|(Photo by Walter Taylor)|
|H. debilis makes an excellent border planting, too. (Photo by Lisa Roberts)|
Dune (or beach) sunflower is a sprawling, herbaceous groundcover that produces many yellow, daisy-like flowers. Its leaves are deltoid-shaped, with rough surfaces and toothed margins; they are alternately arranged. Blooms consist of brownish-red disk florets surrounded by bright yellow ray florets.
Dune sunflower typically flowers in the summer, but may flower year-round in South Florida. Its flowers attract a variety of pollinators, including butterflies, moths and bees. Its dense growth pattern provides cover for many small animals, while its seeds are eaten by birds.
The genus name Helianthus comes from the Latin heli (sun) and anthus (flower). There are 17 species of Helianthus native to Florida.
Family: Asteraceae (Aster famiily)
Hardiness: North, Central and South Florida (Zones 8–11)
Soil: Well-drained sandy soil
Exposure: Full sun
Growth habit: 1–2+ feet tall with a 3–4+ foot spread
Garden tips: Dune sunflower is a prolific self-seeder, and has a tendency to spread quickly if not maintained. It is also easily propagated by cuttings. Periodic removal of spent plants is recommended.
Note: There are three subspecies of Helianthus debilis occurring in Florida, all of which are capable of hybridizing and thus, should not be planted together. When using in a landscape or garden setting, It is recommended that the subspecies native to/appropriate for the region be used. Visit PlantRealFlorida.org to find a native nursery in your area that sells the appropriate subspecies for your region. Seeds of the East coast subspecies are available through the Florida Wildflowers Growers Cooperative.
To see where each subspecies of dune sunflower occurs naturally in Florida, visit www.florida.plantatlas.usf.edu/Plant.aspx?id=660, www.florida.plantatlas.usf.edu/Plant.aspx?id=3367 and www.florida.plantatlas.usf.edu/Plant.aspx?id=1249