Helenium (hel-EE-nee-um) or Helen’s Flower is the namesake of a royal queen, and when you see how beautiful this flower is, you’ll understand why. The intricate golden banding that surrounds the dark edges of Helenium’s center disk resembles the golden headdress and armbands worn by the women of Hellenistic ancient Greece. Thus the common name, Helen’s Flower. Indeed, Helen of Troy herself would have found this royal display of color and beauty worthy of her name.
Helenium, the Late-Bloomer
Helenium could be called a late bloomer in more ways than one. First, it blooms late-season and second, it is nondescript until its blooms turn it into a raging beauty. Helenium’s job in the garden is to welcome fall with its glorious autumn colors of bronze, russet, orange, gold and yellows, or a combination of them all. This gorgeous plant stays hidden until its strong stems reach their full thirty-inch height, which assures their flower colors are visible so they can set the garden on fire.
History of Helenium
Originally, this plant started out as a North American native perennial that thrived in the Eastern bogs and moist meadows as far north as Canada and was called sneezeweed. It was dried to control hay fever and cause sneezing to rid the body of evil spirits. It was also used as snuff. Those tall, gangly, early wildflowers were duds compared with the lavishly splashed colors of today’s cultivars.
‘Autumnale’ a seed-grown variety. It is a hardy zone-three perennial and is the best helenium for growing in the higher elevation gardens of the Rocky Mountains. Yellow and gold blooms are more prevalent on ‘Autumnale.’
Growing perennials in arid climates like the west is a challenge because Helenium is a water-loving plant. Helen’s Plant grows fine but stays shorter and stockier and doesn’t require staking in western gardens. Hold off on fertilization for that will increase the height and the floppiness. In wetter gardens like those near the east coast, Helen’s Plant will have a tendency to really spread, but in drier climates, It stays put and is very well-behaved.
The best method of propagating helenium is by an early spring division for it rarely reseeds. Dig and split the root ball. Replant these in a swath and plan on a huge drift of fall colors because divided Helen’s Flower will bloom the first year for a good ten weeks. Any perennial that is long-blooming also makes a superb cut flower.
Helenium is attractive with other fall blooming perennials, especially the blue Russian sage shown above. its native origins have given it deer resistance and immunity to pests, so add Helenium to your perennial garden for an easy care, long-blooming plant that will light up a fall garden.