The Plant Native

False Sunflower

Highlights

As you can imagine by the name, False Sunflowers offer bright yellow blooms towards the end of summer. They are originally prairie flowers, known for their ability to thrive in full sun. In our gardens, they are easy to grow and drought-tolerant when established. Native False Sunflowers can get tall—4-6 feet!—but cultivars offer shorter options. Scroll below to find out more about these sunny garden gems.

Planting False Sunflower against railings, fences, or buildings is a great way to give them structure (and attract pollinators!)

Dig Deeper

Explore the history, types, and where to plant native False Sunflower

Table of Contents

False Sunflowers have a funny, somewhat accusatory common name—who says the flowers are trying to be false?! No matter what you call these flowers, they are pollinator favorites.

False Sunflower vs. ‘Sunflowers’

You might be wondering—is a False Sunflower a sunflower? You know, the ones that we see in fields on Instagram? The short answer is no. The sunflowers we see printed on clothing and everywhere in the fall are called Common Sunflowers. False Sunflower and Common Sunflower are two different species.

Here are their similarities and differences:

False Sunflowers
Common Sunflowers

False Sunflower

Heliopsis helianthoides

Common Sunflower

Helianthus annus

The many names of False Sunflower

Most native plants have a few different common names, or names given by the generations before. False Sunflower is also sometimes called Oxeye Sunflower. 

No matter how many common names a plant has, there is always only one Latin name. This helps us all share knowledge and not get confused! False Sunflower’s Latin name is Heliopsis helianthoides. To make sure you’re looking or finding the right plant, match this Latin name—Heliopsis helianthoides—at plant nurseries and plant sales.

If False Sunflower is too tall for you…

There are plenty of other bright-yellow native flowers that are shorter for sunny gardens. Green-and-Gold is a groundcover (6-12 inches tall), Coreopsis is only around 1-2 feet tall (perfect for borders!) and Black-Eyed Susan normally tops out at 4 feet. Here are some bright yellow natives to consider:

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Black-Eyed Susan

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Carolina Jessamine

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Celandine Poppy

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Coreopsis (Tickseed)

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Golden Alexander

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Green-and-Gold

False Sunflower looks amazing planted in groups

If you have the space, plant 5+ False Sunflowers together in a group to create a wall of flowers in the summer. Because False Sunflower looks so good planted in a group, we’ve included it in our round-up of Single-Plant Gardens, which are landscaping ideas driven by a single plant (aka one-stop landscaping.)

What to plant with False Sunflower

False Sunflower is a true sun lover, preferring full-sun environments. There are lots of other native flowers that thrive in this same sun, including Rattlesnake Master, Coneflower, Milkweed, Joe Pye Weed, and Bee Balm.

If you love seeing sunny flowers in your garden throughout the end of the summer (and in a vase—these are great cut flowers!), False Sunflower is a native plant for you. They thrive in full sun and attract loads of pollinators. Because they are perennials, plant once and watch them return year after year. Happy planting!

UPDATED —
04/01/2024
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