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October Gold Blooming Native Sunflowers for Your Garden

Updated on October 9, 2018
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Yvonne writes about and photographs the flora and fauna of Louisiana, sharing knowledge she learned through study and personal experience.

There are many native Helianthus that brighten the roadsides in autumn.
There are many native Helianthus that brighten the roadsides in autumn. | Source

Helianthus for Halloween

Just in time for Halloween, October brings bright yellow wild sunflowers that paint the native landscape in the bold colors of fall.

Many species of this large group of native plants grow prolifically in the wild and several types are suitable for natural areas in your garden. The bonus is that the flowers and seeds will attract song birds and beautiful butterflies to your yard.

Come join us in a virtual October celebration of the natural landscape with pictures and plenty of information about these golden petaled beauties. Most of the photos seen here were taken by the author.

Swamp Sunflowers and Aminatia Mushrooms

Swamp sunflowers and Amanita mushrooms grow in the same habitat and make a lovely Halloween display.
Swamp sunflowers and Amanita mushrooms grow in the same habitat and make a lovely Halloween display. | Source

Gardening with Native Plants of the South

Gardening with Native Plants of the South
Gardening with Native Plants of the South

My all time favorite and one of the best books on how to garden with native plant for the southern region. It has good illustrations and excellent descriptions and growing tips.

 

The sunflower family is the largest family of native wildflowers in Louisiana. Most of the bright gold and yellow flowers erupt in a mass of color in October at about the same time as the Amanita mushrooms pop up in the woodlands. This witch enjoys gathering photos of both.

The blooms and seeds of these hardy native plants attract many different kinds of wildlife including birds, butterflies and other pollinators. Most can be propagated by seed and / or by dividing the rhizomes.

Some of our favorites include:

Narrow-leaved Sunflowers

  • Swamp Sunflower (Helianthus angustifolius)
  • Muck Sunflower (H. simulans) believed to be a hybrid of H. angustifolius and H. maximilianii.

Large Leaved Native Sunflowers

  • Paleleaf-Woodland Sunflower (Helianthus strumosus)
  • Ashy Sunflower (Helianthus mollis)

Butterfly on Wild Sunflower Bud

A Gulf Fritillary butterfly sits on a swamp sunflower bud.
A Gulf Fritillary butterfly sits on a swamp sunflower bud. | Source

Music from Sunflower

Listen to the music of Henry Manchini as you peruse the lens.

Native Sunflower Poll

Do you use native sunflowers in the landscape?

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Narrow-leaved Sunflowers

Swamp Sunflower with Goldenrod
Swamp Sunflower with Goldenrod | Source

Narrow-leaved Sunflower Seeds

Narrow-Leaved Sunflower (Helianthus angustifolius), 380 Certified Pure Live Seed, True Native Seed
Narrow-Leaved Sunflower (Helianthus angustifolius), 380 Certified Pure Live Seed, True Native Seed

Narrow leaved sunflowers are easy to grow and make quite a statement in the autumn wildflower garden. I have them growing in the back of beds and around the pond. Just be sure to give them plenty of room to spread.

 

Narrow-leaved Sunflowers

The several varieties of narrow-leaved sunflowers are large, robust beauties that blanket the fields and roadsides in fall. If you have a large garden or a natural setting, you'll want to include one or more of these sunflowers. In Louisiana, Swamp and Narrow-leaved sunflowers will put on a show in October, right before Halloween.

H. angustifolius (Swamp or Narrow-leaf) hybridizes freely with H. floridanus and other Helianthus. Muck Sunflower, (H. simulans) is believed by some to be a hybrid of H. angustifolius and H. maximilianii Muck blooms later than the others and has a wider leaf. It is more robust than H. angustifolius and can grow up to 8 feet tall here in Louisiana. The large clusters of yellow flowers with up to 23 petals (rays) and purple to yellow centers (disk flowers) often bend to the ground with the weight while in full flower.

Narrow-leaved Sunflower, Swamp Sunflower (H. angustifolius) is one of the most common fall blooming wild perennials in the Gulf Coastal region. It is characterized by exceptionally narrow leaves and will grow to 6 feet tall from spreading rhizomes. As with the other sunflowers, there is much variability.

The yellow flowers occur in large clusters and have up to 21 petals (rays) that surround a purplish red (rarely yellow) center (disk flower). Blooming occurs from August to December with the most flowers in October. Plants grow in moist to wet roadsides, ditches, flat woods, bogs and fields throughout the region.

Large Leaved Native Sunflowers

Woodland Native Sunflower
Woodland Native Sunflower | Source

There are several large, oval leaved native sunflowers that will brighten up any fall garden, but identification of each can be difficult. Here are a few of the more attractive ones that we grow in our garden.

Pale-leaf-Woodland Sunflower

Helianthus strumosus

This 6 foot tall showy perennial grows along roadsides, woods and in open places throughout the Gulf Coast region. Attractive heads of yellow flowers bloom from June to September. The plants are robust and hardy and will grow in weedy, disturbed or sandy soils in the pine hills.

Ashy Sunflower

H. mollis

A perennial herb growing up to 8 feet tall from creeping rhizomes. Large golden yellow flowers bloom from June to September in prairie and pine land areas in Louisiana, Texas and Mississippi.

Ashy Sunflower

Ashy sunflower will grow in harsh conditions and blooms in late summer.
Ashy sunflower will grow in harsh conditions and blooms in late summer. | Source

How to Grow Native Sunflowers

Sunflower Helianthus and Bumblebee

Native sunflowers are important pollinator plants especially for native bees, honeybees and butterflies.
Native sunflowers are important pollinator plants especially for native bees, honeybees and butterflies. | Source

All of these Helianthus are easy to grow perennials. Some, like H. angustifolius, prefer moist soil. They need plenty of room and will spread by underground rhizomes and by seed.

They do well in the back of a perennial border or in naturalistic settings.

To make a bushier, shorter clump, prune back before July 4th.

Wildlife Uses of Helianthus Species

A Gulf Fritillary on Spent Swamp Sunflowers. In winter these pods provide food for small songbirds.
A Gulf Fritillary on Spent Swamp Sunflowers. In winter these pods provide food for small songbirds. | Source

What Uses Wild Sunflowers?

The flowers are visited by butterflies and other insect pollinators. Even though the yellow petals (rays) have died, the small flowers which are located in the center part, are still full of nectar. These tiny flowers are what attract butterflies and other pollinators. Song birds and rodents, including Goldfinches, Mourning Doves, Bobwhite, House finch, Meadowlark, White-breasted Nuthatch, native Sparrows and wood mouse eat the seeds.

Bumblebee on Sunflower

Bumblebees are one of the native bees which pollinate our fruits and vegetables.
Bumblebees are one of the native bees which pollinate our fruits and vegetables. | Source

Spider on Sunflower

This type of crab spider lives on a stand of woodland sunflowers.
This type of crab spider lives on a stand of woodland sunflowers. | Source

© 2010 Yvonne L B

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    • profile image

      faheemjamal 

      6 years ago

      Reveal the sentiment of Florist all of the life's big times and little delights.

      This is great resource will help through the many options florist thanks you for sharing.

    • callinsky lm profile image

      callinsky lm 

      8 years ago

      I love wildflowers, especially Helianthus Sunflowers. They are just so happy. You have taken such beautiful photos, too. You definitely have a photographers eye. Simply beautiful.

    • bconnor11 profile image

      bconnor11 

      8 years ago

      This is a beautifully done lens plus all the pictures are terrific!

    • profile image

      bdkz 

      8 years ago

      Congratulations! You've been SquidBoo Blasted. Happy Halloween!

    • aka-rms profile image

      Robin S 

      8 years ago from USA

      These flowers are stunning!

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