Hardiness zone range
4 - 9
Heliopsis have bold heads of golden, daisy-like flowers carried on stiff stems from mid summer into autumn, and sometimes lasting until the arrival of frost.
They look a little like sunflowers (hence the common name); however, they are shorter, the flowers are smaller, and are produced with such profusion that they cover the whole plant and, of course, they are perennial.
They are vigorous, easy to grow plants that are seldom troubled by any serious pests or diseases. These factors combine to take them right to the top of the list when considering the most dependable garden plants.
Great in beds or borders where the big, bright, golden-yellow flowers can be used with effect. They are often placed along with other perennials or in mixed plantings with shrubs.
They make excellent, long lasting cut flowers; the strong stems prominently display the flowers and make them easy to arrange. They should be cut early in the morning, when the first flowers are beginning to open, and conditioned by standing in deep water for a few hours in a cool place before arranging.
Well known for their ease of culture, they will grow in all soils except waterlogged ones. It is worth incorporating extra organic matter (compost, peat, etc.) at planting time, and then mulching the beds upon completion. They are tolerant of drought and poor soils, but will respond handsomely when conditions are improved.
They are strong growers, and, when the clumps begin to become congested (after about 3 years), it is a good idea to lift and divide them. This helps to keep them strong and vigorous.
The origins of the botanical and common names come from the Greek words helios (the sun) and opsis meaning resemblance to, referring to the flower heads looking like the sun. There are about 10-12 different species, all native to North America. One of these, Heliopsis scrabra, was introduced to Europe in 1824. It took over 100 years for it to be recognized as a good garden plant, and it was not until the rise in popularity of the great perennial borders that gardeners and nurserymen began selecting and breeding cultivars.
A few of these early selections are still in cultivation today (a testament to their staying power), but most have been superseded by ones that were introduced around the middle of the last century. Most influential was the work of the famous German nurseryman and plant breeder, Karl Foerster (1874-1970). He recognized the potential in this species and started to hybridize and select them. His objectives were to introduce plants that were fully hardy, pest and disease resistant, non-invasive, and easy to maintain, so it is not surprising that he choose to work on Heliopsis. He introduced his best hybrids in the late 1940's and 1950's. They quickly gained recognition, were widely planted, and, even today over 50 years later, they still play an important part in garden layouts on both sides of the Atlantic.
If you enjoy growing your own cut flowers, set aside an area as a cutting garden and plant some Heliopsis. They will reward you with many bunches of long stemmed bouquets for years.
They blend nicely with the rich, coppery-bronze tones of Heleniums, and the warm yellow, red, and amber shades of Hemerocallis (Daylilies) are good choices. Hemerocallis `Magic Mandarin', `Sombrero Way' or `Lusty Leyland' are a few that work well and give good vertical emphasis with their foliage and large flowers. Grasses provide the similar architectural contrasts, and for lower growing, foreground planting, try the white Aster 'Snow Flurry' and the pale lemony yellow of Coreopsis `Moonbeam'.