Maximilian Sunflower is an herbaceous perennial native to the Great Plains regions of central North America. It is usually found in dry open areas such as prairies and bluffs. Helianthus maximiliani is hardy in zones 4-9 and grows 3-10 feet tall and 2-4 feet wide. Maximillian Sunflower is in the Asteraceae family and has a yellow composite flower which consists of disk and ray florets. It flowers August through September and reseeds freely. Cut it back after it flowers in the fall if you want to minimize reseeding. Maximillian Sunflower has long narrow leaves which are alternate, coarse, and covered with fine white hairs. This plant prefers full sun and can handle dry to medium water conditions. If overwatered it has the tendency to flop. To prevent flopping cut the plant down to two or three feet in June. It will grow in most soil types but prefers well drained soil conditions.
Maximilian Sunflower grows from a rhizome. The rhizome is edible and it provided food similar to Jerusalem artichokes for the Native Americans. Maximilian Sunflower also attracts beneficial insects and birds. Maximilian Sunflower is used as an ingredient in range seeding mixtures to provide high quality forage for livestock. It also provides food and cover for wildlife. This sunflower is difficult for squirrels to climb so often birds get the seeds.
Helianthus maximiliani is a good perennial for the back of a border. It is a great addition to a garden because it is showy in the fall when most perennials are done flowering. Maximilian Sunflower is also great as a cut flower. You can find it at the Idaho Botanical Garden in the Herb Garden or near the Children’s Garden.