Most of us are familiar with the large and unruly Common Sunflower, Helianthus annuus, the huge one that seems to take over disturbed soil areas as if by magic, and can swallow whole corners of your garden with its size and fast growth. But, did you know there are other Sunflower species native to North Texas? Anything in the genus Helianthus is a true Sunflower, and there are lots and lots of lookalikes from other related genera too. You can see the range maps for Helianthus here: http://bonap.net/Napa/TaxonMaps/Genus/County/Helianthus
One of my favorite North Central Texas natives Sunflowers is Helianthus hirsutus, Hairy Sunflower, or Rough-leafed Sunflower.
This one grows most often at the edges of woodlands, or even in the woods. It’s scattered throughout my farm on the red, sandy, acidic Post Oak Savannah soils and also in Collin County on alkaline black clay soils.
It gets its name from the rough hairs on both sides of the leaves that give the leaves a rough sandpapery feel.
It blooms in full shade or part shade, and stays low and small compared to some of its larger cousins. It doesn’t need much water at all to survive and has lived through some serious multi-year droughts at the farm. It will bloom better though in years that there is adequate rain. Unlike Helianthus annuus, it is a perennial, spreading via rhizomatous roots underground, so it will spread to form a thicket of cheerful sunflowers where it’s planted, that come back year after year.
It’s a favorite with butterflies and native bees, and Honeybees love it too. Do you have room for one in your landscape? Go ahead. Brighten up that shady side of the house.