Helenium

Helenium Fata Morgana with Red Admiral Butterfly (foreground) and Helenium Kupfersprudel (background)

Heleniums come in a range of colours from deep red to pale yellow including blends, stripes and bands of colour. Heights vary from 1ft (30cm) to more than 7ft (210cm). it is possible to have Heleniums in full bloom from late June past the end of October by judicious choice of variety and deadheading.

Heleniums are great subjects to plant in drifts spacing them about 1ft - 2ft apart and are traditionally used this way. However they can be equally effective planted singly or in small numbers amongst plants of similar height especially grasses.

Some people ask which are best for bees and butterflies. The simple answer is that they all equally good with the exception of the variety "Double Trouble" which produces little pollen.

Planting:

Heleniums are toxic if ingested but are bitter in the extreme so unlikely to be eaten. All are toxic to ruminent animals.

Always add lots of compost when planting. Heleniums like plenty of moisture but not being waterlogged; compost helps sandy soils retain water and opens up clay soils to help them drain. Heleniums are best in a sunny spot but will grow well in sites that get sun for a fair part of the day. Keep new plants well watered. Water all plants in dry spells. If the flower petals are quilled and rolled it is sure sign that the plants are too dry (unless it's one of the varieties that naturally has rolled up petals!).

The taller varieties require staking - we find that a cats cradle of string is fine when growing in large drifts. Single plants can be staked. We find that stakes cut from trees like Hazel are preferable to canes or green supports as the brown colour blends well with the stems of Heleniums. Plants don't always achieve their full height in the first year after dividing - heights quoted below are for mature plants in our Cheshire garden - but they should all flower in their first year. The growing tips can be pinched out in May to get bushier plants.

Dead heading will promote further flowers. If you have the time and patience, cut off each spent bloom, taking the stem down to just above a new tiny flower bud. If you have large drifts of plants to cope with, shearing off the top 10-15cm (3-4") is just as effective. Some plant books suggest that only some varieties of Heleniums will rebloom if deadheaded, and go on to recommend H."Moerheim Beauty" on this basis. We have found have that nearly all cultivars in our collection respond to deadheading by reblooming however the late flowering ones will not produce so many new buds.

Propagation:

Heleniums flower best if dug up and split into individual plantlets discarding the old central stalk every 3 years or so. Only divide in spring - autumn division usually leads to failure!

Pests, Disease and Troubles:

Heleniums are largely trouble free. From our conversations with other gardeners the top 3 problems to deal with are:

Slugs and Snails: We have very little problem with these, but it seems others do and if so you will need to protect plants until around 6in / 15cm tall

Leaf loss and spotting: is normally a result of the plants drying out for an extended period of time and is often a form of fungal leaf spot. Add lots of compost when planting and keep well watered. A seep hose or leaky pipe attached to a water butt is a good idea if you can't improve soil water retention. Try to water the ground around the plants rather than the leaves.

The only other pest that troubles these plants rarely is Eel Worm. These are microscopic organisms that can infest plants and cause stunted, distorted and weak growth. If the plants you buy are healthy and growing well then you are unlikely to be bothered by this. If present in your plants its best to dig them up and burn them and plant Heleniums somewhere else in the garden.

Helenium Amber

Helenium Amber is a wonderful new introduction
In our garden we don't mind mixing hot heleniums with pastel Phlox Discovery
Amber attracts lots of butterflies and bees. Here a Small Copper shares the bounty with a honey bee

(Raised by Daniëlle Monbaliu)

Growing to 5ft tall on really well branched plants. Masses of amber flowers streaked with orange: the name is spot on. Flowers from late July through September.

Daniëlle tells us it is a cross between Indianersommer and Julisamt.

Price £5.00 (9cm pot).

Helenium Betty

Fairly new variety with slightly rolled or twisted petals attractively colour dark on the underside and brighter on top. The plants are about 2ft 6in / 75cm tall and flowering is from July to September

SOLD OUT

Helenium Biedermeier

A "Biedermeier" is a posy of flowers arranged in concentric rings of colour.

This is a good red - yellow bicolor, more or less identical in colour and flowering time to the variety Margot.

Biedermeier flowers form late July / early August and is about 4ft / 120cm tall.

Price £5.00 (9cm pot)

Helenium Bressingham Gold

Tall variety (5ft / 150cm) flowering from late July / early August. Given to Bressingham Nursery by a customer. In my view it is the same as the old variety Riverton Beauty

Price £5.00 (9cm pot) VERY LIMITED STOCK

Helenium Carmen

New introduction 2016

Short (2ft / 60cm) and early to flower, going on into October usually. Nice vigorous plants: an improvement on the similar old variety Wyndley

SOLD OUT

Helenium Chelsey

(Geerlings 2005)

Like a lot of modern varieties Chelsey has been bred to be compact (around 2ft 9in / 80cm) and suitable for containers. The flowers are large and have upswept petals. The bright vermilion with apricot edges is very fetching. It starts flowering in late July.

Chelsey is named after the raiser’s granddaughter.

SOLD OUT

Helenium Dark Beauty (Dunkle Pracht)

Dark red flowers and about 3ft 6in tall

Give him a warm spot with good drainage in winter for best results in the UK.

The name translates as Dark Beauty, Glory or Splendor and is often misspelt as DunkEL Pract. Our late friend Hartmut Rieger put us right on the spelling!

The variety Red Glory is identical to this.

RHS Award of Garden Merit

Price £5.00 (9cm pot)

Helenium Fancy Fan

Masses of flower on bushy plants. About 2ft 6in / 75cm tall and flowering from July through September

SOLD OUT

Helenium Fata Morgana

Helenium Fata Morgana

This is a lovely variety with upswept petals in apricot with orange undersides making a beautiful two-toned effect in the garden. It is early flowering: from late June and still flowering in late October. The name is a form of mirage and is derived from the Italian name for the Arthurian sorceress Morgan le Fay.

SOLD OUT

Helenium Feuersiegel

(Foerster 1959)

This is one of the loveliest flowers in our opinion. It flowers from late July and grows to around 4ft / 120cm. The amount of red in the petals varies with temperature and light levels. The name means "Fiery Seal": very apt for the forked streaks of red radiating from the centre of the flower. RHS Award of Garden Merit

SOLD OUT

Helenium Indianersommer

The name of course means "Indian Summer". This is a medium tall variety (3-4ft) with flowers that are a dark red to start and mature to a gentle reddish orange . It starts flowering from late July.

SOLD OUT

Helenium Kanaria

(Karl Foerster 1949)

Kanaria ("Canary") has good canary yellow with yellow cones. It is about 4ft 3in - 5ft / 125 - 150cm tall and starts flowering from late July. It has good thick stems that require no staking.

SOLD OUT

Helenium Mardi Gras

This new variety patented in the US by Bob Brown (not Bob brown of Cotswold Garden Flowers fame), has obvious similarities to Sahin’s Early Flowerer, but it is far shorter – only 2ft 3in tall and stiff-stemmed so it is self supporting.

The flowers are are numerous and are in shades of deep and bright orange, more yellowy in shade.

In flower from late June right into October.

Price £5.00 (9cm pot)

Helenium Margot

More or less identical to Helenium Biedermeier. 4ft tall. Flowering from late July.

Price £5.00 (9cm pot)

Helenium Meranti

Short and bushy with masses of maghogany red flowers from July to Ocober. About 1ft 6in - 2ft / 45-60cm tall. Don't overfeed! Very similar to the varieties Red Army, Vivace and Kupferzwerg

Price: £5.00 (9cm pot)

Helenium Potter's Wheel

Luscious, deep red flowers with a narrow gold edge. About 4ft / 120cm tall and late season flowering.

Price £5.00 (9cm pot)

Helenium Pumilum Magnificum

yellow helenium pumilum magnificum in front of purple monardas
Helenium Pumilum Magnificum is an ideal partner for tall Monardas

(Amos Perry c1895)

Grown in gardens since the late 1890's when it was introduced by Amos Perry Senior from his famous nursery at Winchmore Hill, Enfield, Middlesex this deep yellow variety flowers from late June, and grows to 2ft 6in / 75cm tall. The plant was already popular by 1900 when Sir Trevor Lawrence exhibited a vase of cut flowers at an RHS show. In 1905 Bunyard's exhibited it at the RHS Summer Show at Chelsea along side Centaurea ruthenica, a pale blue Scabiosa caucasica and Monarda didyma

The name "Pumilum" means "dwarf".

SOLD OUT

Helenium Rauchtopas

(Pegelow)

Rauchtopas has upswept petals that really show up the contrast between the apricot uppers and vermilion undersides. Its about 4ft / 120cm tall and flowers from early August into early October. One of our personal favourites.

The name Rauchtopas means “Smoky Topaz”, a name for a particular form of the gemstone that I believe is called "Cairngorms" in the UK.

SOLD OUT

Helenium Red Army

This is a compact variety growing to only 2ft 3in / 65cm tall. It flowers from early July. The flowers are a deep red deep with almost black cones. The plants are well branched and self supporting. It appears to be identical to "Vivace".

SOLD OUT

Helenium Riverton Gem

Very old variety introduced from the USA in about 1910. Tall (5ft / 150cm) with masses of orange-russet flowers with short down-swept petals from early August through September

SOLD OUT

Helenium Waltraut

Introducted by Gustav Deutschmann in 1947

Waltraut has lovely shaggy flowers that deepen in intensity of orange as they mature. It is medium height at 2ft 6" - 75cm and flowers from early July.

The name is a German girl's name (the female equivalent of Walther). "Waltraut" is the currently accepted name for this plant.

RHS Award of Garden Merit.

Price £5.00 (9cm pot)

All text and images ©SpecialPerennials.com 2007 - 2019 A partnership of Janet & Martin Blow.