Flowers

Helenium autumnale Guide: How to Grow & Care for “Common Sneezeweed”

Read our guide to Helenium autumnale for everything you’ll ever need to know! Tips for planting & caring for “Common Sneezeweed”

Helenium autumnale is an absolutely adorable species of flowering plants in the Asteraceae family. In cultivation, this flower goes by various common names including Sneezeweed, Common sneezeweed, Large-flowered sneezeweed, and Fall/Autumn sneezeweed. It is among the most diverse species of plants native to several regions of North America.

Nowadays, the most popular specimens among gardeners are usually hybrids obtained from Helenium autumnale and other attractive Helenium species. Because the H. autumnale species alone come with very simple features, they compensate with their surprising number of varieties. These cultivars will surprise you with their different heights, flower forms, and colours.

The most gorgeous H. autumnale varieties include ‘Adios’, ‘Beatrice’, ‘Bruno’, ‘Chippersfield Orange’, ‘El Dorado’, ‘Helena Red Shades’, ‘Kupfersprudel’, ‘Pumilum Magnificum’, ‘Red-Haired Katy’, and ‘Waltraut’.

About Common Sneezeweed

  • It is worth mentioning that some Heleniums have gained the prestigious Award of Garden Merit. These cultivars are ‘Feuersiegel’, ‘Moerheim Beauty’, ‘Rubinzwerg’, ‘Sahin’s Early Flowerer’, and ‘Waltraut’.
  • Their genus name “Helenium” comes from the Greek word “helenion”, which is a name for a different plant. This name originates from Greek mythology and refers to a plant that honours Helen of Troy, which was the most beautiful woman in the world.
  • Helenium plants got their common name “Sneezeweed” a long time ago from the use of their dried leaves in snuff. When people inhaled this snuff, it would typically cause sneezing. In some cultures, people also believed that it would help cast out evil spirits if consumed.
  • The Sneezeweed snuff played a big part in traditional medicine. Folks used it as an effective treatment against headaches, colds, fevers, digestive problems, intestinal worms. Some say that the plants also have significant anti-tumour properties.
  • Common sneezeweeds make for great additions to many landscape decorations. These plants are perfect for cottage gardens, prairies, meadows, borders, ponds, and streams. Likewise, they will look lovely in pots or as cut flowers in seasonal bouquets.
  • Helenium autumnale plants serve as an excellent food source for the larvae of some Lepidoptera species, such as the Phymatopus behrensii moths. Moreover, their cute blooms are highly attractive to butterflies and other species of pollinators.
  • Common sneezeweeds are wonderful companion plants to other interesting species. The most suitable companions are Bee Balm, Big Bluestem, Coneflower, Culver’s Root, Gayfeather, Hardy Hibiscus, New England Aster, Spotted Joe-Pye Weed, Wild Bergamot, and Yarrow.
  • The leaves, flowers, and seeds of these plants are toxic for humans and animals if ingested. Grow your Sneezeweeds in a spot where your curious loved ones cannot reach them.
Helenium autumnale
Helenium autumnale

Common Sneezeweed Features: An Overview

  • Sneezeweed plants belong to the Helenium genus that contains exactly 40 species of annuals and herbaceous perennial plants. They share this genus with other species like H. amarum, H. bigelovii, H. elegans, H. flexuosum, H. hoopesii, and H. pinnatifidum.
  • Common sneezeweeds are perennial flowering herbs. Depending on the variety, they can reach from 3 to 5 feet (90-150 cm) in height and 2 to 3 feet (60-90 cm) in width.
  • Their foliage has slender, lance-shaped, and dark green leaves that appear on erect, branching stems. The leaves measure up to 6 inches (15 cm) in length.
  • While the blooming season of Common sneezeweeds is usually in late summer through autumn, it can also vary from one cultivar to another. During this period, they produce up to 100 daisy-like flowers in branching arrays.
  • Each flower head consists of 11 to 21 ray florets that surround as many as 800 disc florets. Their blossoms can exhibit various shades and colour mixes of yellow, orange, red, coppery brown, and golden.

Growing Common Sneezeweed

Although common sneezeweeds might seem pretty fragile and needy at first glance, they are actually very strong and low-demanding. Yes, you can spoil these flowers as much as you wish, but it is not necessary. In general, they will do just fine with little to no effort on your part. However, there is only one thing they secretly want from you – lots of love!

When it comes to lighting, common sneezeweeds will have the time of their life in full sunlight. For optimal growth, place them in a spot where they can receive a minimum of six hours of bright and direct light daily. If you cannot provide your flowers with full sunlight constantly, do not worry! They can also tolerate some afternoon shade, especially in regions with dry climates. Still, they can become somewhat leggy in prolonged shaded conditions.

In terms of temperatures, Common sneezeweeds will do well in a wide range of climates and weather conditions. Typically, these flowers are hardy in USDA zones 3 to 8. Even if your plants can withstand hot summer months or high humidity, you must provide them with proper spacing to avoid any future issues.

Common sneezeweeds come with good resistance against most pest infestations and fungal diseases. If you live in an area with high humidity levels, however, problems like rust and powdery mildew can occur with time. You can avoid these problems by planting your beloved flowers properly and watering them less frequently. In the case of fungal disease, you should remove the unhealthy parts from your plants, then treat them with a suitable fungicide.

Autumn Sneezeweed “Helenium Autumnale” 150 Seeds, From Amazon

Planting Common Sneezeweed

The best time to plant your Common sneezeweeds is right when the soil begins to warm up, usually in spring. Keep in mind that you must plant these flowers at a distance of 6 inches (15 cm) or so in-between them. This space will help you avoid overcrowding your plants and also ensure good air circulation for them.

While common sneezeweeds are not very picky about their growing medium, they do appreciate soils that are more on the acidic side. The ideal pH levels typically range from 5.5 to 7.0. These plants can grow well in moist substrates, but they will not enjoy the experience of having their feet soggy or waterlogged. Because of this, make sure you plant them in soil that also comes with excellent drainage. If you want to grow your plants in containers, plant them in those that have drainage holes at the bottom.

In general, common sneezeweeds are not heavy feeders. When these plants grow in fertile soils, they will do just fine with only one application of fertilizer. Feed your plants with a balanced fertilizer designed for flowering plants once every year in spring.

If your common sneezeweeds show signs of a somewhat lanky growth, pruning will be the best solution to bring them back to life. In spring, you should pinch your plants back to encourage new, healthy branches to show up. Moreover, you can cut their flower stalks down to the foliage level once their blooming period has ended. This process will help your plants bloom nicely in the next year.

Watering Common Sneezeweed

Common sneezeweeds generally prefer moderate to heavy moisture to grow healthy and happy. If you want to be the coolest owner out there, you have to pay attention to their very basic watering demands. Which, believe us, it is much easier than you might expect!

First things first, common sneezeweeds do well in soils that are constantly damp, but not soggy. You can avoid over-watering your delicate flowers by checking the soil in-between waterings. When the top inch (2.5 cm) of soil feels dry to the touch, we recommend you give your plants a nice drink.

Many gardeners use additional methods to keep their Common sneezeweeds in their best condition. And you and your plants could also benefit from them! In general, a three-inch (7.5 cm) layer of organic mulch will help your plants conserve moisture for a longer time.

Common Sneezeweed
Common Sneezeweed

Propagating Common Sneezeweed

After a while, your common sneezeweeds will begin to look all tired and also lose their vigorous nature. And this is the perfect opportunity for you to intervene! You can bring your superb flowers back in shape by dividing them regularly, usually once every three years. Make sure you divide them in either spring or fall because they will tolerate the overall stress better.

Your first move would be to get a nice spade to dig your Common sneezeweeds out of their growing medium. After this, divide their roots into two or three sections, then replant them absolutely anywhere you want. As a general rule, each section should contain at least one stem emerging from it. Water your tiny Sneezeweeds well to help them settle in their new environment and that’s all, gardener!

Another way to obtain more of these beauties is, of course, starting them from seeds. This is an excellent method to get a large colony of common sneezeweeds very fast and easy. All you have to do is to collect the seeds from your flowers, sow them in a fresh seed-starting mix, then place them in a well-lit location at room temperature.

If you water them regularly to maintain their soil damp, the seeds will germinate in two weeks or so. However, you should know that hybrids do not usually grow true to the parent plants, but propagating them is still worth trying!

In Conclusion

Growing these exquisite and easy-going flowers in your garden or in containers will bring lots of joy! Give Common sneezeweeds a chance and share your experience in the comment section!

Miruna is an experienced content writer with a passion for gardening. She is the proud owner of an outdoor rose garden and an indoor collection of tiny succulents. She bought her first succulent 10 years ago - an adorable Echeveria Setosa. Now she owns more than 100 succulents and cacti of different colors, shapes, and sizes. Miruna is a versatile writer and, as you might have guessed, her favorite topic is gardening. Contact miruna@gardenbeast.com

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