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For cutting all summer long, it's the easygoing helianthus.

If you're searching for an easy-to-grow perennial to produce a bumper crop of flowers, Helianthus multiflorus is a good candidate. You can find it this month at nurseries in 2-gallon cans, or order it. In the same family with the common sunflower and Jerusalem artichoke, it has daisy-like, bright yellow flowers on stiff, upright stems. Keep harvesting flowers to prevent seeds from setting and you'll have bloom from the late June until frost.

Perennial sunflowers are such robust growers that they have a reputation with some gardeners for being coarse, if not outright invasive. Two named varieties, 'Loddon Gold' and 'Flore Pleno', though vigorous, minimize the problem. These plants form clumps that need to be divided every two or three years.

Give helianthus as sunny a spot as possible, with good, fast-draining soil; be sure to give ample water. Though not necessary, a light monthly application of nitrogen fertilizer helps ensure a large flower crop. Between April and mid-June, the plants shoot up to a height of 4 to 6 feet, then set buds and start their show.

Growing them next to a south- or west-facing fence with a length of garden twine tied across about midpoint will keep them upright. Unstaked, helianthus can get top-heavy and flop over. Leaves are dark green, 3 to 8 inches long, finely toothed and scratchy, but handsome.
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Date:Apr 1, 1984
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