Western Sunflower is well-behaved, compared to some of the more aggressive Helianthus species. Its appearance is very delicate with just a few small leaves at the bottom of the plant and small flowers at the top of 3′ red stems. It spreads by rhizomes on mostly sunny sites with medium to dry soils. Western Sunflower is one of the shortest of the many sunflowers that are native to the United States. It occurs in glades, prairies, dry meadows, fields and rocky open woods. Large, long-stalked, ovate to oblong-lanceolate, basal leaves (to 8” long) form a 4-8” tall foliage clump. Sunflowers (to 2” diameter) with orange-yellow rays and yellow disks appear on stiff, almost naked, flower stems that typically rise to a height of 2-3’ (less frequently to 4’) tall. It blooms from mid-summer to fall.
Best grown in average, dry to medium, well-drained soils in full sun. Tolerates a wide range of soils, including poor sandy soils, humusy loams and clays. Avoid unamended heavy clay soils however. Tolerates drought. Spreads over time by creeping rhizomes to form large colonies. Plants may be divided every 3-4 years to control spread and to maintain plant vigor.
Western sunflower is actually native to eastern and central North America, not western North America. This plant is also sometimes commonly called naked stemmed sunflower and fewleaf sunflower in reference to the almost total absence of leaves from the flowering stems.