Close-up of yellow flowers of Helenium autumnale (Sneezeweed).
Helenium autumnale (Sneezeweed) grown in quart-size pots.

Helenium autumnale (Sneezeweed)

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Helenium autumnale, commonly called sneezeweed, is an upright, clump-forming perennial wildflower native to moist areas along bodies of water, wet disturbed areas like ditches and roadside pools, and low-lying meadows. Growing two to five feet tall in areas with full sun and medium to wet fertile soils, sneezeweed produces profuse daisy-like yellow blooms from late summer into the autumn. Flowers have distinctive, wedge-shaped rays or petals with a prominent, domed center that is dull yellow to yellow-green in color; these yellow blooms are highly attractive to pollinators.

Best planted in rain or pollinator gardens and naturalized meadows, Helenium autumnale is generally avoided by deer, and is highly resilient to perpetually wet soils. Although the plant's name of sneezeweed implies that it might trigger pollen allergies, the name is actually drawn from its historical use as a snuff powder. Flowers and leaves were occasionally dried, ground, and inhaled to induce sneezing for supposed health or spiritual benefits.

Most of the time, cultivars attempt to improve upon the parent species, but for Helenium autumnale, this is not necessarily the case. According to the Mt. Cuba Center Helenium Trial Garden, the straight species sneezeweed plant was rated a 3.9 out of 5 and is well-regarded for its butter-yellow drooping petals, attractive foliage, and its high pollinator interest, with this species garnering the highest number of bee and beneficial wasp visits in 2017 and 2018.

Native to Eastern Shore, Native to Maryland, Native to U.S., and Straight Species
Mature Plant Height: Medium: 30-48"
Deciduous
Sun (6+ hours)
Soil Moisture: Medium to Wet
Soil Type: Rich Organic Matter and Wide Tolerance
Bloom Time: Summer and Fall
Flower Color: Yellow
Foliage color: Green
Features: Attracts Birds, Attracts Butterflies, Attracts Pollinators, Erosion Control, Fall Color, and Mt Cuba Top Performer
Tolerances: Deer Tolerant, Wet Soil Tolerant, Flood Tolerant, and Clay Soil Tolerant
Garden Type: Pollinator Garden, Rain Garden, Meadow, Wetland Restoration, and Small Space

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