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Helenium autumnale 'Helena Red Shades'

Helena Red Shades common sneezeweed

Native to North America (cultivar)


FIRST IMPRESSIONS:  Helenium autumnale ‘Helena Red Shades’ is an upright clumping wildflower cultivar with elongated bright green leaves.  From mid-summer until autumn foliage is crowned by an abundance of coppery red daisy-like flowers. This adaptable plant will grow in any site that has sun or part sun and wet to moist soils.

HABITAT & HARDINESS:  Helenium autumnale occurs throughout the United States and in most of the Canadian provinces.

Habitats include moist Blackland prairies and meadows, open moist woodlands, marshes, fens, soggy thickets, wet fields, moist margins of streams, creeks, ponds and ditches.  This species is usually found within a short distance of water in undisturbed or disturbed sites.

The cultivar ‘Helena Red Shades’ was selected for its large russet red and yellow edged flowers. This variety has strong growth, healthy foliage and long lasting flowers.

Plants are hardy from USDA Zones 3-9.

PLANT DESCRIPTION:  Helenium autumnale ‘Helena Red Shades’ is an erect branched perennial with stout green stems and shallow fibrous roots.

Leaves are lance shaped or narrowly elliptical and about 5” long.  They are toothed or almost entire.  The base can be sessile or may clasp the stem.

Stems terminate in numerous 2” daisy-like heads.   Each head consists of a bronzy maroon globe shaped cluster of disc florets surrounded by yellow edged red ray florets.  Each ray is narrowly triangular with two teeth on the tip.

Flowering begins in late summer or early fall and continues for 1-2 months.  Rusty brownish seed clusters follow.

Plants grow about 4’ tall with 3’ spread.

CULTURAL & MAINTENANCE NEEDSHelenium autumnale ‘Helena Red Shades’ is easy to grow in most sunny sites. 

This cultivar prefers loamy or silty soils that are high in organic matter.   Plants thrive in wet or evenly moist soil but will tolerate a bit of drought after establishment.

In garden situations, avoid fertilization as it can cause stems to become weak.   A spring pruning can encourage stronger branching and denser growth. 

Plants are pest resistant and unpalatable to deer and other herbivores. 

LANDSCAPE USES:  This is a good choice for a Cut Flower Garden or Meadow Garden. Plants are also used as Butterfly Nectar Plants or as part of a Grouping or Mass.   Helenium autumnale ‘Helena Red Shades’ has Showy Blooms and is appropriate for Cottage Gardens, Deer Resistant Plantings, Rain Gardens, Water-wise Landscapes, Low Maintenance Plantings or Perennial Borders.

COMPANION & UNDERSTUDY PLANTS:  Try pairing Helenium autumnale ‘Helena Red Shades’ with Aster novae-angliae, Eupatorium maculatum, Hibiscus moscheutos, Monarda fistulosa, Liatris spicata, Panicum virgatum or Andropogon gerardii.

Helenium autumnale could be substituted in wild or natural areas.  Flowers would probably be yellow rather than red.

TRIVIA:  Native bees, honeybees, wasps, pollinating flies, butterflies and beetles seek the nectar and pollen.  Mammalian herbivores usually do not feed on the toxic bitter foliage.  Livestock are reported to have been severely poisoned after eating this plant when other forage was not available.

This cultivar is sometimes known by the German name 'Helena Rote Tone'.

This seed grown cultivar flowers the first year after seeding.


4 ft


3 ft


3-4 ft

USDA Hardiness Zone:


Bloom Color:


Helenium autumnale 'Helena Red Shades' Characteristics

Attracts Wildlife

  • Butterflies
  • Songbirds
  • Pollinators


  • Cut Flower
  • Coastal
  • Clay Soil
  • Naturalizing
  • Bog
  • East-Coast Native
  • Rain Garden
  • Drought Tolerant
  • Dried Flower


  • Full Shade to Partial Shade

Deer Resistant

  • Deer Resistant

Flowering Months

  • August
  • July

Foliage Color

  • Green

Growth Rate

  • Fast

Salt Tolerance

  • Medium

Season of Interest (Foliage)

  • Summer
  • Spring
  • Fall

Soil Moisture Preference

  • Moist to Wet

Plants that work well with Helenium autumnale 'Helena Red Shades'

Thousand-flowered aster Thousand-flowered aster (Boltonia asteroides)
Harebell (No Advance Orders) Harebell (No Advance Orders) (Campanula rotundifolia)
New England aster New England aster (Aster novae-angliae)
Spotted Joe pye weed Spotted Joe pye weed (Eupatorium maculatum)
Swamp mallow Swamp mallow (Hibiscus moscheutos)
Wild bergamot Wild bergamot (Monarda fistulosa)
Dense blazing star Dense blazing star (Liatris spicata)
Switch grass Switch grass (Panicum virgatum)
Big bluestem Big bluestem (Andropogon gerardii)

Substitutions for Helenium autumnale 'Helena Red Shades'

Common sneezeweed Common sneezeweed (Helenium autumnale)
Burning Hearts false sunflower Burning Hearts false sunflower (Heliopsis helianthoides var. scabra 'Burning Hearts')