Helenium flexuosum

Species Native to Missouri
Common Name: purple-headed sneezeweed 
Type: Herbaceous perennial
Family: Asteraceae
Native Range: Eastern and central United States
Zone: 5 to 9
Height: 1.00 to 3.00 feet
Spread: 1.00 to 2.00 feet
Bloom Time: August to October
Bloom Description: Yellow rays with brownish-purple center disk
Sun: Full sun
Water: Medium to wet
Maintenance: Medium
Suggested Use: Rain Garden
Flower: Showy
Attracts: Butterflies
Tolerate: Deer, Wet Soil


Easily grown in average, medium to wet soils in full sun. Prefers rich, moist soils. Intolerant of dry soils. Avoid overfertilization, which may cause plants to grow too tall. Although not required, plants may be cut back in May-early June to reduce plant height and to encourage branching, thus leading to a more floriferous bloom, healthier foliage and less need for support. Remove spent flowers to encourage additional bloom. Cut back plants by 1/2 after flowering. Divide clumps as needed (every 3-4 years) to maintain vigor.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Helenium flexuosum, commonly called purple-headed sneezeweed, is most easily distinguished from other sneezeweeds by its spherical, brownish-purple center disk. It is an erect, clump-forming perennial that is native to the eastern and midwestern U.S. In Missouri, it typically occurs in moist soils along streams, sink hole ponds, sloughs, ditches, swamps, swampy meadows, upland prairie depressions, pastures and fields, mostly in the central and southern portions of the State south of the Missouri River (Steyermark). This is a single-stemmed plant that branches near the top, typically growing 1-3’ tall. Stem is distinctively winged below. Daisy-like flowers (to 1.5” across) with wedge-shaped, drooping, bright yellow rays (three-lobed at the tips) and prominent, rounded, brownish-purple center disks bloom from summer to fall. Alternate, lance-shaped, dark green basal leaves to 8” long, with shorter sessile stem leaves. Synonymous with H. nudiflorum.

Genus name comes from the Greek name helenion which is the name of a Greek plant which honors Helen of Troy. It is unclear as to the relevance of Helen of Troy to the within genus of plants which are exclusively native to North and South America.

Specific epithet means tortuous or zigzag.

Powdered disk flowers and leaves of the sneezeweeds have in the past been dried and used as snuff, thus giving rise to the common name.


No serious insect or disease problems. Foliage is susceptible to powdery mildew, leaf spot and rust.


Borders. Also effective in prairies, meadows, cottage gardens, wild gardens, naturalized areas or in moist soils along bodies of water. A good plant for low spots and other moist areas of the landscape.