Helianthemum (76566 bytes)


A Shrubby Perennial that Looks Great Year-Round

By Connie Rayor, Colorado Master GardenerSM, Colorado State University Cooperative Extension, Denver

Helianthemum nummularium, sunrose, is a semi-woody perennial shrub that remains a garden favorite year after year. From the second week of May until the third week of June, this low-growing plant is covered with small flat blossoms.

Varieties with many different flower colors are available. Some favorites are ‘Wisley Pink', a dainty pastel, ‘Henfield Brilliant', a glowing, deep coppery orange, and ‘Raspberry Ripple'. All three have silver or gray-green foliage. There are also dark-green-leaved double red and white varieties.

Once the blooms are gone, the mounds of leaves remain all year long. The silver- and gray-green-leaved varieties, in particular, look fresh and beautiful throughout the winter. They are lovely in combination with other evergreen plants, such as the rosy winter color of yellow iceplant (Delosperma nubinginum), the burgundy and pale reddish-green shades of Sedum spurium, and the shiny dark-green and burgundy foliage of Rocky Mountain Penstemon (Penstemon strictus).

At six to ten-inches high with an 18-inch spread, Helianthemum function well in many garden situations: as the border of a perennial bed, as a "skirt" for the stems and foliage of bulbs, such as daffodil and allium, as a ground cover, or to drape over the edges of rocks or walls. ‘Wisley Pink' is stunning with Winecup (Callirhoe involucrata) and ‘Henfield Brilliant' is a fine companion for yellow daffodils.

Helianthemum, once established, is exceptionally drought-tolerant, making it a perfect addition to the xeriscape garden. The same plant will also thrive in a partly-shady perennial border which receives 3/4" of water every two weeks. Silver-leaved varieties are more drought-resistant and overwinter better than those with shiny dark-green leaves.

Helianthemum is easy to grow and maintain. Be sure to amend the soil with organic material when planting.  Any old, woody growth may be pruned in early spring, and up to one-third of the growth may be cut back after bloom. The gray-leaved plants seem to "take" immediately after transplanting; the green-leaved varieties may take more than one season to become established. Helianthemum is disease resistant and has no pest problems. It is also able to withstand our frequent hailstorms without much damage.

Photo: Judy Sedbrook

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Date last revised: 01/05/2010