Homegrown: Mystery Maximillian daisy

Could you please identify a plant for me? It seems to grow fantastically well in Cedaredge, but I don’t remember where we got it or what to call it.

It’s a very tall upright plant that has bright golden yellow daisies up and down the stems this time of year.

The names people have told me don’t check out.

Also, can it be moved successfully? We planted it in a dumb place, thinking it would only be a couple of feet tall.

— James

It sounds like what you have is commonly called Maximilian daisy, Maximilian sunflower or sometimes New Mexico sunflower. The botanic name is helianthus maximilianii.

This is a great plant for dramatic fall color. It is a herbaceous perennial that dies down to the ground each winter and resprouts in the spring.

As you mentioned, this plant will get big and belongs in a spot with lots of room to grow. It forms underground stems called rhizomes that will increase the size of the clump.

The plant isn’t all that fussy about soil, but I think it does best when grown a bit on the dry side. This is really a great plant for xeriscapes.

Rich soil and abundant moisture will result in a taller, floppier plant that can bend over when it blooms in the fall.

Here in western Colorado, it usually gets 6–7 feet tall. Its height depends on the amount of water it receives.

It’s best to move the plant in the late fall after it has stopped blooming and has started dying down for the winter. This is usually in mid- to late November.

It’s October, and I have one large, old lilac bush that is in full bloom. Is this weird or what?

— Nancy

Actually, it is kind of unusual, but I do see it occasionally.

I don’t mean to rain on your parade, but this actually indicates that the plant is a bit under stress.

I’d double check how things are around that area. When it is watered, is the plant getting a good deep soaking? Does the soil get a chance to dry out a bit or does it stay damp pretty consistently?

Different plants have different tendencies, but lilacs HATE wet feet.

Has there been any digging or other root damage in the vicinity? Possible herbicide damage? Insect or disease activity?

You don’t have to be an expert in all this. Just take a close look at the plant. Do some digging around and use your abundant common sense.

If you see something, let me know.

One last thing to remember is that this doesn’t necessarily mean the plant is going to die (though it can). It often means that things are a bit out of whack, and it’s a reminder to steer things back on track.

Can you recommend someone to prune our trees?

— Evelyn

The city of Grand Junction has a list of licensed tree trimmers, and you should be fine dealing with any of those folks.

I wouldn’t deal with someone who is not on the list even if you live outside of city limits.

To get a license, the person must provide to the city proof of insurance (which protects you) as well as demonstrate some competency in pruning to the city forester.

Doing business with a licensed trimmer helps eliminate the risk of hiring a “fly by night” outfit that might do a bad job of pruning and take your money.

You can call the city parks department at 254-3866, or we have copies of this year’s list at Bookcliff Gardens.

Dennis Hill is the nursery manager at Bookcliff Gardens, http://www.bookcliffgardens.com. Send questions to Bookcliff Gardens, 755 26 Road, Grand Junction 81506; or e-mail info@ bookcliffgardens.com.

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