greentapestry : Plants Not To Be Sneezed At!

Friday, 27 November 2009

Plants Not To Be Sneezed At!

I am ashamed to say that until earlier this year I had always turned my nose up at them - heleniums that is. Then earlier this year these plants were the subject of one of my garden club meetings. Our speaker Martin Blow came from 'Special Perennials' a nursery near Hankelow, Crewe. I must admit that this was one of the meetings which on paper did not appeal to me. I almost stayed at home which would have been my loss. The nursery holds a National Collection of heleniums and Martin is a most knowledgeable and enthusiastic speaker.

Martin explained that these plants are known as "Sneezeweed" in America ( I am not sure why), whilst in Germany they are called “Sonnenbraut”, which translates as 'Sun Brides" . The latter seems a much more fitting name for these bright and cheerful flowers.

You will find heleniums in a range of sizes from 18 inches to 6½ feet. The taller varieties will need staking. With careful choice of varieties it is possible to heleniums bloom in your garden from June - November in the U.K. If purchasing a new plant the advice was to look out for a healthy young plant and make sure that there are no distorted leaves. When planting remember that plants need plenty of sun or at least part sun. Heleniums like moisture and should be watered in dry spells.

There is no need to feed them. Martin advised us not to subject these plants to 'The Chelsea Chop' but instead to do some judicious snipping, when the plants are 6-7 inches high. Most heleniums are self branching anyway. A September snip of dead flowers is recommended which encourages plants to continue flowering until October/November time. Once established in the garden It was recommended that plants should be divided every three years, either in late March or early April.

After the lowdown on cultivation we were treated to slide show. I managed to make a note in the dark of the plants which particularly appealed to me. These included :
Vivace - red
Bruno -red
Dauerbrenner - yes,you guessed right - red !
Ruby Tuesday - red and my must have!
Walhorn - new to the U.K. and again red. Notice a pattern?

What does this say about me ? Once again I am steering away from yellows and oranges even in the gloom. However I surprised myself and came home with my first helenium, an unexpected gift in September - Helenium Sahin's Early Flowerer. According to 'Special Perennials' -"The flower colour is variable from reddish-orange in hot weather through to egg-yolk yellow in cool weather." You can see its flowers in the photo at the top of the page.

I hope to add one or two more heleniums before too long in my effort to extend late summer/early autumn colour and interest in my garden, something it sadly lacks at the moment. I have not told himself yet that I would like to visit the nursery and its garden which opens under the National Gardens Scheme next year. The nursery also attends a number of plant fairs especially in the north west of England. For those of you who are too far away 'Special Perennials' offers a mail order service and its brilliant online catalogue is a useful resource, especially the garden diary and growing guides.


  1. I think I always associated many of the daisy flowers with the rather unkempt garden we had when I was a child. I got it in my head they were old fashioned flowers. Now I'm having a change of heart. Weird how these plant prejudices develop :-)

  2. Hi Anna~~ Any cherry reds? I too resist the scarlets to oranges and even yellows. As I recall heleniums typically come in these warm colors. Great for other gardens, just not mine. However, like you, an enthusiastic speaker can easily put me in a vulnerable place. Hort-brainwashing or something like that. LOL

  3. Anna,
    We have a helenium here in the southeastern US called Narrow-leaved Sneezeweed and it is very common growing at the edge of pavement along out back roads. It does have a strange oder that kind of make you want to sneeze. I watch it along the roadsides for rare small butterflies which can't resist it. Enjoyed your article.

  4. Anna, I am not a big fan of them either, I do like orange and yellow, just not in that daisy shape. (I have probably sold too many gerbera daisy bouquets at the flower shop!)

  5. I quite like Heleniums but they dont like me. Bought Moerheim Beauty this year and waiting to see if it makes it through the winter

  6. I love Helenium, the yellow native kind and the cultivars Moerheim and um and wait... drat! I've forgotten the name of the other one I have. LOL! And speaking of sneezing, I've done that a lot recently as I'm decorating for Xmas--I love vintage stuff, but it can be a little dusty, esp. an old, old cardboard box full of lights I found at an estate sale!

  7. Ah, Mardi Gras--that's the other variety I have!

  8. Hi Anna, it seems no one has mentioned the sneezy nickname coming from the use of this plant as snuff at one time. We only just discovered the Helen's flowers last year and are big fans of them now. They are not readily available as named varieties in the US, Mardi Gras and Coppelia were found however. We did have a good germination from a packet of mixed seeds from Thompson and Morgan with yellows, mixed and a couple of your favorite reds turning up. They did flower the first year from seed too, always a plus. Hope you are able to find the ones you desire. :-)

  9. Thank you for bringing this plant to my attention, Anna. My garden is a bit of a let down at this time of year so I'm on the look out for plants which will flower into autumn, this looks just the job.

  10. Hi Anna , I have an award for you on my blog, I hope you will accept it.But will understand if you don't do awards and things. M x

  11. Hi Anna

    Glad you enjoyed the talk about Helenniums and have caught the late flowering bug! The reason why Heleniums are known as Sneezeweeds is because the Native Americans used to dry the leaves and flowers and use them as snuff to "cure" colds etc. I wouldn't recommend this as Heleniums contain a toxic substance.

    Look forward to meeting you again and your readers at our garden open next year. Glad you are enjoying the diary and guides and I am always happy to receive suggestions for topics to cover.

    We also attend some lovely plant fairs, some of which we organise as well. Have a look on to see more details.

    Best wishes

    Martin Blow

  12. Hi Anna

    I think Ruby Tuesday would be at the top of my list. Similar colour to Rudbekia cherry wine.
    I know what you mean about the orange ones but I really like that colour in this plant.

    I've saved Special Perennials to favourites.

  13. Thanks for these great links Anna. This plant reminds me of Rudbekia and I do like the striking vibrant colours. They would be a welcome addition in my garden at this time of year.


  14. Hi Anna, I enjoyed your post on this flower which I have abundantly in my allotment in Germany. They were already there when I acquired it, so I don't know the cultivar names. Some I particularly like are a rusty brown with small blossoms. Helenium was named "Perennial of the Year" in Germany in 2008. Barbara

  15. Hi Anna, I'm glad I found your blog again, I had misplaced it, but will add you to my list now.

    Thank you for re-introducing this plant, I am very turned off by unappealing names (lungwort comes to mind), but thinking of this beauty as 'Sun Brides' is so much better. I really like Ruby Tuesday (name & colour) and lucky me, it's hardy to my zone. I will look for it next year. :) Rebecca

  16. I haven't gardened long enough to have plant prejudices. I am just happy to see anything at all growing and am only just now learning to hate weeds. LOL
    That is a lovely photo by the way. :-D


All your comments are much appreciated and treasured. I wil try to reply to everyone who leaves a comment, but it may take me a few days, especially when I start spending more time in the garden and at the lottie. I know that you will understand :) I am sure that I will also visit your blog if I have not already done so. If you have any specific questions I will either reply to them here or you can email me at :


- Anna.