The genus Heliopsis belongs to the sunflower family and comprises around 12 species that are originally native to Mexico, but are now found in many parts of North and South America. Due to the strong yellow color of the flowers with the somewhat darker stamens, the herbaceous, mostly perennial plant has been given the colloquial name of the sun eye. In our latitudes there is one type of pretty perennial above all: Heliopsis helianthoides, also known as the garden sun-eye. It is one of the robust permanent bloomers and is available with double or unfilled flowers.

Characteristics

  • botanischer Name: Heliopsis
  • Common names: sun eye, garden sun eye
  • Genus within the subfamily of the Asteroideae
  • Plant family: Asteraceae
  • perennial herbaceous plant
  • Origin: Mexico
  • Height: 30 to 150 cm
  • Leaves: stalked with serrated leaf margin
  • Flowers: long-stalked, terminal or axillary, different shades of yellow
  • Flowering period: June to September

location

The best conditions for a permanent bloom between June and September offer the sun eye sunny locations. In its homeland, eastern North and Central America, Heliopsis grows both on moist meadows and on dry, sandy slopes.

  • Light requirement: sunny
  • for discounts
  • Perennial beds
  • Rock gardens (with soil improvement)
  • also suitable as a container plant (small varieties)

Due to the enormous height of some of the sun’s eyes, the plant can be ideally used for shading lower perennials that prefer a partially shaded location. The intermediate planting of somewhat smaller perennials also has the advantage that they support the Heliopsis, because some varieties can become too heavy in the upper area and the shoots tilt towards the ground.

floor

The sun’s eye does not make any special demands on the garden soil. The perennial gets along well with almost any substrate if it contains some humus and does not tend to waterlogging. As soon as it is well rooted in the subsoil, the bushy plant can also cope well with stony, slightly loamy or sandy soils. The permanent bloomer thrives best on well-drained, moderately nutrient-rich substrates that are not too dry.

  • well permeable to water
  • not too dry
  • slightly humic
  • also sandy-loamy
  • pH value: preferably in the neutral range
  • slightly alkaline to slightly acidic

plant

Over time, Heliopsis forms bushy clumps up to a meter high, so the perennial should be placed at a sufficient distance from other neighboring plants. A planting distance of half the plant height is recommended. Larger varieties, with a width of 70 to 80 cm, remain somewhat narrower than wide, so only a distance of about 40 cm must be maintained here. It is advisable to plant in spring after the last late frosts in May.

  • Planting time: mid-May
  • Plant spacing: 30 to 40 cm

Prepare the bed or the planting site for the sun’s eye well, then the perennial can develop well and the care measures in the growing season are limited to a minimum. Loosen the garden soil well and remove old roots, stones and weeds. In the case of very loamy or sandy soil, it is advisable to add humus soil or compost in order to increase the water storage capacity and the nutrient content. Heavy soils should be made more permeable for water with a little sand or gravel so that no waterlogging occurs.

Tip : The garden sun eye comes into its own in combination with asters, sun hats, knight sports or grasses such as the eyelash pearl grass or lamp cleaner grass.

pour

A good water balance for the plant is essential for ingrowth after planting in spring. Therefore, the soil should be checked regularly for moisture for a few weeks. If the upper layer of soil is already dry, it is watered again. But make absolutely sure that you do not produce waterlogging. If the sun’s eye has grown in well, it can withstand occasional drought and therefore requires little water. However, in long periods of drought, regular watering is required. A thick layer of mulch on the garden soil in the root area prevents it from drying out too quickly.

Tip : Although Heliopsis is quite drought tolerant, regular watering will keep the plant healthier. This means that there are fewer diseases and pests.

Fertilize

The perennials only need fertilizer very seldom when the soil conditions are optimal. If you work in a bit of compost when planting, you don’t have to add additional fertilizer in the same year. From the following year, we recommend adding compost or long-term fertilizers such as horn shavings, which are incorporated into the soil in spring. Container plants or plants that grow on poor soil require an organic-mineral fertilizer for perennials, which should also be added in spring, possibly again in June at the beginning of flowering. Be careful with high amounts of nutrients, however, because in this case the Heliopsis tends to make very long shoots and lots of foliage instead of flowers.

To cut

In order to encourage the formation of new flowers, what has faded should be cleaned regularly. In this way, the flowering period extends into autumn, often until the first frosts. Towards the end of winter (but before the new shoots emerge), the perennial can be cut back to a hand’s breadth. So it drives out more abundantly. The pruning must never be done while the sun’s eye still has green leaves. After flowering, the plant collects nutrients in the roots so that it can sprout again in spring. If the leaves are cut before the leaves wither, the plant lacks the strength to do so.

Tip : Plants that have grown too sparsely can be cut back a little in spring after they have sprouted. So the sun’s eye grows more compact. However, in this case flowering starts a little later.

Multiply

Heliopsis forms subterranean runners through which the plant can reproduce as well as through the seeds that form after pollination by insects or butterflies. Ingrown sun eyes may also seed themselves. If seeding is not desired, dead flowers must be removed.

division

Older perennials can become a little blooming over time. In these cases, dividing the plant not only creates new, strong flowers, but also increases the number of sun’s eyes at the same time.

  • Time: every two to three years after budding in spring
  • the division also protects against balding in the center of the plant
  • Dig up the plant and divide the roots with a spade or sharp knife
  • immediately remove all dead shoot and root parts
  • immediately replant in the new location
  • Water vigorously and mulch the soil
  • Water regularly for the next two weeks

Together

The seeds of the different varieties of the garden sun eye are widely available in specialist shops. Those who value single-variety plants should use these seeds. Alternatively, of course, the seeds of your own plants can also be harvested in the garden. Depending on the type of cultivation and biodiversity in the neighborhood, the offspring often cause a surprise, as they have little in common with the original characteristics of the mother plant. The height of growth, the color of the flowers or the shape of the flowers can differ significantly. Unfortunately, some hybrids are sterile and therefore do not produce seeds.

  • Time: from the end of March with preculture in the room
  • about 6 weeks before planting out in the field
  • from May directly outdoors
  • Substrate: cactus soil, potting soil, coconut substrate
  • Moisten the substrate and place seeds
  • only press very lightly (do not cover with soil)
  • put in a greenhouse or in a clear plastic bag
  • Temperature: 20 degrees
  • bright, without direct sun
  • Place a little cooler after germination
  • Remove cover
  • Keep the substrate slightly moist
  • Separate from a height of 3-4 cm
  • Put outdoors from mid-May

From the beginning of May, slowly get used to the young plants grown in the house to the outdoor conditions. To do this, place the plants in a partially shaded location outdoors during the day and bring them back into the house overnight if there is a risk of frost.

Tip : Alternatively, you can bring the seeds indoors at the beginning of August and plant them out in September. The sun eye then blooms in the second year.

Overwinter

Outdoor plants are sufficiently frost hardy in our latitudes, so that no additional winter protection is necessary. In the case of potted plants, the pot should be protected from freezing through by placing it on a styrofoam plate in a protected place on a house wall. Also wrap the bucket with foil or fleece. A little sticks can be placed on top of the withered plants. It is essential to protect the sun’s eye from excessive moisture in winter, as the plant reacts sensitively to it in the cold season.

Popular varieties

The perennial species of the Heliopsis are particularly widespread in our gardens. Cultivars of the garden sun-eyes (Heliopsis helianthoides) of the varieties:

1. var. Helianthoides
This variation has bare leaves and stems, the leaves are oval shaped. The plants reach heights of between 100 and 180 cm. They come from the warm, temperate east of the USA.

2. var. Scabra
With a height of between 60 and 130 cm, this variety is the slightly smaller variant of the sun eye and is available in countless varieties in the trade. The plants mostly have rough-haired leaves and stems. They come from central to eastern America and grow there in dry, prairie-like areas.

‘Asahi’ (Little Sun Eye)

  • yolk yellow, spherical flowers (double)
  • Growth height up to 70 cm
  • ideal for narrow borders

‘Golden green heart’

  • dense, golden yellow flowers
  • Colored green in the center during opening
  • Growth height up to 120 cm
  • drought tolerant

‘Gold plumage’

  • golden yellow flower
  • heavily filled
  • Height: 120-140 cm

‚Karat‘

  • Flowering: simple
  • Flower color: golden yellow
  •  Height: 120-150 cm

‚Loraine Sunshine‘

  • single yellow flower
  • silver-green variegated foliage
  • Height 90-120 cm

‘Top dancer’

  • noble variety with half-double flowers
  • sunny yellow with crossing double tips
  • Height: 130 cm
  • Flowers open late (July)

‚Summer Nights

  • reddish overflowing leaves
  • golden yellow, single flower
  • Center of the flower: dark red
  • Height: 120 cm

‚Venus‘

  • golden yellow, quite large flowers
  • unfilled, but with a double row of petals
  • brownish center
  • Height: up to 120 cm

Diseases and pests

The sun’s eye is considered a particularly robust and less susceptible perennial. The perennial can only be damaged by powdery mildew in very humid years.

Aphids
Weak plants are susceptible to aphids. In this case, good air circulation can prevent re-infestation (after control). To do this, cut out some shoots inside the plant.

Snails
Like many other perennials in the garden, the sun’s eye is very popular with snails. The only thing that helps here is good snail prevention, which begins in early spring. Otherwise there is a risk of devastation down to the leaf veins or stems. Some varieties are considered snail-resistant.

Conclusion
The sun eye shines like countless sunflowers in miniature format in the summer garden. The plant is not only very robust and drought tolerant, it also blooms tirelessly throughout the summer, sometimes until the first frosts. It hardly needs any maintenance and is also extremely hardy, so that it will sprout again reliably in the coming spring.

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