the bed is located in a rough region, the following protective measures are recommended:
- Leave the leaves on the perennial until early spring
- Cover the plant with leaves and coniferous brushwood
- Wrap bucket with foil or jute and place on wood
The greatest danger of winter is not frosty temperatures, but drought stress. If there is no snow during the frost, you need to water on mild days.
Use in the garden
Sneezeweeds are especially often combined with perennials, for example phlox, asters or delphinium. However, because of their origin in the North American prairies, they also fit perfectly into the prairie garden, where they compete with coneflower (Rudbeckia), bee balm (Monarda) or goldenrod (Solidago). Brown and copper-red varieties provide a nice contrast to yellow flowering perennials such as goldenrod, calliopsis (Coreopsis) or ornamental grasses, while yellow flowering and flamed varieties add color to the bed with blue flowering perennials. But it is not only in the bed that sneezeweed cut a good figure; they are also excellent cut flowers.
Beware: the leaves can cause skin irritation for sensitive people. It is therefore best to wear gloves when cutting.