Beach sunflower is a butterfly-attracting Florida native that’s perfect for hot, dry sites, including coastal areas. Many gardeners like to use it as a colorful and drought-resistant groundcover.
Fun fact: the flower heads always follow the sun throughout the day.
Beach sunflower (Helianthus debilis) is a spreading perennial plant that also reseeds, creating a larger clump over time. It blooms almost year-round with two-inch, daisy- or sunflower-like flowers that have yellow petals and brown centers. Because of their year-round flowering, these plants can be especially good for brightening up the landscape during the warm and cool temperature extremes during the year.
Scientific name: Helianthus debilis Pronunciation: heel-ee-ANTH-us DEB-bil-liss Common name(s): beach sunflower Family: Compositae Plant type: herbaceous; perennial; ground cover Origin: native to Florida Uses: ground cover; attracts butterflies; border; mass planting; cascading down a wall; edging
Height: 2 to 4 feet Spread: 2 to 4 feet Plant habit: spreading Plant density: dense Growth rate: fast
Leaf arrangement: alternate Leaf shape: deltoid Leaf blade length: 2 to 4 inches Leaf color: green
Light requirement: full sun Soil tolerances: acidic; alkaline; sand; loam Soil Moisture: dry to moist Soil salt tolerances: good Plant spacing: 18 to 24 inches
Winter interest: plant has winter interest due to unusual form and winter flowers Pest resistance: no serious pests are normally seen on the plant
Use and Management
Beach sunflower is often used as a flowering ground cover along and near the beach and reaches a height of about 18 inches. This plant spreads by underground runners and will quickly fill in an area if provided with occasional irrigation along the beach front. Over irrigation in other locations can slow growth and cause plant decline. One or two applications of fertilizer during the year will encourage plants to establish and cover the ground quickly. It looks great when massed as a ground cover. The cut flowers are charming in arrangements indoors.
The beach sunflower grows best on well-drained sandy soils. This plant will not tolerate over-watering or over fertilizing and is very drought tolerant. It needs to be placed in an area that receives full sun and will endure high levels of salt spray. Beach sunflower is an annual in those areas that have freezing temperatures in the winter; however, it will reseed itself or act as a perennial in central Florida.
Use seeds to propagate this lovely plant.
Pests and Diseases
No pests or diseases are of major concern.
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