Although all Helenium are endemic to the Americas, this genus has enjoyed centuries of horticultural popularity in Europe although they are seldom cultivated in their native haunts. Hybridization, primarily in Germany and the Netherlands, is focused primarily on Helenium bigelovii and Helenium autumnale, both native to North America. Although Helenium bigelovii naturally occurs on the West Coast, it has been included in our trial to help illuminate the murky pedigrees of some of the older hybrids that remain in cultivation today. Helenium are widely known as sneezeweeds; however, this common name unfairly and inaccurately alludes to them as a culprit of seasonal allergies. The name’s true origins come from the use of powdered Helenium plants as a substitute for snuff and as a medicine by European colonists and Native Americans. Helen’s flower is an alternate common name used in American horticulture to more accurately depict the inherent beauty of this genus.
In our trial we strived to advocate for an under-cultivated group of native plants and to evaluate cultivars, particularly those originating in Europe, in a mid-Atlantic climate. Several challenges manifested though the duration of the trial and ultimately resulted in the loss of two thirds of the originally planted sneezeweeds. Those challenges included disease pressures, dry soil conditions, and possible lack of winter hardiness for some cultivars. In garden conditions with more adequate moisture and lower disease presence, losses might have been less severe. Many of the trialed Helenium also exhibited floppy habits and their overall presentation greatly benefited from staking.
The best performing Helenium of the 44 cultivars included in our trial are H. ‘Kanaria’, H. ‘Zimbelstern’, H. autumnale ‘Can Can’, H. ‘Flammenspiel’, H. autumnale, H. ‘Kugelsonne’, H. ‘Tijuana Brass’, H. flexuosum, H. ‘Potter’s Wheel’, and H. ‘Flammendes Kätchen’.
Below are detailed descriptions about the performance of each plant in the evaluation.
To view the Helenium Trial Report full-sized, please click here.
Kanaria (canary) sneezeweed
Helenium autumnale ‘Can Can’
Can Can sneezeweed
Rating: 3.6 (Average)
Helenium ‘Tijuana Brass’
Tijuana Brass sneezeweed
Helenium ‘Potter’s Wheel’
Potter’s Wheel Sneezeweed
Helenium ‘Flammendes Kätchen’
Flammendes Kätchen sneezeweed