Floridata Plant Encyclopedia

A Floridata Plant Profile 981 Helianthus angustifolius

Common Names: narrow-leaved sunflower, swamp sunflower, narrow-leaf sunflower Family: Asteraceae (aster/daisy Family)

swamp sunflower
Dingo, Steve's old girl dog, relaxes in front of a big clump of swamp sunflower in his perennial garden.


The sunflower genus contains many showy and popular species loved by gardeners everywhere. Narrow-leaved sunflower is a perennial to 6 ft (0.6 m) tall with a much branched stem and rough, sandpapery leaves 3-6 in (7.6-15.2 cm) long but only a half inch (1.3 cm) wide. The happy yellow flowers, 2-3 in (5.1-7.6 cm) across, are borne profusely in late summer and autumn. Rays are golden yellow and discs are reddish brown or purplish.


Narrow-leaved sunflower, Helianthus angustifolius, grows in moist, sunny or partly shady locations throughout much of the eastern U.S. from southern New York to Florida and west to the Ohio River valley and south to southern Texas. It grows in swamps, wet pinelands, coastal salt marshes and moist disturbed sites and is often common along roadside ditches and fence lines.


Light: Like most sunflowers, this one does best in full sun. Plants grown in partial shade will be leggier and probably fall over without support. They won't produce as many flowers, either. Moisture: Narrow-leaved sunflower prefers a moist soil but will thrive in well drained soils if watered during dry spells. Hardiness: USDA Zones 6 - 9. Narrow-leaved sunflower is an herbaceous perennial that dies to the ground after the first freeze, and returns in spring. Propagation: Plant seeds in spring. Divide the root mass in spring or autumn.


If you live in the eastern United States, you'll want to have narrow-leaved sunflower in your garden. It's a native and attractive to many of our native butterflies. Narrow-leaved sunflower is often grown in the wildflower garden or in mixed perennial beds. It is rather inconspicuous most of the year, lying low and unobtrusive, but still attractive with its deep green leaves and maroon stems. However, narrow-leaved sunflower comes alive and brightens everything around it from September 'till November. You can cut the plant back in June so it will be a bushier when it blooms later in the year.

Narrow-leaved sunflower is salt tolerant and a useful perennial for coastal gardens. And, it can tolerate waterlogged soils for extended periods.

swamp sunflower
Narrow-leaved sunflower becomes a brilliantly bright butterfly buffet by October.


There are more than 70 species of Helianthus, the true sunflowers. Some are perennials and some are annuals, and all are native to the New World. The common sunflower (Helianthus annuus), an annual, is the one with the huge flowers that follow the sun across the sky and produce nutritious sunflower kernels for people, birds and squirrels. Jerusalem artichoke (H. tuberosa) is a perennial that produces an edible tuber as well as beautiful flowers. Another perennial, beach sunflower (H. debilis) grows on sandy seashores in the eastern U.S.


Under ideal conditions - full sun, fertile soil and abundant water - narrow-leaved sunflower will spread by its rhizomes and may make a nuisance of itself.

Steve Christman 10/31/03

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Helianthus species profiled on Floridata:

Helianthus angustifolius

( narrow-leaved sunflower, swamp sunflower, narrow-leaf sunflower )

Helianthus annuus

( common sunflower, sunflower, mirasol )

Helianthus debilis

( beach sunflower, cucumber-leafed sunflower )

Helianthus tuberosus

( Jerusalem artichoke, sunchoke, topinanbour )

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