Botanical: Heliopsis helianthoides
Common: Oxeye Sunflower, False Sunflower, Rough Heliopsis, Hardy Zinnia or Orange Sunflower
Family: Asteraceae/Compositae (aster/daisy Family)
General Characteristics: Oxeye Sunflower' is a large perennial growing up to 5 ft tall from a heavy fibrous rootstock. The thin 3-6" dark green leaves have a sandpapery surfaces (both above and below) and toothed margins. They grow on short petioles, usually in opposite pairs, but sometimes, arranged in whorls of three. From midsummer into fall, the plants bear 2-3" flowers scattered singly atop loosely branched tall bare stems. The ragged daisy-like blossoms are composed of 10-16 pointed yellow ray flowers and numerous orange disc flowers, which mature into smooth 4-angled seeds.
'Oxeye Sunflower' in native to North America, from New Mexico east into South Carolina and north into southern Canada. Oxeye sunflower was originally a species of tall grass prairies and savannas. It is now most commonly encountered in prairie remnants, woodland edges, open or rocky woods, and along old roads and railroads. It may grow at elevations up to 7,000 ft.
Tip: Left to its own devices, 'Oxeye Sunflower' reseeds abundantly. It can easily be kept under control by autumn deadheading since it does not spread from rhizomes. Heliopsis is easy to grow from seed. Sow the seeds outdoors about two weeks before the last frost. To produce transplants, start them in a greenhouse six to eight weeks before last frost. At 68-70ºF (20-21º C), the seeds will germinate in 1-2 weeks. Be sure to keep the young plants evenly moist. To propagate oxeye sunflowers vegetatively, take cuttings from non-flowering shoots in the summer or divide the clumps while they are dormant. New plants can be potted up in the fall and set out in the spring.
Use: Oxeye Sunflowers' are usually grown in casual borders, cottage gardens, rock gardens, and similar informal situations. They are also very useful in prairie restorations and wildflower meadows. The leaves of this species have been employed in folk remedies, such as honey-sweetened teas for loosening lung congestion or reducing fever. The stems have been used to treat malaria. Great cut flower, too.