Driftless Seed Supply Grower Resources

Native Sunflower Growing Resources


Heliopsis helianthoides, commonly known as Early Sunflower or False Sunflower, is a native prairie species admired for its bright, sunflower-like blooms. It's a hardy perennial that plays a significant role in native ecosystems, attracting pollinators and supporting biodiversity.

Site Selection and Soil Preparation

  • Sun Exposure: Prefers full sun for optimal flowering.
  • Soil Type: Adaptable to various soil types but thrives in well-drained, fertile soils. Can also be planted in areas with relatively high water table as long as the soil is not too heavy.
  • Soil pH: Tolerates a wide pH range, from slightly acidic to alkaline.


  • Timing: For transplants, plant in early spring after the threat of frost has passed. For direct seeding plant in late fall for germination the following spring. Early Sunflower benefits from 30-40 days of stratification, either in damp sand in the fridge prior to growing transplants, or by planting in late fall.
  • Spacing: Space plants 12-18 inches apart within row and 18-24 inches apart between rows to allow for growth and air circulation.
  • Depth: Plant 4 seeds in groups 1/2 inch deep, then thin to 1 plant at second true leaf. Plant as transplants for more uniform spacing.


  • Watering Needs: Moderate. Water regularly until established, then tolerates dry conditions well.
  • Method: Water at the base of the plants to reduce leaf wetness and prevent diseases.


  • Initial Fertilizer: Light application of a balanced organic fertilizer can be beneficial at planting.
  • Ongoing Nutrition: Annual top-dressing with compost or aged manure to maintain soil fertility.

Pest and Disease Management

  • Pests: Resistant to most pests. Occasionally, aphids may be a concern.
  • Diseases: Good air circulation and proper spacing help prevent fungal diseases like powdery mildew.

Harvesting for Cut Flowers

  • Timing: Cut flowers when blooms are just opening for the longest vase life.
  • Technique: Use clean, sharp shears and cut the stem at an angle.

Ecosystem Role

  • Pollinator Attraction: A vital nectar source for bees, butterflies, and other beneficial insects.
  • Prairie Restoration: Integral in native prairie restoration projects for its adaptability and ecological benefits.

Additional Tips

  • Deadheading: Remove spent blooms to encourage more flowering.
  • Winter Interest: Leave some seed heads in place over winter to provide food for birds.