Fundamental Facts

HARDINESS: Zones 3 to 8
PREFERRED SOIL TYPE: Moist, well-drained
ATTRIBUTES: Tall plants with flowers in yellow, bronze, red, burgundy; for beds
SEASON OF INTEREST: Midsummer through fall
FAVORITES: 'Moerheim Beauty', 'Bruno', 'Crimson Beauty', 'Coppelia'
QUIRKS: Needs staking and irrigation during dry periods to prevent wilt
GOOD NEIGHBORS: Garden phlox, golden-rod, ornamental grasses, bee balm, Russian sage
WHERE IT GROWS BEST: In sun and moist, well-drained soil
POTENTIAL PROBLEMS: Powdery mildew in late summer
RENEWING PLANTS: Lives several years; divide every other year to promote flowering
SOURCE: Bedding plants, division
DIMENSIONS: 3-4 ft (1-1.2 m), 2 ft (0.6 m) wide

Sneezeweed in the Landscape

Don't let the common name daunt you. Sneezeweed will not torment allergy sufferers. But this profuse-flowering plant is native to fields and meadows, often growing beside and blooming simultaneously with ragweed, which is the real culprit. Not far removed from their wildflower roots, the 3-4 ft (1-1.2 m) tall garden varieties of sneezeweed retain an ability to adapt to a variety of settings, making them suitable for formal and informal perennial beds as well as cutting gardens. You'll find sneezeweeds issuing their yellow, copper, bronze, red, burgundy, and often multicolored blooms in mid to late summer, pumping out flowers for 10 weeks or more, till fall frost finally slows them down.

Fiery Flowers

Each flower has a buttonlike center that is usually yellow, and they have slightly drooping petals. An old favorite is 'Moerheim Beauty', which has a golden center and bronze red petals that age to burnt orange. 'Bruno' is bright red, 'Crimson Beauty' is mahogany red, and 'Coppelia' is a dark bronze red. Grow sneezeweed in masses to enjoy the range of flower colors. Or contrast them with late-season, blue-flowered bloomers, such as Russian sage and anise hyssop.

The daisylike flowers of sneezeweed are carried generously on small-leaved, multibranched stems, which make an especially full display. The branches are profuse but often not strong enough to hold their heavy burden of bloom, so sneezeweed usually requires staking. Once the plants achieve their full height, install 4-6 slender stakes around the clump and weave soft twine between the stakes and stems to give gentle support so you don't have to bully the plants into standing straight when they flower.

Nothing to Sneeze At

To look their best and flower profusely, sneezeweed should be planted in spring or fall in moist, well-drained soil. If the chosen spot tends toward dryness, incorporate some moisture-retaining compost into the soil before planting, apply a 3 in (7.6 cm) thick layer of organic mulch to reduce evaporation, and water as needed to keep plants from wilting. These hungry plants also like soil amended with a generous amount of nutrient-rich compost as well as a dose of balanced, controlled-release fertilizer applied as directed on the package each spring when new growth begins. Sneezeweeds can become lanky, especially in hot-summer regions. You can produce compact growth without inhibiting flowering by cutting them back to 12 in (30. S cm) in early summer.

While virtually pest-free, sneezeweeds can develop a leaf-disfiguring fungal disease, powdery mildew, in late summer. Pinch off and dispose of infected leaves, or cut badly infected plants to 12 in (30.5 cm) to encourage healthy new growth.To keep plants vigorous, divide them every other year and apply a 6 in (15.2 cm) layer of loose mulch, such as straw or evergreen boughs, after the first freeze, and remove it in spring.

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