I recently had the opportunity to attend a gardening symposium in Louisiana. One of my favorite fall-flowering wildflowers, swamp sunflower (Helianthus angustifolius), was in full bloom all along the roadsides. Thankfully, I wasn’t driving, so I could enjoy the stunning display.
Swamp sunflower is a native plant in the aster family that is one of the latest blooming perennials to flower in the fall. It’s beneficial for various pollinating insects and a seed source for several songbird species. This beautiful plant is also a larval host for checkerspot butterflies (Chlosynes species).
The golden yellow 2- to 2 ½-inch flowers grow on stems that can reach 6 to 8 feet tall. It’s best planted in full to filtered sun and prefers moist to occasionally wet sandy to organically rich soils. If grown in a dry area, it has to be irrigated on a regular basis. It will grow in all USDA planting zones in South Carolina from the mountains to the coast.
Due to the height, swamp sunflower is best planted in the back of a border or naturalized areas along creeks or ponds. It mixes well with native grasses and other fall-flowering perennials, such as old-fashioned garden mums, ironweed, and goldenrod. After frost, leave the flower stems until spring before cutting them back.