Gardening 101: Waves of Sun
Blanket your garden in Helianthus debilis for an ocean of cheery blooms
The dune sunflower, also known as beach sunflower, is a low-maintenance native that grows on and stabilizes coastal sand dunes. It requires very little watering, thrives in nutritionally starved sandy soils, and can handle a little salt, making it a perfect choice to perk up a beach house garden. The dune sunflower has a low-growing, rambling habit that is quite different than its more upright cousins, so there’s no need to hide unsightly stalks. This joyful rambler can spread three to four feet and reach up to 24 inches tall with nonstop blooms. And, as an annual, it’s ideal for softening garden pathways or showcasing the color of a favorite rose with its glossy green leaves. It also makes a great companion in a vegetable garden, as it won’t compete for nutrition but will attract pollinators—bees, hummingbirds, and butterflies. Plant the dune sunflower as an herbaceous ground cover to keep weeds at bay, and watch as the waves of sunflowers come rolling in.
Hardiness: Zones 8b-11
Light: Full sun
Water: Drought tolerant, does not like wet feet
Soil: Sandy, strongly acidic to slightly alkaline
Maintain: Prune by cutting at the lower stems coming off the central leader.
Fertilize: Not necessary, but you can give it a boost with a 10-5-10 product once during the growing season.
Photographs by Bob Peterson, Michelle Lyles, Joan McDonald, & Sue Marriott