Photo by Melody

PlantFiles: Cup Plant
Silphium perfoliatum

Family: Asteraceae (ass-ter-AY-see-ee) (Info)
Genus: Silphium (SIL-phee-um) (Info)
Species: perfoliatum (per-foh-lee-AY-tum) (Info)

9 vendors have this plant for sale.

26 members have or want this plant for trade.


36-48 in. (90-120 cm)
4-6 ft. (1.2-1.8 m)
6-8 ft. (1.8-2.4 m)

18-24 in. (45-60 cm)

USDA Zone 4a: to -34.4 C (-30 F)
USDA Zone 4b: to -31.6 C (-25 F)
USDA Zone 5a: to -28.8 C (-20 F)
USDA Zone 5b: to -26.1 C (-15 F)
USDA Zone 6a: to -23.3 C (-10 F)
USDA Zone 6b: to -20.5 C (-5 F)
USDA Zone 7a: to -17.7 C (0 F)
USDA Zone 7b: to -14.9 C (5 F)
USDA Zone 8a: to -12.2 C (10 F)
USDA Zone 8b: to -9.4 C (15 F)

Sun Exposure:
Full Sun

Unknown - Tell us

Bloom Color:
Bright Yellow

Bloom Time:
Late Summer/Early Fall


Other details:
Average Water Needs; Water regularly; do not overwater

Soil pH requirements:
6.6 to 7.5 (neutral)
7.6 to 7.8 (mildly alkaline)

Patent Information:

Propagation Methods:
From seed; direct sow outdoors in fall
From seed; stratify if sowing indoors

Seed Collecting:
Allow seedheads to dry on plants; remove and collect seeds
Properly cleaned, seed can be successfully stored

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There are a total of 26 photos.
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10 positives
3 neutrals
1 negative

Gardeners' Notes:

Negative coriaceous On May 20, 2014, coriaceous from ROSLINDALE, MA wrote:

This is a big bold plant, yet another late-summer gold daisy, easily reaching 7-8'. The rigid stems require a little support at the edges of the clump---a string for them to lean on, not a stake to tie each stem to.

It's attractive enough, but it's proved to be a highly aggressive self-sower in the garden here in eastern Massachusetts. (The speed with which a seed grows reminds me of Jack and the beanstalk.) We're phasing it out of the garden, as we just don't have the space for it and its many progeny. This is not a plant for the small garden.

Native to the midwest and southeast, it's not native to New England. It has naturalized in ME, VT, MA, and CT. Here it's known to invade wild wetlands and form monocultures, displacing the native flora.

Positive Rickwebb On Feb 6, 2014, Rickwebb from Downingtown, PA wrote:

A good native plant from American meadows and prairie in the East and Midwest. The flowers are good for pollinators and the nutritious seeds are loved by birds. The leaves clasp the stems to form cups that catch rainwater for birds and insects. I think it is best to plant this species in a group or mass rather than lone specimens. One landscape designer in se PA likes to use this as a dynamic lone specimen, but they often fall over some in his plantings. Millenium Park in Chicago, Illinois, has a fantastic, dynamic mass of these. Sold at native plant nurseries, as the large and famous Prairie Nursery in Westfield, WI, and a few large regular nurseries can sell some.

Positive mkcarter66 On Jul 4, 2011, mkcarter66 from Redford, MI wrote:

Love this plant! Works great just by itself and always gets comments. Gets to about 9 feet tall. Haven't needed to stake it yet.

Positive virginiarose On Jun 11, 2011, virginiarose from Southeast, VA (Zone 8a) wrote:

I am very glad I bought this plant, mine is small but doing well. It is a good host plant, it attracts bees, butterflies,birds for the seeds and any thing looking for a sip of water. Unlike sunflowers it does not need to be watered constantly. I am very happy with the plant.

Positive keelybstotlar On Apr 11, 2010, keelybstotlar from Madison, WI wrote:

This is a good plant when in the right place. They become very tall but I've found if I cut them back in early-mid June, they still flower at the same time but are fuller don't need any staking. Attracts bees.

Positive elfenqueen On Mar 20, 2010, elfenqueen from East Tawas, MI (Zone 5b) wrote:

Strong stems rarely needed staking, this plant is being grown at the bottom of the hill I made to create my waterfall and microclimate. Reaching 8-10 feet tall for me, it readily produced seedlings all over the top of the hill....the construction of the hill was simply the dirt dig up for the placement of the pond and was in no way enhanced. Just the simple rule of thumb...when moving dirt of any depth, save the top soil for the top.

Positive dryad57 On Jan 6, 2008, dryad57 from Scottsburg, IN (Zone 6a) wrote:

Grows extremely well in the back corner of my yard. It gets shaded in the morning by the neighbor's trees, but right before noon it starts getting direct sun, and has that for another 4-6 hours. I didn't stake it in any way this year, and it did flop down, but then curved back up to reach about 4'. Allowing it to flop caused it to take up about 3-4'. I didn't experience any difficulty getting seeds from it this year. The seeds are attractive to Yellow Finches, and the cup formed by the leaves at the stem draws insects as well as small frogs and birds. Very dependable and a striking addition if you have the room.

Positive dkm65 On Aug 16, 2007, dkm65 from Cedar Falls, IA (Zone 4b) wrote:

A great addition to a rain garden, slough, or swale that both dries out and gets a bit more water when it does rain (at least in the upper midwest). It can tolerate some drought as well as the flooding of a raingarden. It gets very tall and has very large leaves (v. sunflowerish in habit, although with numerous small yellow flowers rather than the enormous flower of the sunflower), so it needs to be in with some other tall plants so it doesn't look out of place. It blooms for a couple months starting in mid summer, and the blooms attract a large number and variety of insect pollinators (butterflies and bees of all sorts, among others).

Beyond pollinators, it is an exceptional wildlife plant. The leaves form a cup which holds water that birds and insects take advantage of for drinking. The insects drawn to the water, in turn attracts birds looking for food as well as water. A number of birds seem to really love the seeds, especially goldfinches. We don't use a feeder to attract goldfinches, but once the cup plant starts blooming they are frequent visitors (the number increases as our agastache foeniculum seeds start maturing, & continues well into the fall). As the seeds start to mature and attract birds while the plant still is in bloom, you get several months of bloom and wildlife activity.

Neutral bigcityal On Dec 12, 2005, bigcityal from Menasha, WI (Zone 5a) wrote:

Native roadside plant. I'm not sure if it was meant for captivity. I think it might be best to leave it in the wild.

Neutral gladmaria On Dec 7, 2005, gladmaria from Sioux Falls, SD wrote:

The best of show and worst of show results in a neutral vote. We have grown this in our nursery garden in South Dakota. I love its uniqueness, drought tolerance (though suggested for moist sites), showy yellow flowers, attraction to birds and more. One problem though is that this plant, at least in the north where seed gets cold stratification, can self sow to the point of being very weedy and a big problem if first year seedlings are not dug out right away.

Positive Arline On Sep 16, 2005, Arline from Palo Alto, CA (Zone 9a) wrote:

The Master Gardeners have a demonstration garden in Palo Alto California where I planted the seeds 2 years ago. The first year the plant stayed at less than one foot high and I forgot about it among the many plants along the fence. This year it is about 8 feet high and full of brilliant yellow flowers blooming at a time (Sept) when other plants are finished. A very satisfying plant for a big garden.

Neutral JodyC On Jan 17, 2005, JodyC from Palmyra, IL (Zone 5b) wrote:

Long-tongued bees, butterflies, and skippers are common visitors and the most important pollinators of the flowers. Some short-tongued bees, wasps, bee flies, and other kinds of flies also visit the flowers for pollen or nectar. The larvae of an Antistrophus sp. (Gall Wasp sp.) feed within the stems of this plant, and may attract the hyperparasitic wasp Eurytoma lutea. Various birds, especially goldfinches, are very fond of the seeds, and drink water from the cups formed by the leaves. Because of the tendency to form dense colonies, this plant provides good cover for birds, which often lurk among the leaves during the heat of the day, searching for insects or pausing to rest. Large herbivores, especially cattle, may eat the eat leaves of Cup Plant, especially those of immature plants.

Positive mikejw On Mar 20, 2003, mikejw from London
United Kingdom wrote:

I've had this plant in London, UK, for about 4 years. Despite the sheer number of flowers produced, for some reason, viable seeds are extremely few. In the first year or so I collected about 6. Last year was a big improvement however. In a smallish garden one plant is quite sufficient, as it increases in spread from year to year. This year,in order to halt its spread, we literally chopped off some of the outside portions with a spade. I'm sure that the 'offcuts' would have grown if planted. The plant also suffers heavy attacks from snails. It makes a lovely specimen plant, the flowers being the first thing that catches the eye.

Positive mystic On Aug 28, 2001, mystic from Ewing, KY (Zone 6a) wrote:

Has cheerful yellow daisy-like flowers on long, stout stalks reaching up to 8' in height. Even more interesting than the flowers are the coarse leaves from which it gets its name. Borne opposite one another on the stem, the large leaves fuse together at their bases to form a "cup" of sorts.These cups catch and store rainwater, often for many days. Birds and butterflies often come for a drink, and hummingbirds regularly visit .In fall goldfinches enjoy the seeds.

Note added 5-24-06. I have grown this plant for several years I have to agree you don't get many viable seeds.


This plant has been said to grow in the following regions:

Menifee, California
Palo Alto, California
Chicago, Illinois
Lisle, Illinois
Millbrook, Illinois
Gosport, Indiana
Hammond, Indiana
Indianapolis, Indiana
Solsberry, Indiana
Cedar Falls, Iowa
Ewing, Kentucky
Stockton Springs, Maine
Roslindale, Massachusetts
East Tawas, Michigan
Farmington, Michigan
Grand Blanc, Michigan
Ludington, Michigan
Marquette, Michigan
Redford, Michigan
Minneapolis, Minnesota
Saint Paul, Minnesota
Cole Camp, Missouri
Tilton, New Hampshire
Syracuse, New York
Star, North Carolina
Winston Salem, North Carolina
Canton, Ohio
Hamilton, Ohio
West Jefferson, Ohio
Jay, Oklahoma
Haverford, Pennsylvania
Springboro, Pennsylvania
Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania (2 reports)
Austin, Texas
Garland, Texas
Appleton, Wisconsin
Kewaskum, Wisconsin
Madison, Wisconsin
Menasha, Wisconsin
Merrimac, Wisconsin
Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Porterfield, Wisconsin

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