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Maximillian Sunflower, Prairie Sunflower

Helianthus maximilianii

Family: Asteraceae (ass-ter-AY-see-ee) (Info)
Genus: Helianthus (hee-lee-AN-thus) (Info)
Species: maximilianii (maks-ih-mill-ee-ANE-ee-eye) (Info)
Synonym:Helianthus maximiliani
Synonym:Helianthus dalyi



Foliage Color:


Bloom Characteristics:

This plant is attractive to bees, butterflies and/or birds

Water Requirements:

Average Water Needs; Water regularly; do not overwater

Where to Grow:

Unknown - Tell us


4-6 ft. (1.2-1.8 m)

6-8 ft. (1.8-2.4 m)

8-10 ft. (2.4-3 m)


36-48 in. (90-120 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)

USDA Zone 9a: to -6.6 C (20 F)

USDA Zone 9b: to -3.8 C (25 F)

USDA Zone 10a: to -1.1 C (30 F)

USDA Zone 10b: to 1.7 C (35 F)

Sun Exposure:

Full Sun



Bloom Color:

Bright Yellow

Bloom Time:

Mid Fall




This plant is resistant to deer

Other details:

Unknown - Tell us

Soil pH requirements:

6.6 to 7.5 (neutral)

7.6 to 7.8 (mildly alkaline)

Patent Information:


Propagation Methods:

From seed; direct sow after last frost

Self-sows freely; deadhead if you do not want volunteer seedlings next season

Seed Collecting:

Allow seedheads to dry on plants; remove and collect seeds


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

Opelika, Alabama

Phoenix, Arizona

Rimrock, Arizona

Calistoga, California

Menifee, California

San Diego, California

San Jose, California

Vacaville, California

Clifton, Colorado

Deltona, Florida

Atlanta, Georgia

Fairfield, Idaho

Champaign, Illinois

Divernon, Illinois

Washington, Illinois

Iowa City, Iowa

Yale, Iowa

Somerset, Kentucky

Ijamsville, Maryland

Amesbury, Massachusetts

Somerville, Massachusetts

Farmington, Michigan

Pinconning, Michigan

Florence, Mississippi

Pahrump, Nevada

Jersey City, New Jersey

Trenton, New Jersey

Fairacres, New Mexico

High Rolls Mountain Park, New Mexico

Roswell, New Mexico

Southold, New York

Charlotte, North Carolina

Elizabeth City, North Carolina

Raleigh, North Carolina

Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

Portland, Oregon

Berwick, Pennsylvania

Hamburg, Pennsylvania

Lewisburg, Pennsylvania

Norristown, Pennsylvania

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Conway, South Carolina

Florence, South Carolina

Arlington, Tennessee

Knoxville, Tennessee

Memphis, Tennessee

Arlington, Texas

Austin, Texas (2 reports)

Broaddus, Texas

Cleveland, Texas

Jacksonville, Texas

Linden, Texas

Santa Fe, Texas

Spicewood, Texas

Jensen, Utah

Salt Lake City, Utah

Virginia Beach, Virginia

East Port Orchard, Washington

Lake Forest Park, Washington

Grantsburg, Wisconsin

Casper, Wyoming

Kinnear, Wyoming

Laramie, Wyoming

Riverton, Wyoming

show all

Gardeners' Notes:


On Oct 3, 2014, danishlady from Greene, NY wrote:

well, just put one of these in this year, right by my kitchen door. But moving it, after reading about the carpenter ants. Any suggestions about how far away from the house is safe for the house?


On Sep 20, 2014, LindaCH from Farmington, MI wrote:

I have had this plant for four years and it has bloomed profusely since the second year. I didn't know I was supposed to pinch it, so it has become very leggy and over 8' tall. I planted it against a south-facing wall of my garage and have not noticed it attracting ants, as someone else posted. The roots do grow vigorously and I have been chopping them back each spring to keep them in the area where I want them. I haven't given it any other special treatment and it is thriving. Next year I will try pinching it in stages to get a staggered flowering period, and to keep it a little shorter.


On Sep 14, 2014, dmxinc from Trenton, NJ wrote:

I can definitely see this plant being invasive. That being said, it grows well in just about any soil, even in moderately low light. I live on red clay that tends to hold water, and this plant has thrived! I planted 4 plants, and now easily have 75 in four years.

Another topic: Deer Resistance.....not really, they actually tend to love them in the Spring. They eat only the top parts of the plant, most tender. However, this plant adapts by sprouting out 2-3 ways after the top is eaten, so I get more flowers. Once the plant reaches about 3 feet the deer leave them alone completely.

The last thing I noticed: They may attract Carpenter Ants, so be careful. I wouldn't plant them next to your home. I have no real proof other than the fact that the ants have... read more


On May 27, 2014, Chillybean from Near Central, IA (Zone 5a) wrote:

I planted a dozen plugs here and there around the yard early this month and they are already coming up. I want spreading; I want "invasive", so I have high hopes this native sunflower will fit the bill. We have space to play with and no nearby neighbors who care.

The heads are small compared to mammoth sunflowers, but I have noticed the birds will more readily eat the smaller seeds. Many birds seem to struggle with those rather large seeds. I do not have to plant these every year, so an added bonus.

Adding this info 1 September 2014:

From bare roots, these grew beautifully. The Goldfinch males came and ate at the greens at the base of the newly opened flowers. The heads that already formed seed, these birds have been eating.

... read more


On Jun 8, 2013, real_americana from San Diego, CA (Zone 10b) wrote:

I planted seeds this year with great anticipation. For those who are annoyed with the invasiveness of these plants there is good news: the roots (or rhizomes) are edible. Wikipedia says that they are similar in taste to jerusalem artichokes. And J. L. Hudson reports, "The thick tubers were eaten by the Sioux and other peoples." So don't get mad, get cooking. Another site says, "The plants long flowering period and spreading habit, along with its tendency to form thickets or large colonies, make it ideal for wildlife food and cover. Livestock, especially sheep and goats, readily eat the forage." Plus it attracts butterflies and birds. Looks like a good permaculture candidate.


On Jan 19, 2013, strange2u from Hinsdale, IL wrote:

I am looking for native plants that deer like to eat regularly and naturally, and no, I'm not a hunter. I'm looking for native plants that deer prefer to eat, in an attempt to distract them from, eating from other gardens grown for human pleasures.

I read that this sunflower is a natural food source for deer, but DG's profile for this plant says it is deer resistant. Now, one of these sources is incorrect. Is there anyone who has grown this sunflower, that can varify if deer like to eat this plant, or not.

Thank you for your help.


On Oct 30, 2011, shindagger from Oklahoma City, OK wrote:

I just pulled three long rooted starts easily out of a wet ditch. I notice they were growing in pure red sticky clay, the kind that dries as hard as bricks in summer. The plants were all stick straight and flowering heavily in the country. I am planting mine in the worst, unimproved clay "dirt" on the property line which is about as bad as what I pulled these out of. After reading other comments, I think they will flop in good soil, be invasive and get too tall, perhaps at the expense of blooms?


On May 3, 2011, prestonpaints from Charlotte, NC (Zone 7b) wrote:

Great plant in the right place. Grows extremely fast, drought tolerant and puts on quite a show in the weening days of summer! I started with just a few roots from my mother's garden- now I have divided it several times over a three year period and spread it through-out my garden. Don't use this plant in small gardens...it has the potential to take over. Will self sow and spread through the roots.


On Sep 26, 2009, Clary from Lewisburg, PA (Zone 6b) wrote:

After 3 years, a single plug grew to a 2-foot clump that produced over a dozen stems. In rich soil in full sun it grew to 12' high. The shape of the plant was much improved by a mid-season pruning.

This blooms very late in the season here in zone 6b, with the asters and mums.


On Mar 19, 2009, SunnyBorders from Aurora, ON (Zone 5a) wrote:

Further to comment by straea:
Have grown this plant in three different perennial beds (all upgraded clay). I was actually assured by the nursery that it was not invasive. After two or three year it was advancing through the beds, in one case into the lawn and in another into an ornamental pine. It was so shallow rooted that removing all of it was quite easy. I now use clump-forming Heliopsis helianthoides (false sunflower) cultivars instead.


On Jun 1, 2008, straea from Somerville, MA (Zone 6b) wrote:

It was only after I planted this that I first heard about its potentially aggressive tendencies. Guess I didn't do enough research. Regardless, last year (its first year), planted in early summer from a good-sized but not huge container, it bloomed in a small clump on tall, wiry stems that didn't shade its neighbors as much as one might think from a tall plant. I enjoyed the pretty blooms and then birds enjoyed the seeds. Apparently it was expending most of its energy on its roots last year, because this year it came up in a clump over twice the size of last year's and has been spreading its roots outward over the past two months, sending up new sprouts as it goes. I wouldn't have planted it close to my Oriental poppies if I had known how aggressive it can be (and this is poor, dry so... read more


On Apr 21, 2008, Mountaindave from Port Orchard, WA wrote:

Their first year, they grew to about ten feet tall. Problem was they were not bushy so they looked scraggly with blooms only near the top. Should I pinch them?
Compared to a hybrid named Marc's Apollo growing next to them that was bushy, prolific and bloomed to the end of November, they were kind of sad. One more year of scraggly growth and they get yanked for more Apollos


On Jun 22, 2007, dicentra63 from West Valley City, UT (Zone 6b) wrote:

Perennial sunflowers! Who can resist?

They're great in the late summer/fall. The first season (2001), they grew 6-8 feet but have been growing progressively smaller each subsequent season. Probably poor soil or something: my soil is heavy-ish clay with little nitrogen, and I don't have the energy to enrich.

They do self-seed vigorously, but the seedlings are easy to identify and pull out. Compared to chinese elm seedlings, these are no sweat.


On May 23, 2006, SudieGoodman from Broaddus, TX (Zone 8b) wrote:

Zone 8b, Southeast, TX in Broaddus:
In March, I found a 3" tall seedling under my bird feeder. Tom fills bird feeder with sunflower seeds.
I transplanted seedling to full-sun area in March -06. I placed a 6' tomato cage over it while small. Today, May 23-06 my Maximiliani Sunflower is 5' tall and has one bloom 4" across.

It's a keeper, and free!


On Jan 16, 2006, Gabrielle from (Zone 5a) wrote:

Finches love this plant, so I leave a few for them. They blend in with it so well that you really have to look close to see them. As the flowers loose the yellow and turn brown in the fall, so do the finches! They do have a tendency to flop (the plant, not the finches) and seed too freely. Blooms September - October in my garden.


On Oct 11, 2004, tcfromky from Mercer, PA (Zone 5a) wrote:

Use Maximaillian sunflower extremely sparingly in new plantings, particularly on good soil. It is very aggressive and will dominate a planting.


On Jun 16, 2004, Wingnut from Spicewood, TX (Zone 8b) wrote:

Striking plant to have in the garden! Three inch wide blooms stacked one above another on three feet of stalk.


On May 24, 2004, frostweed from Josephine, Arlington, TX (Zone 8a) wrote:

The Maximillian sunflower is really beautiful in the Fall together with golden rod, purple and white asters, and orange butterfly weed.
They do require tying but it is very much worth it.


On May 23, 2004, HJohnston from Memphis, TN wrote:

I was disappointed at first since there were no blooms all summer and the plants became quite large and were shading out some other plants in the same bed. Then in the fall they were covered with six inch blooms when not much else was blooming. I have since moved them to another spot where they will not shade out other plants and there is a fence behind them which I use to tie them up with a string since the heads are very heavy and they tend to fall over. There are so many blooms they are also good for cutting for indoor arrangements in fall colors.


On Jul 21, 2003, corrales from Arvada, CO wrote:

Helianthus maximilianii is sometimes sold as a perennial. I started seed and now have transplanted about 30 seedlings, all of them now (mid-July) 12"+ and growing, vigorous,with long arching leaves. All are clearly related but have the sunflower trait of variations on a common theme.

No flowers have appeared; the catalog described this plant as a kind of flowering hedge. That's what I hope for!


On Sep 27, 2002, yvana from Stone Mountain, GA (Zone 7b) wrote:

Common Name: Prairie Sunflower


On Aug 11, 2001, Sis wrote:

Very robust 6' to 8' plants, producing large quantities of single yellow blooms in late summer.