Gardening Magazine

Plant of the Week: Inula Helenium

By Davis Landscape Architecture @DavisLandArch

Inula helenium Flower (28/07/2012, Kew Gardens, London)

Inula helenium Flower (28/07/2012, Kew Gardens, London)

Position: Full sun to partial shade

Flowering period: Summer

Soil: Moist, well drained

Eventual Height: 1.5m

Eventual Spread: 1m

Hardiness: 5a- 9a

Family: Asteraceae

Inula helenium is a . Its dark green leaves are variable and are hairy on the underside. Its basal leaves are elliptic with denticulate margins, up to 40cm long and 20cm broad. Its leaves growing from the stems are ovate to lanceolate with serrate margins, up to 20cm long and 8cm broad. Its yellow flowers are similar to those of the Sunflower and up to 9cm across. Its fruit is an achene which is up to 4mm long. Its roots are thick, fleshy rhizome.

Inula helenium, commonly known as Elecampane, Elf Wort, Wild Sunflower, Horse Elder, Yellow Starwort, Horse Heal or Marchalan, is native to central and southern Europe (including the south of the UK), and south west Asia. The roots of this plant are used in the manufacture of Absinthe in France and Switzerland. It has a long history of medicinal use.

The etymological root of the binomial name Inula is from the ancient Latin name for this plant. Helenium is from the Greek Elenion, the name of Helen of Troy.

Inula helenium (28/07/2012, Kew Gardens, London)

Inula helenium (28/07/2012, Kew Gardens, London)

The landscape architect may find  Inula helenium useful wild flower meadow or herbaceous planting schemes (it may need staking to keep a tidy appearance). Once established this pant is drought tolerant.

Ecologically, I. helenium is attractive to pollinating insects.

I. helenium prefers moist, deep, rich, well-drained soils. It tolerates most pH of soil.

Inula helenium requires little maintenance. large clumps may be divided in spring or autumn.

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