HELENIUM (Helen’s flower)

 North and Central America

best Helenium Ruby Charm


Helenium is a perennial, a sunlover from the Americas named for Helen of Troy. It may bloom as early as June, with flowers that last until September. They look like small ballerinas as they blow in the breeze. Grow them in moisture retentive soil, & deadhead the spent blooms.

‘The entire plant is poisonous, not good if you have inquisitive pets or young children.’
Dave’s Garden/ Helenium, Nothing to Sneeze At Lee Ann Stark

Unfurling Helenium El Dorado


Our first Helenium was Sahin’s Early Flowerer, from Camden Garden Centre. It grew on the earthwork for a season. The following spring new growth came through, struggled for a time, and gave up. Squirrels had, we found, taken to sitting on the emerging Heleniums to bask in the sunshine. Difficult to grow with a squirrel sitting on you.


There are many Helenium cultivars, some known as ‘sneezeweed’, based on the former use of their dried leaves in making snuff. It was inhaled to cause sneezing that would supposedly rid the body of evil spirits.’


“The origin of the name Sneezeweed is uncertain, but it appears that Native American medicine men would grind up the plant, blow it in the faces of individuals thought to be possessed (by devils or diseases), inducing sneezing that was believed to expel the demon or sickness. European settlers saw how it was used among native peoples & immediately picked up on it as a substitute for snuff.”

Paghat’s Garden


Helenium el Dorado in winter

Helenium ‘El Dorado’, winter 2015/16

In 2015 we ordered two Heleniums from SpecialPerennials: ‘Ruby Charm’ (red) and ‘El Dorado’ (yellow). El Dorado had its first visitors on the 10th of August.

After a long, glorious display its tall stems were cut back. The photo at right shows the extent of its new growth in February, with squirrel protection.

Best Hoverfly on Helenium El dorado

SpecialPerennials, based in Cheshire, is a small specialist nursery growing plants for nature-friendly gardens. They no longer do mail order, selling their plants only from plant fairs, mostly in the Midlands & North West of England.








best colours El dorado, Agastache Black Adder, Monarda Squaw

Helenium 'El Dorado' landscape




Bumblebee on Helenium 'El Dorado' 2016

Bumblebee on Helenium ‘El Dorado’ 2016






helenium 'El dorado' with honeybee

2017 Update:

Helenium El Dorado had a good year, though mice brought down several of its stems in spring by nibbling away at ground level. Must look into splitting it.

Ruby Charm never reappeared in spring. Because of changes to the garden its pot had to be moved, & its new, less sunny position kept it from producing its luscious red colours. The wet winter weather plus squirrels/mice digging in its pot could have finished it off. Sic transit gloria.

El Dorado 2019

Helenium El Dorado now lives in a stylish black Ryman office paperbin, circa 1995, one of three that have proved useful as containers for plants or, upside down, as stands for other containers. Holes were drilled in the bottom for drainage.

El Dorado 2020

The plant has been split. It now lives in two deep containers & is keen to get on with its fifth season. Green leaves can be seen at ground level today, 5th of February.

In the midst of lockdown, when we were unable to get out to a garden centre, El Dorado carried on as normal. A coating of whitefly on nearby wildflowers, the powdery mildew appearing on leaves of some other plants – not a problem for this plant.

August 12th: Another season of dazzling yellow daisies draws to a close. Honeybees from the local beekeeper’s hives will have been among El Dorado’s many pollinators. There remain a number of buds, & flowers about to open, but these will be its last for 2020.

Pollinator on Helenium El Dorado, August 2020.