Photo by Melody

PlantFiles: 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

8 vendors have this plant for sale.

42 members have or want this plant for trade.


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


Other details:
This plant is attractive to bees, butterflies and/or birds
Average Water Needs; Water regularly; do not overwater
Self-sows freely; deadhead if you do not want volunteer seedlings next season
This plant is resistant to deer

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

Seed Collecting:
Allow seedheads to dry on plants; remove and collect seeds

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There are a total of 33 photos.
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9 positives
12 neutrals
1 negative

Gardeners' Notes:

Neutral danishlady 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?

Positive LindaCH 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.

Positive dmxinc 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 killed one water 50year Maple and one 40 year Black Elm and I have seen Carpenter ant damage before. Coincidence they both rotted at the top of the same hill that I have the flowers? Maybe, but I have seen many Carpenter ants all over the flower stems, net to the trees. When the Elm fell over, it split from the middle and Carpenter ants were everywhere according the tree service.
I actually live next to protected Open-Space near the Delaware and have the problem of planting something that survives deer, will grow in low-light, and in wet, clay soil.

Positive Chillybean 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.

As soon as the flowers opened, pollinators galore arrived: honeybees, sweat bees (Nasty name, but so pretty), hover flies and some I have yet to identify.

Mine bloomed early, beginning mid-July and the last flowers are now fading. I inquired with the nursery I bought the roots from and they said they normally bloom in "August and September but of course plants dont heed our calendar." Soil conditions, sun, rain and other factors can determine when a plant will actually bloom. I have to wonder if it was the watering I did. But because they bloomed early, the early flowers did not get raided by the dreaded Leaf Beetle.

Positive real_americana 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.

Neutral strange2u 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.

Neutral shindagger 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?

Positive prestonpaints 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 has the potential to take over. Will self sow and spread through the roots.

Neutral Clary 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.

Negative SunnyBorders 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.

Neutral straea 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 soil, not its preferred good soil) and would recommend using it in a spot where its creeping root system would be a benefit rather than a potential drawback. By the way, my garden is very windy and it's in one of the windiest spots of all, and it didn't need staking, though it did tend to tilt its bloom stalks somewhat as it bloomed (which I personally thought added to its charm). I don't know if it adapts to frequently windy sites or what.

Neutral Mountaindave 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

Positive dicentra63 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.

Positive SudieGoodman 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!

Neutral Gabrielle 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.

Neutral tcfromky 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.

Positive Wingnut 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.

Positive frostweed 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.

Neutral HJohnston 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.

Neutral corrales 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!

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

Common Name: Prairie Sunflower

Neutral Sis On Aug 11, 2001, Sis wrote:

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


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
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

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