Looking just a bit like sunflowers, heleniums, or sneezeweed, are bright and cheerful perennials in shades of gold, rust, orange, and red. They flower in the fall with huge masses of two-inch blooms on branched stems three to five feet tall. They have a common name, swamp sunflower, which is not surprising. They are more often called sneezeweed because the inconspicuous green leaves were once commonly used to make snuff. Although native to North America, they were not popular in gardens here until European breeders worked with them.
How to grow: Sneezeweeds like moist, very rich soil and a location in full sun. Set the plants two or more feet apart. Stake taller types. To keep tall types neater, cut them back very hard around July 4. They will branch out and bloom on shorter, bushier stems. Deadhead plants after blooms have started to fade.
Propagation: By division in early spring and from seed.
Uses: Experiment with dwarf forms in the front of the garden border and in pots, but use the tall, standard types toward the back of perennial borders and in mass plantings. They are long-lasting cut flowers.
Scientific name: Helenium autumnale