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Helianthus maximiliani Perennial : Helianthus maximiliani is a large plant with oval green leaves to 2m x 2m (or more)

Flowers: Yellow daisy like sunflowers with a chocolate brown centre, September/October

Drought tolerance: 5

Full sun, very heat tolerant

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Helianthus maximiliani or Maximilian’s sunflower is native to Eastern states of the USA. It makes a spectacular sparkling yellow early autumn show, buzzing with bees and smelling gorgeously of milk chocolate (yes this is true). The plant has erect stems, with multiple 10 cm sunflowers and green pleasant foliage throughout the hottest months, which is quite an asset in itself.

Helianthus maximiliani is robust and  easy to grow, requiring only a prune back in winter and in my garden requires no extra water under a permeable membrane and gravel mulch, growing in virtually pure clay.

Easy to propagate too, from seed which germinates quickly (without stratification which strangely is often suggested) and easily or from pieces of its rhizomes.  However it is rarely seen or mentioned in books, despite being so very much better as a a garden plant than many of the  fussy plants that are available in nurseries.  It is not the kind of plant that will suddenly take umbrage when planted out and then fade away. This plant deserves to be much more widely grown in large gardens.

Seeds can be obtained on the internet fairly easily and the plant will flower in its first year from a Spring (or later) sowing.

Leaves are lanceolate (pointed), slightly droopy and covered in hairs  It spreads gently at first and then more robustly from rhizomes and will self seed in the garden; bring it on!  Don’t imagine it is going to stay small however, it is a large plant and will form quite a mass over time, in the wrong place it could definitely be described as invasive.

Helianthus maximilani Maximilian’s sunflower  associates nicely with drought tolerant grasses, Miscanthus sinensis and Arundo donax.

Helianthus maximilani at south of France hotel


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The snows are fled away, leaves on the shaws
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Horace: Odes iv 7, translated by A. E. Housman

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