Heliopsis helianthoides, Oxeye Sunflower

Oxeye Sunflower blooms with deep orange-yellow flowers for two months above dense mid-height foliage, and has apparently become popular in Europe. Interestingly, open-source images (Wikimedia Commons) from botanical gardens in Germany show European native pollinators foraging on them, despite the fact they’re not native there. Many large-flowered cultivars have been developed in Europe based on our native species. (Prairie Moon Nursery).


Oxeye Sunflower is cultivated in ornamental flower gardens by planting in relatively fertile somewhat moist soil, pruning to shape its form, and dead-heading to extend bloom period. However, it can survive and even thrive in drier poorer soils as well as in heavy moist clay soil. It blooms and grows best in full sun, self-sows, and is difficult to divide. Makes an excellent addition to a cutting garden. Can grow in part-shade, but may flop over and grow leggy and uneven without adequate sun.


While not noted of Special Value to Native Bees by the Xerces Society, New Moon Nursery observes that “the flowers are visited by honey bees, native bees, beneficial wasps, pollinating flies, butterflies, skippers and beetles. Seed is relished by songbirds.” Ernst Seeds concurs that the plant “provides food and cover for birds.” Heliopsis helianthoides is a host plant for the Southern Emerald (Synchlora frondaria) and Sunflower Moth (Homoeosoma electellum) according to the NWF Native Plant Finder.

Virginia Heritage Communities

Heliopsis helianthoides has been found in the following Virginia Heritage Communities (relatively intact ecosystems that have been surveyed and catalogued by the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR): Rocky Bars and Shores and Calcareous Fens and Spring Marshes. None of these observations occurred in Floyd County, however, we have an outlier occurrence of the globally imperiled subtype of Calcareous Fens and Spring Marshes called Appalachian Wet-Mesic Tall-Grass Prairie [USNVC CEGL006039, Andropogon gerardii – Sorghastrum nutans – Pycnanthemum virginianum (G1/S1)] right here in Floyd. Heliopsis helianthoides was observed at an Augusta County occurrence of this same community type.

However, it can be seen growing wild in Floyd County along our rivers and streams where the banks have been kept open enough to allow full or part sun, but not regularly mowed and trimmed so that it can keep a foothold there.


Scientific Name

Heliopsis helianthoide

Other names: False Sunflower, Early Sunflower, Heliopsis, Oxeye, Eastern Oxeye, Smooth Oxeye,

Family: Asteraceae (asters).

Native Status

Native to Floyd County

Native Range Map (Virginia Counties) for Heliopsis helianthoide

Source: Digital Atlas of the Virginia Flora

Native to eastern and central North America from Saskatchewan east to Newfoundland and south as far as Texas, New Mexico, and Georgia. (Wikipedia, 2023)

Other Floyd County native Heliopsis: None.

Culture Notes

Height: 3-5 ft, Spacing guide: 18-36". Bloom Color: Yellow. Bloom Time: Summer/Early Fall (Jun-Sep). Light: Full sun to part shade. Moisture: Semi-dry to moist (submesic to subhydric) conditions. Soils: Well drained sand, loam, clay-loam.


USDA Zones: 3-8. National Wetland Status Indicator: FACU. C-Value: 5. Successional Role: Subclimax, stable.

Virginia Ecology

Virginia Habitat: "Open forests, woodlands, clearings, meadows, and roadsides. Frequent to common in the mountains; infrequent in the Piedmont; rare in the Coastal Plain." (The Flora, 2023). Virginia Natural Communities: Rocky Bars and Shores, Calcareous Fens and Spring Marshes

Ecosystem Services

Nectar for Native Nectar-Feeders, Larval Host for Butterflies & Moths, Supports Conservation Biological Control, Hummingbird Nectar Source

Wildlife Supported: Hummingbirds, honey bees, native bees, beneficial wasps, pollinating flies, butterflies, skippers and beetles. Host plant for Southern Emerald (Synchlora frondaria) and Sunflower Moth (Homoeosoma electellum). Birds eat the seeds.


"Easily propagated by seed in fall or early spring. Large clumps of ox-eye can be divided, but it is difficult." (Wildflower.org) Seed Germination: C30 - 30 days cold moist stratification required

Where to Buy

Prairie Moon Nursery, Prairie Nursery, New Moon Nursery, Ernst Seeds