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What's Blooming in Paradise: Beach Sunflower

July 14, 2011
Anita Force Marshall
First impression: Oodles of miniature sunflowers cover this sprawling plant. Super bright, sunny yellow petals encase a dark brown center disk that measures around 2 inches across. The leggy, long stems are covered with sandpaper rough, triangular shaped green leaves. This low growing ground cover is dramatic and noticeable covering a large area. I detect no fragrance, but I see butterflies and pollinators all around. You can see this sunshine flower display even on a cloudy day blooming at the Botanical Gardens of the Sanibel Moorings.



Upon further investigation: Beach Sunflower is a fabulous garden addition. It is a must have plant for any butterfly garden. Butterflies love-love-love any nectar from its tasty little flowers. I enjoy watching long tailed Skippers, White Peacocks and Gulf Fritillary butterflies hovering, basking and sipping on one flower to the next. On sunny days I routinely find them congregating at the Beach Sunflower all day long! Our star hails from the Helianthus genus, which is one of many in the Asteraceae family. This genus is identifiable as our sunflower group. Beach Sunflower is one tough plant, which is known for its front line status on coastal areas. It will grow on a wide variety of soils and sand, but cannot tolerate wet feet. It can grow up to 1-3 feet tall and really wide (up to 6 feet) with an erect to sprawling type manner. As it grows, its long, slender stems have the ability to root on its own. This fast grower, is multi stemmed with triangle shaped, moss green rough textured leaves. The 12 cadmium yellow petals resemble our sunflowers that have been shrunk. They have a chocolate brown disk for the center that later turn in to its seedpods. These seeds become a tasty meal for our backyard critters. Simultaneously, fruit, flower and seed occur all year round. I encourage you to include Beach Sunflower in your garden. Gardeners can be frustrated with its black hole like look at times. The leaves and stems during extreme weather have a tendency to turn black and mushy. This causes parts of the bush to be scraggly, hollow and dark underside, while other parts are looking great. This yucky area can be trimmed away and made to look attractive again. I have embraced its sunny disposition, and over look it’s down falls. I began my love of Beach Sunflower, with my first plant that I purchased from the SCCF Native Plant Nursery. Its native status puts it in the easy nature and lack of pests/disease category. It’s made for our tropical climate with its drought tolerance and need for full sun. Do you have a hard to grow anything sunny spot—try planting our star and see what happens!



Pros: Does well in sandy soil - Likes full sun - Easy to maintain/prune – Pollinator attractor - Salt tolerance – Neighbors will wonder where you got all the sunflowers - Great for a cottage garden look – Gives garden a happy look - Drought tolerant – Native – Reseeds itself - Easy care – Flowers all year round – Wildlife love it - Great for hard to grow coastal areas.



Cons: Can get leggy – Fast grower – Pollinator attractor – Cold sensitive – Dies back and needs cleaning – Can be finicky and not sprawl where you want it to – May lose objects in your own Black Hole - Root rot when over irrigated.



Conclusion: So hop on your bicycle built for two, and look for our blankets of sunflowers. No need for sunscreen with these rays of sunshine growing in our tropical garden in paradise.

Don’t wanna miss this bloomer!

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