Plant of the Week: Maximilian Sunflower

When we think of wildflowers in Texas our minds turn toward bluebonnets, paintbrushes, Indian blankets and other spring bloomers. But there’s another entire season of wildflowers, and it’s happening around us right now. I thought I’d share one of my favorites.

Photo: Maximilian sunflowers growing along a rural highway in Collin County this week.

I met Maximilian sunflower 40 years ago when we moved to rural Collin County. We moved into our house in late September, and it was marking our county road like golden sentinels. It was waving in the breeze as if to say, “Hi! Glad to have you here with us.”

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It’s a true sunflower, Helianthus maximiliani, and it grows to 4 to 6 feet tall (sometimes taller when found in moist ditches). Its flowers are borne on vertical stems, although with fall rains and winds, they may lean as they age. They come into bloom in August, and flowers may appear well into October. A lot of it depends on the season and the locale.

Photo: Maximilian sunflower heads line the vertical stems.

Many of our wildflower sunflowers are annuals, meaning they grow, bloom and die all in one season. This one, however, is perennial. Once you get it started it will be with you for years. Because of its size you’ll want to use it along a fence line or in the back of the flower garden where it won’t overpower its near neighbors.

Oh, and you won’t be the only one enjoying this plant. Bees and butterflies flock to it, and birds will be waiting for its seeds to mature.

When I showed this plant on my Facebook page a few days ago several people asked about sources of seed. I just did a Web search using these key words: “buy seeds Helianthus maximiliani.” That search turned up a bunch of good matches. You will have no trouble locating the seeds. Plant them in the spring.

Posted by Neil Sperry
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