Sign up for News & Availability Emails
Site Search:
Helianthus salicifolius 'First Light' (willowleaf sunflower)

Helianthus salicifolius 'First Light' PP13150

willowleaf sunflower

An explosion of golden yellow flowers combined with a manageable height makes this a superior selection. Despite its name, this plant can be found literally blanketed in flowers in the late summer and into the fall when most other Helianthus are past. Flowers form on upright, self-supporting stems but instead of the typical tall sunflower, Helianthus 'First Light' forms a nice, compact clump of fuzzy, linear leaves topping out just above 3 feet.

Helianthus salicifolius 'First Light' PP13150 - 50 per flat Availability
Additional royalty fee per flat Login for Pricing
Total price per flat Login for Pricing
Add to My North Creek Nurseries Wish List


3-4 Feet


2-3 Feet


24 Inches

Bloom Color


USDA Hardiness Zone 5-9

willowleaf sunflower Interesting Notes

Hundreds of golden-yellow flowers with dark brown eyes form in midfall on upright, self-supporting plants. Narrow elongated foliage. Stunning explosion of color for fall gardens. More manageable plant height than other Sunflowers. Birds enjoy the seeds. Better Homes and Gardens magazine proclaimed 'First Light' the surprise star of the fall season in their test garden. - Must Have Perennials™

Helianthus salicifolius 'First Light' was introduced in 2002 by Must Have Perennials™. Unlike its parent, which grows eight-feet tall and has a loose and open habit, 'First Light' is a fireplug of a plant reaching only three feet in height. As the common name suggests, the foliage of the willowleaf sunflower is narrow, linear and tightly arranged on a strongly pyramidal plant.

For optimum flowering, site in full sun and well-drained soil. Once established, perennial sunflower will tolerate periods of drought. 'First Light' is hardy to zone 6, so in some areas of Pennsylvania, locate plants in a sheltered area where they are protected from sweeping winds and fluctuating temperatures.

After most annuals and perennials have faded, 'First Light' explodes into bloom in late September and early October engulfing the plant with three-inch sunflower-like flowers. The golden-yellow ray flowers surround a chocolate-brown central eye and persist for several weeks. When in flower, the plant resembles a small Christmas tree aglow with bright yellow lights.

The showy flowers attract butterflies and if allowed to remain on the plant, seed heads add winter interest and a source of food for birds. Maintenance is minimal throughout the growing season; however, after three years plants benefit from division. - Penn State Extension

Helianthus salicifolius 'First Light' Growing and Maintenance Tips

Prefers average, well-drained soils. Grows best with added moisture but can tolerate drought. Allow stalks and seed heads to remain for winter interest and for food for birds. Divide clumps in spring or fall every 3 to 4 years. Any seeds produced by this cultivar will reportedly be sterile.

Good Substitutions

willowleaf sunflower Helianthus salicifolius 'Autumn Gold'

Key Characteristics & Attributes

Full Sun
Full Sun
Deer Resistant
Deer Resistant
Cut Flower
Cut Flower

Additional Information

Soil Moisture Needs
Green Infrastructure
Bioretention/Rain Garden
Plug Type
Horticultural Plug
Native to North America
Clay Tolerance
Season of Interest (Flowering)
Late Summer
Propagation Type