Helianthus grosseserratus

Saw-tooth Sunflower

$3.00 - $25.00

1/8 oz.
1/4 oz.
1/2 oz.
1 oz.

Sawtooth Sunflower, Helianthus grosseserratus, grows up to 12 feet, but in dense colonies, it may only reach 5 feet. Sawtooth Sunflower does very well in full sun and moist soil with high organic matter . This sunflower stands out to other sunflowers by its reddish-purple stem, surprising its leaves are only slightly serrated despite its name. This sunflower has very attractive foliage by growing to large heights and at the upper half branching can occur creating more flowering stems, and the flowers grow in small clusters at the top of the plant as well.

The large, Big Bird yellow flowerheads attract numerous insects, especially bees in the long tongued family. These include honeybees, and native bees such as bumblebees, Cuckoo bees (Epeolus spp., Triepeolus spp.), digger bees (Melissodes spp.), and leaf-cutting bees (Megachile spp.). The plant offers floral rewards in the form of pollen and nectar to moths, butterflies, and beetles as well. Besides floral attraction, the plant’s foliage and body is fed upon by caterpillars of the butterflies Chlosyne nycteis (Silvery Checkerspot) and Chlosyne gorgone (Gorgone Checkerspot), seed-eating caterpillars of the moths Homoeosoma electella  (Sunflower Moth) and Stibadium spumosum (Frothy Moth),  and foliage-eating caterpillars of Grammia arge (Arge Tiger Moth) and Phragmatobia fuliginosa (Ruby Tiger Moth). 

Sunflower seeds are a favorite for upland game birds and songbirds that can help spread seeds to new locations, this include: Bobwhite Quail, Hungarian Partridge, Mourning Dove, Redwing Blackbird, American Goldfinch, Lark Sparrow, and Savannah Sparrow. Smaller mammalian species like ground squirrels and voles will feed on the smaller plants, and larger, hooved species like cattle and deer will feed on the taller plants of sunflowers. 

Most sunflowers are rhizomatous and can also be aggressive and therefore may not be suitable for small landscape plantings.

Helianthus grosseserratus - Saw-tooth Sunflower

Map Key

Present in state
Present but introduced in county
Present and native in county; not rare
Not present in state
Present and native in county; rare
Species extirpated (historic)
State or county listed as noxious
Present in state; exotic

This map shows the native and introduced (adventive) range of this species. Given appropriate habitat and climate, native plants can be grown outside their range.

5 Questions asked on Helianthus grosseserratus

Hello I was wondering if there are good identifying characteristics that differentiate Helianthus giganteus, maximiliani, and grosseserratus?
Proper ID in the Sunflower family can certainly be a challenge!   We always check references. Sunflower Family in the Upper Midwest is a book we like a lot for Sunflowers, Asters, and Goldenrods. Here is a quote from that book: “Helianthus giganteus differ from H. grosseserratus in having hairy stems, short, wingless petiole and fleshy, not firm, roots”. “Flower head about 3”. “Leaves usually toothed, often alternate, with short petioles; stems with mostly spreading hairs”

About H. grosseserratus: “This tallest of the Sunflowers commonly grows in large colonies in which each stem may be part of a clone, all derived from a single plant”. “Flower head up to 41/2”. “Leaves often sharply saw-toothed. Usually opposite, with long, usually winged petioles. also has excellent information that we frequently use for a refresher.

H. maximiliani is a bit easier to ID because of the distinctive folding of the leaves, and the way it curves without as many teeth on the leaf edges like the other two. We think it is very noticeable when compared to other Helianthus.
I'm pretty much a novice, although we have been working on our prairie restoration for several years with moderate success. (we've had the help of a local landscaper) I would like to plant some of this type of sunflower. I can't figure out whether I can plant this in our area in the early spring. Please help! Thanks a lot.
Thanks for writing, Gretchen. We try to help guide your planting decisions by providing germination codes and instructions for plant species in our catalogs, on our website and with our seed orders. On each species’ page of our website, the "DETAILS" box in the lower, right, has a lot of pertinent info. Hover your cursor over the "Germination Code" to produce a pop-up with text of that code’s instructions.

Saw-Tooth Sunflower has germ code C(30), indicating that its seeds need at least one month of immersion in cold, moist conditions to enable sprouting. In natural settings, sunflower seeds ripen and fall to earth in late summer, fall or winter. Our experience shows that these seeds can be coaxed to sprout after a shorter period of stratification. If you can count on at least a month of cold, moist conditions before your growing season starts in earnest, that would be a great time to start your Helianthus seeds, either by sowing outdoors or beginning the artificial cold, moist pre-treatment in your refrigerator.
Are the rhizomes easily dug? I have a smallish yard but love sunflowers. I don’t mind digging up rhizomes. I can also wait until my garden has more established natives that can hold their own. Are some of the sunflowers less aggressive than others? Thank you!
Hi Grace, All of the sunflowers we have can be pretty aggressive if they are in conditions they find favorable. It's hard to say how easy it will be to dig up rhizomes, but I think you could manage in a small yard if you are willing to stay on top of it. Also, waiting until other natives are established will be a big help!!
I had to start these in grow bags due to my living conditions, but I want to take them when I move. They are about 6 feet tall. Can I cut them back in the fall to fit in my car or should I wait until they go dormant and what would be the best month to try to do this? Thank you!
Hi Valerie, It would be ideal to wait until they are dormant--then you could cut them down to the soil without any concern. Otherwise, if you cut them back when they are flowering, try to leave as many leaves as you can on the plant. Plants spend a lot of energy on flower/seed production, so if you cut them all the way back when flowering/seeding, it can be quite taxing on the roots.
I am looking to use these as a screen around my deck. Would they benefit from a tall lattice climbing "fence"?
Saw-Tooth Sunflower will look stunning as a deck screen, Michael! Although these plants will not "climb" the latticework, they will benefit from it blocking the wind. You can also use the fence as a support for any stems that may get blown over. Be aware: this species can become aggressive and may require some maintenance to limit their spread.


Growing your own plants from seed is the most economical way to add natives to your home. Before you get started, one of the most important things to know about the seeds of wild plants is that many have built-in dormancy mechanisms that prevent the seed from germinating. In nature, this prevents a population of plants from germinating all at once, before killing frosts, or in times of drought. To propagate native plants, a gardener must break this dormancy before seed will grow.

Each species is different, so be sure to check the GERMINATION CODE listed on the website, in the catalog, or on your seed packet. Then, follow the GERMINATION INSTRUCTIONS prior to planting. Some species don't need any pre-treatment to germinate, but some species have dormancy mechanisms that must be broken before the seed will germinate. Some dormancy can be broken in a few minutes, but some species take months or even years.

Seed dormancy can be broken artificially by prolonged refrigeration of damp seed in the process of cold/moist STRATIFICATION. A less complicated approach is to let nature handle the stratifying through a dormant seeding, sowing seeds on the surface of a weed-free site in late fall or winter. Tucked safely beneath the snow, seeds will be conditioned by weathering to make germination possible in subsequent growing seasons.

To learn more, read our BLOG: How to Germinate Native Seeds

Dormant Bare Root Plants

We dig plants when they are dormant from our outdoor beds and ship them April-May and October. Some species go dormant in the summer and we can ship them July/August. We are among the few still employing this production method, which is labor intensive but plant-friendly. They arrive to you dormant, with little to no top-growth (bare-root), packed in peat moss. They should be planted as soon as possible. Unlike greenhouse-grown plants, bare-root plants can be planted during cold weather or anytime the soil is not frozen. A root photo is included with each species to illustrate the optimal depth and orientation. Planting instructions/care are also included with each order.

Download: Installing Your Bare-Root Plants

Potted Plants

3-packs and trays of 32, 38, or 50 plants leave our Midwest greenhouses based on species readiness (being well-rooted for transit) and order date; Spring shipping is typically early May through June, and Fall shipping is mid-August through September. Potted 3-packs and trays of 38 plugs are started from seed in the winter so are typically 3-4 months old when they ship. Trays of 32/50 plugs are usually overwintered so are 1 year old. Plant tray cells are approximately 2” wide x 5” deep in the trays of 38 and 50, and 2.5" wide x 3.5" deep in the 3-packs and trays of 32; ideal for deep-rooted natives. Full-color tags and planting & care instructions are included with each order.

Download: Planting and Care of Potted Plants

*PLEASE NOTE: we are a mail order nursery and have no retail facilities, but you may pick up your order if prior arrangements are made. Pick up orders are subject to **MN Sales Tax.

Shipping & Handling Charges

SEED $100.00 and under: $5.00
Retail SEED orders over $100.00 ship free!

Custom seed mixes or discounted seed sales over $100, add 5% of the total seed cost
(for orders over $1,000 a package signature may be required)

BARE ROOT and POTTED PLANTS $50.00 and under: $9.00
over $50.00: 18% of the total plant cost. (For orders over $1,000 a package signature may be required.)

TOOLS and BOOKS have the shipping fee included in the cost of the product (within the contiguous US).

**We are required to collect state sales tax in certain states. Your state's eligibility and % will be calculated at checkout. MN State Sales Tax of 7.375% is applied for orders picked up at our MN location. Shipping & handling charges are also subject to the sales tax.

Shipping Season

SEED, TOOLS and BOOKS are sent year-round. Most orders ship within 1-3 business days.

BARE ROOT PLANTS are shipped during optimal transplanting time: Spring (April-May) and Fall (Oct). Some ephemeral species are also available for summer shipping. Since our plants are field-grown, Nature sets the schedule each year as to when our season will begin and end. We fill all orders, on a first-come, first-serve basis, to the best of our ability depending on weather conditions beyond our control.

POTTED PLANTS (Trays of 32/38/50 plugs and 3-packs) typically begin shipping early May and go into June; shipping time is heavily dependent on all the species in your order being well-rooted. If winter-spring greenhouse growing conditions are favorable and all species are well-rooted at once, then we ship by order date (first come, first serve). We are a Midwest greenhouse, and due to the challenges of getting all the species in the Mix & Match and Pre-Designed Garden Kits transit-ready at the same time, we typically can't ship before early May. Earlier shipment requests will be considered on a case-by-case basis.

*We are unable to ship PLANTS (bare root or potted) outside the contiguous US or to CALIFORNIA due to regulations.


We ship using USPS, UPS and Spee Dee. UPS and Spee Dee are often used for expediting plant orders; they will not deliver to Post Office Box numbers, so please also include your street address if ordering plants. We send tracking numbers to your email address so please include it when you order.



Germination Code
Life Cycle
Sun Exposure
Full, Partial
Soil Moisture
Medium-Wet, Medium, Medium-Dry
8 feet
Bloom Time
August, September, October
Bloom Color
Bird Favorite: seeds, insects, fruit, nectar, nesting, perch
Deer Resistant
USDA Zones
Catalog Code