Plants for the Watershed – Heliopsis helianthoides

Heliopsis helianthoides   is native to much of the United States east of the Rockies and can be found on roadsides, in open woods, at the edges of fields, and in waste areas.  Considering these locations, you might think of it as weedy or unattractive, but think again.  This vigorous, upright,  3 – 4 foot perennial deserves consideration for your sunny flower garden.  Tolerant of conditions many other plants won’t like – dry locations,  poor soils, and clay soils – this plant should do well here in town.

What does Heliopsis helianthoides provide besides beauty?

  • Nectar for bees and butterflies.  There is even one bee that is a specialist pollinator of this plant.
  • Larval host * for the painted lady butterfly, Vanessa virginiensis.
  • Seeds for birds. The American goldfinch, Spinus tristis,  is likely to visit.
  • Winter cover for beneficial insects, assuming you leave the stems to overwinter in the garden.
  • Cut flowers for you.


*A larval host is a plant that insect larvae require for food.  Many insect species  are dependent on   only one or a few plant species for the larvae to feed on; others  are not picky eaters. The painted lady  will lay it’s eggs on several plant species,  including Helioposis.   It’s important to note that native  plant species feed many  more insects that non-natives do. 

Make room for native species in your garden.  

You’ll have more than just flowers.

3 thoughts on “Plants for the Watershed – Heliopsis helianthoides

    1. I’m assuming you are in or near Richmond. You can problaby find this plant at some local nurseries but these will likely be cultivars. See the link “Natives versus Cultivars” on our website for info on some of the issues with cultivars. True natives (plants that humans have not manipulated) are hard to find. If you are willing to look for the true native, check out the nursery list at the Virginia Native Plant Society website …
      And no matter where you look, be sure to ask for any native plant by the species name. The only way we will get local nurseries to carry more native plants is to ask for them.

      We are very impressed with Earth Sangha, a non-profit organization in Northern Virginia, but I checked their plant list and did not see Heliopsis listed there. You might find other things there for your garden.

      1. Hi and thanks so much for your response. I am in the city, near Forest Hill Park. I’ve seen that list at the Virginia Native Plat Society website before; most are wholesale only and none seem local to the city so I haven’t been able to buy native plants for my garden yet, though I really want to! I wish it was easier to find and buy true native plants. Earth Sangha seems great, but she is purchase by appointment only and with her nursery one hour away (one-way) I don’t think I can get up there. I love gardening but have a full time job that takes up so much of my week. Does anyone have any tips for buying natives? Or better yet, if anyone reading this already has natives in their garden, where/how did you get it? I’m so eager to get natives in my garden, but I have limited time and budget with which to do it. I’m hopeful it’s still possible for a gardener like me though! Thanks all! And thanks again reedycreekcoalition for your post and response!

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