June 3, 2011

by Nancy Kramer , Victoria County Master Gardener

edited by Charla Borchers Leon,
Victoria County Master Gardener
Gardeners' Dirt
As you get closer to the flowers of the Dakota Gold, you can see that each 1-inch bloom is actually eight petals that are triple-lobed surrounding a bulbous center. As the seedpods ripen and lose their petals, they look like little lollipops, and then dry out and self-clean, so no extra energy is needed for deadheading.
Two small one-gallon pots of Dakota Gold Helenium and one Lantana "Anne Marie" were planted to fill in the corners on each side of the sidewalk leading up to the front door residence. They have grown to fill in a 24-by-24-inch area in just a little more than two months.
These two Helen Flower bunches add subtle interest with their flurry of yellow flowers when viewed up close by people walking by. They will flower even better as the weather gets hotter, with little watering and are relatively care free.
Texas Superstar status has been awarded to another special plant for Texas gardens and has been named Dakota Gold Helenium. Remember, Texas Superstar plants are selections that grow well in all areas of Texas with a minimum of inputs, including water, fertilizers, pesticides and energy.


I feel like this cultivar of a North American native flower has been overlooked, but is hardy, colorful, easy to grow, attractive to pollinators, and now made available through the Texas Superstar program, so it will be easy to find in garden centers and nurseries. Who wouldn't love a plant covered with fantastic yellow, one-inch daisy-like flowers that survives our hot summer heat with little water?

Dakota Gold Helenium amarum, with its fine-textured, compact foliage makes a bright border plant and is useful where you need mass plantings of mounding yellow color in a sunny location.

They don't even need deadheading, as they are self-cleaning. When they lose their petals, they look like little lollipops. You'll find butterflies love them, too.

When I was asked to write this article about the Helen Flower, I knew I would be really interested in it. After all, my mother's name was Helen, and some of my favorite Victoria County Master Gardeners are named Helen, too.

I'm interested in any flower that is easy-to-grow. This Superstar plant started its life as a wildflower growing along the highways near College Station, when a group of students took an interest in cultivating it. The mowers were always mowing it back, so it started to grow as a short clump of yellow flowers 12-14 inches high, instead of the usually taller clump, which can commonly grow much taller.


Not too many people cared too much about a flower commonly called sneezeweed or bitterweed, but Dr. Michael Arnold, an AgriLife Research horticulturist, and a group of his graduate students saw the beauty in the plant from the Helenium genus in the Aster family that flourished along the highways and in trampled over-grazed pastures. The helenium was usually covered with beautiful, little, yellow ray flowers with a yellow center.

They claim it has a weeds to riches story, which you can find at the site, that says "with a little tender, loving care, the plant is a good, environmentally friendly ornamental." Another news report on the new plant is found at

They started gathering selections and growing it at campus breeding sites for years at Texas A&M, until it needed opportunities that Arnold and his students couldn't give it. So Arnold and Texas A&M licensed the improved breeding lines to Ball Horticultural Co., an international company that does business in 20 countries.


Now, it is offered as a cultivated annual landscape flower, blooming from late spring through summer until late fall. It has had great success in landscapes all over North America.

The 1-inch, yellow flower has a large, bulbous center of yellow surrounded by a ring of three-lobed petals and are attractive to both bees and butterflies. As the seedheads dry, they may provide seed for hungry songbirds.

In time, it may gently self sow, so you'll have extra plants to share with friends. They also are easily propagated in the early summer by dividing the clumps. The grassy-like foliage gives a wildflower-look to gardens and landscapes, and they can also be used as a container plant.

You can always start these plants by sowing the Dakota Gold seeds in early spring. When they reseed on their own, you are not guaranteed that the offspring will be like the parent cultivars.


I have to admit that when I bought the four little plants from H-E-B in early March and planted them with some Anne Marie lantana, I only bought the plants to fill in the corners at the front of my sidewalk. This planting has served its purpose, but you'll strike it gold if you plant a good size drift of them. They will suddenly become something special.

These plants have a very special use for a landscape in which you are looking for a wildscape look or a flower-filled meadow. You may want to plant Dakota Gold among mealy blue sage Victoria Blue and Mexican feather grass mixed in with some blue princess verbena and Blackfoot daisies.


Strike it rich in your own landscape by giving Dakota Gold a try, along with the four other 2010 Texas Superstar winners, which include Blue Princess and Rose Princess verbena, Pink Flare and Peppermint Flare hibiscus, Satsuma Miho mandarins and Grandma's yellow rose.

Angelonia or Summer Snapdragon "Serena"

Turk's Cap (Malvaviscus drummondii) "Pam Puryear"

Baby's Breath Euphorbia "Diamond Frost" and "Silver Fog"

*Scoparia "Melon Golly Blue"

Information can be found at

*NOTE: Not listed on Texas Superstar website to date.



Grandma's Yellow Rose - woody shrub

Satsuma mandarin Miho - specialty tree

Hibiscus Pink Flare and Peppermint Flare - bushy perennials

Verbena Blue Princess and Rose Princess - crawling, flowering perennials

Dakota Gold Helenium - mounding annual

All require full sun.

For more Information:
The Gardeners' Dirt is written by members of the Victoria County Master Gardener Association, an educational outreach of Texas AgriLife Extension - Victoria County. Mail your questions in care of the Advocate, P.O. Box 1518, Victoria, TX 77901; or, or comment on this column at