At the farthest reaches of a garden bed is the bloom of the Maximilian sunflower: This small yellow daisy perches at the top of a gray-green stalk so tall it nods over your head when you stop to take a look. Helianthus maximiliani is a plains wildflower so determinedly skyward (reaching 10 feet tall if conditions are right) that other plants seem to be in humble orbit around it. If your yard needs a living screen that thrives in dry, hot conditions, or a tall beauty that blooms in late summer when other flowers are gasping, add Maximilian sunflower to your garden galaxy.
Common name: Maximilian Sunflower, Michaelmas daisy
Botanical name: Helianthus maximiliani
Plant type: Perennial
Zones: 4 to 9
Height: To 10 feet
· Sun: Full sun
· Soil: Well-drained soil, average to poor.
· Moisture: Medium to dry
· Mulch: Mulch to preserve moisture in the soil.
· Pruning: None needed.
· Fertilizer: None needed.
· By seed or by division
Pests and diseases
· Vulnerable to leaf spots, powdery mildew, downy mildew, and rust.
· Common pests include cutworms, caterpillars, and beetles.
· H. maximiliani attracts birds and butterflies.
· May need staking unless grown with other tall plants.
· Use Maximilian sunflower in cottage gardens, prairie settings, or meadows. Good as a screen or to colonize a large dry area.
· H. maximiliani is an aggressive plant. It self-seeds readily and also spreads by underground rhizome.
· Blooms are 2 to 3 inches across and may have a faint chocolate scent. Gray-green leaves are long and narrow.
· None available.
All in the family
· The genus Helianthus includes both perennial and annual sunflowers. If you have annual sunflowers in your garden, they’re most likely cultivars of H. annuus.
· Other perennial Helianthus species native to the United States include swamp sunflower (H. angustifolius), dark-eyed sunflower (H. atrorubens), and ashy sunflower (H. mollis).
(Text by Elizabeth Noll, photo of Helianthus maximiliani courtesy of Missouri Botanical Garden’s Kemper Center for Home Gardening)