Helianthus occidentalis

Species Native to Missouri
Common Name: sunflower 
Type: Herbaceous perennial
Family: Asteraceae
Native Range: Central and eastern United States
Zone: 4 to 8
Height: 2.00 to 4.00 feet
Spread: 1.50 to 2.00 feet
Bloom Time: August to September
Bloom Description: Orange-yellow rays and yellow disks
Sun: Full sun
Water: Dry to medium
Maintenance: Medium
Suggested Use: Naturalize
Flower: Showy, Good Cut
Attracts: Birds, Butterflies
Tolerate: Deer, Drought, Erosion, Clay Soil, Dry Soil, Shallow-Rocky Soil


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 dry soils and 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.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Helianthus occidentalis, commonly called western sunflower, is one of the shortest of the many sunflowers that are native to the United States. It is a Missouri native plant that occurs in glades, prairies, dry meadows, fields and rocky open woods in central and southern Missouri (Steyermark). 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. Blooms from mid-summer to fall. 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.

Genus name comes from the Greek words helios meaning sun and anthos meaning flower.

Specific epithet means west in the sense that North America is west of Europe.


No serious insect or disease problems. Taller plants may need some staking or other support.


Sunny borders, wild or native plant gardens, cottage gardens, naturalized areas or prairies. A good plant for holding dry soils and preventing erosion.