Native Sunflowers Put On Fall Gardening Show

If it’s October, it’s time for the annual New Mexico sunflower show in my backyard.

It’s easy for me to forget about the big patch of Helianthus maximiliana during the summer. These easy-to-care for sunflowers don’t ask much of me except for a little water now and then.

The nice green leaves make such a lovely backdrop in the perennial garden, that it seems they’ve always been there.

It isn’t until the yellow flowers start to bloom up the tall stems that I remember how much I like this plant.

The flowers start as tight buds that slowly unfurl one by one to create a beautiful hedge of green and gold.  I’ve written about sunflowers many times before, but may have neglected to mention this steady performer.

One of my favorite things about this native prairie plant, in addition to its drought-hardy nature, is that it’s the last plant to put on a show in my garden. It waits until late September or early October to start blooming and won’t quit until the first hard freeze.

Because it grows about 6 feet tall, it’s the perfect plant for gardening in front of a long wooden fence like mine. The flowers attract butterflies and bees like them, too.

High Country Gardens offers several varieties of New Mexico sunflowers including Helianthus maximiliana ‘Santa Fe’.

If you’re making a list of native perennials to add to your xeriscape garden next year, I’d recommend planting several of these. They’re hardy to Zone 4, will grow to 5-6 feet tall in most soils and will multiply each season.

Oh, and don’t forget–they bloom beautifully in October.


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I have trouble with these wonderful flowers growing too tall and flopping over. Then I just have a mess jumble of green and gold. I’ve tried less water, more water and they all just flop. Any ideas?

Enjoyed the article (linked by High Country Gardens) and would like to receive newsletter or blog. Thanks

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Hi Judy:

Thanks for your question about the New Mexico sunflowers. I’ve had that problem in the past, too, especially during a wet summer. This season there was very little precipitation here and I didn’t do any supplemental watering. The sunflowers grew and bloomed, but they were more compact and not as tall. Maybe the secret is to leave it up to Mother Nature to take care of this native prairie sunflower.

My sunflowers – also floppy – have finished blooming. The stems are still green. When should I cut them down? And how close to the ground.

Thank you!


Hi Kat–Thanks for your question.

I usually wait until spring and cut the stems to the ground once the new foliage starts to grow.


Yes I did enjoy this post! I finally found a name, my mother has them spread thought her yard. They require little water and attention. Transplant in spring and as the years go by watch them spread. Cut down to ground in winter or early spring. For tall ones, plant along high fences, for shorter ones along shorter areas.

Thanks for your comments about these sunflowers–and I’m glad your mom has been able to grow them in her yard.

Great advice for planting along a fence, they do look great there when in full bloom.


Hi there! When is a good time to begin planting sunflowers in New Mexico?

Hi–and thanks for your question.

Sunflowers are usually planted about the same time as summer vegetables, like squash and pumpkins, around mid-April in your region. If you’re having a cool spring, wait for the soil to warm to about 60 degrees before planting seeds for faster germination.

Here’s to a great sunflower crop!

Great comments and answers!! I have a question about the NM Sunflowers – can you thin them out and when is the best time. What I really want to do is thin them out and replant the plants I am removing.



Hi Margie:

Thanks for asking about the New Mexico sunflowers–mine are just starting to bloom now making them the last flower show of the season.

For transplanting, I’d suggest waiting until spring when they’re starting up again. Move the plants while they’re still small. Keep them watered until the roots start growing and plants are established.

That said, I hope the transplanting works. It seems these plants do best when just left on their own.

Thanks again,

I just tie them up with a little piece of string stretched across the clump about two feet from the ground. Ours are 5-6 feet tall and don’t flop above the string, even though we get some pretty strong winds. If you use green string, it’s not even visible.

Hi Rachel:

Thanks for the great suggestion on how to keep clumps of sunflowers upright. I really like the idea of using green string!


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