Home of the Practically Perfect Pink Phlox and other native plants for pollinators

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Willowleaf Sunflower~Not Just Another Yellow Flower For The Garden!

Helianthus salicifolius
I had no idea I would fall head over heels for another yellow flower when I ordered Helianthus salicifolius last fall.  In fact,  I completely forgot I planted it below the Crapemyrtle, 'Natchez' until it budded and bloomed a few weeks ago.

It's been a lovely addition to the late summer/early fall  garden with its profuse late summer blooms and its graceful willow-like foliage.

 Although, I haven't been able to capture a decent photo of the bees that visit this darling,  I was able to catch a slow moving crab spider.  This tiny little creature uses  camouflage and stealth to capture its prey.   Crab Spiders really do resemble their namesake!   Their over sized first/front legs are  held open to grab their prey and  they walk sideways or backwards using their back legs to maneuver. Just like a tiny crab! But, I digress!

leans over after rain~but, I don't mind

Willow-leaf sunflower has so many pluses that I had to make an exception to my plant wildflowers  indigenous to the Central Basin rule.  Don't you agree that it's a perfect addition to the rough and tumble wildflower mix at Clay and Limestone!
  • it has those pretty daisy like flowers that bloom from September through frost; 
  • it's  attractive to wildlife; 
  • lovely wispy leaves that resemble Amsonia hubrectii
  • will grow in dry sunny spots;
  • tolerates limestone; 
  • it looks fabulous with all the purple and lilac flowers; and,
  • has the potential to grow quite tall in the ideal spot.

It really isn't just another yellow daisy/composite flower to me.  It's a late blooming,  pollen rich plant that provides food for many types of bees and other pollinators,  insects, crab spiders and seed loving song birds.  Give it a try~You will love it!  But, you don't have to take my word for it!   Dee/Red Dirt Ramblings has it in her Central South garden, too.



  1. It's a beauty, Gail, and I adore those little spiders. They seem to hide on nearly every flower, only visible in the macro shots to my poor eyes. Love the sun peeking through at C and L.


  2. Gail I have a few varieties of helianthus and just love it. It loves to seed itself surprising me with new flowers where I least expect it. The birds, butterflies and bees love it as do I and it is a native for me!!

  3. This is a lovely bloom. And I really like your photos with the autumn sunlight reflecting off of those gorgeous flowers.

  4. (I have a crabspider on a wildflower for you on Friday)

  5. What a beautiful yellow addition to the late summer early fall garden canvas. That second photo of the long shot is just gorgeous with all the purple in there!

  6. I don't like crab spiders and not because they're spiders either. It's because I've seen them grab and suck the life out of poor innocent bees who were just trying to get nectar. They're mean, those crab spiders! I don't like them. Leave my bees alone. :) Pretty flower!

  7. Reminds me of Kansas. Ohh. I live there. woops.

  8. Grace, They do capture bees, too...The circle of life in a garden is hard to watch sometimes. xo

  9. I don't know willow leaf sunflower and glad you posted on it. It looks so much more delicate than regular sunflowers.

  10. Gail,

    Great post, never heard of this one. Seems a lot like our giant Swamp Sunflower. Which the recent rains have dropped it down to a 15 foot circle of flowers. The crabs spiders love it. We need these spiders to complete the cycle of nature. As to these spiders eating bees, I'm now a beekeeper and the bees only live about a month, being taken as a meal is no big deal.

  11. Gail,
    I think you have identified for me a wildflower I have on the edge of the woods. It is a gorgeous mass of yellow right now. The blooms look the same. Do they grow about two or three feet tall and have very slim leaves? Individually they look kind of scraggly, but in a group, absolutely stunning? I'm just south of you in Mississippi, so these wildflowers are growing in red clay.
    Thanks for the beautiful photos!

  12. Gail, very curious about the size. Sounds like there's so much to recommend it - amsonia like leaves, bright yellow daisy flowers and it blooms late - definitely an all rounder. Love the little crab spider on the underside of the petals - a very clever way to get a meal!

  13. Thanks for introducing me to another type of Helianthus. This one is lovely and has much to recommend it, especially blooming at this time of year. I didn't find it in my Illinois Wildflower book, so I wonder if it will grow here.

  14. I will be honest with you Gail, I never liked yellow flowers.....that is until I started to visit Clay and Limestone.
    The Susan's had me hooked and it wasn't long before I had them in the garden. They have made a wonderful display this year....

    Like you I try to plant as many natives as I can.
    I am reading a book at the moment about climate change and gardening.
    One of the chapters suggests that we mix non native species with natives. Provided we do our homework and make sure the plants will surive in our soil and climate, they are beneficial to many creatures.
    So Gail, enjoy your beautiful sunflower........

  15. Makes for a great late season nectar larder Gail - it's beautiful under that tree. When I think of your garden it's always in association with yellow daisies.

  16. Barbara, The Helianthus salicifolius I have will eventually be 6 foot tall! I can't wait.

    Rose, it's a Illinois wildflower and let me see if I can save seeds for you.

    Randy, Thanks~I love the crab spiders, too.

    Cheryl, I think you are exactly right!

    Lea, I am so glad to help id a plant even accidentally!

  17. Thank you all for stopping by and commenting! You're the icing on my cupcakes.


  18. Handsome flower. Geez another flower I'm not familiar with.
    Love the rich yellow color.

  19. what a beauty! Yes, I do have the swamp variety that is stunning -- but deer me.

  20. Lovely photos, Gail. Love those yellows and purples.

  21. Great sunny bloom. I think crab spiders are fun to watch. Your knowledge of wildflowers is wonderful. I am still learning ...slowly but surely.

  22. We need a little 'sun' this time of year. Thank you, Gail. Great crab spider shadow in 1st pic!

  23. Lovely yellow bloom and light in these photos Gail! We all need more late bloomers too. This one is so delicate too.

  24. One of my family's favorite seasonal treats are soft shell crabs. They are fried whole and put between bread with mustard. I did not share the love, as they always looked like spiders to me.

  25. Yellow or orange along with purple always make me smile. Together, they are a fail-safe cheerifier.


"Insects are the little things that run the world." Dr. E O Wilson