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 lasting until September. These have a quirkiness about them, beginning life as mounds atop stiff stems. They look like little ballerinas as they blow in the breeze. Grow them in moisture retentive soil, and deadhead the spent blooms.

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 the Home of the National collections of Helenium and Centaurea and plants for a nature-friendly garden. The couple running the nursery where these flowers are grown sell plants by mail order and at plant fairs. Their wonderful website is filled with photos (don’t miss the page with bees visiting their flowers), articles, inspiration, and advice on growing these and other perennials. Their links will get you to sites like Bumblebee Conservation Trust and videos, such as Carol Klein from Gardener’s World visiting the nursery.

email: plants@specialperennials.com









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 didn’t reappear in spring. Because of changes to the garden its pot had to be moved, and its new, less sunny position kept it from producing its luscious red colours. It could have been the wet winter weather plus squirrels/mice digging in its pot that finished it off. Sic transit gloria.

El Dorado 2019

Helenium El Dorado is now in a Ryman office wastebin circa 1995, one of three that have proved useful over the years as either containers for plants or, upside down, as stands for other containers. Holes drilled in the bottom for drainage.