Helianthemum Nummalarium Sucks up the Sun
By Sandy Metzger, Sonoma County Master Gardener
Just say the name, five syllables in each part of the bi-nomial: Helianthemum nummalarium. You could compose a song to the cadence of that name, and write a poem to its color—the most brilliant red-with-a-touch-of-orange you’ve seen! It will light up your spring and the dreariest, winter-killed corner of your garden. Though the flowers don’t last but three to four weeks in mid-March through mid-April, the foliage is gloriously gray-green all year. Put it where it can provide a low border or hedgy effect.
Some books say you can shear it after blooming for a second go-round. I’ve tried it, but it didn’t happen. However, the bloom is such a dazzling knock-out, you won’t mind that it’s only once. Most folks call it by its common name, Sun rose, hence the Greek “helios” for sun. This smallish, mounding shrublet produces masses of five-petaled flowers about an inch across, with a bright yellow center. Pictured is H. nummalarium ‘Henfield Brilliant’. And that it is!
It demands full sun, only little to moderate water, and excellent drainage. It’s about 8-12” high and termed “spreading”, but not invasively. The mound enlarges to two to three feet wide, but it can gently climb over other plants. I planted some Sun rose in the company of a few Epilobium cana (California Fuchsia), and after two years, I don’t see much of the Epilobium (or Zauschneria, as some call it). My plan is to shear back some of the Sun rose to expose the Epilobium. Those two work well together in a monochromatic planting because of the similar flower and foliage color, the Sun rose blooming early in spring, and the Epilobium later. Also, they both have the same cultural requirements. One is a Mediterranean plant and the other a California native. Isn’t that convenient? No, that’s called good hydro-zoning!
An added attraction is that butterflies love the Helianthemum, and hummingbirds love the native Epilobium. For a spectacular eye-candy effect, plant them in masses. Yum!
©Sonoma County Master Gardeners