How To Grow And Care For Coneflower
If you want a plant that will bloom year after year in your Southern garden, check out this happy-growing perennial.
The coneflower is native to North America and is generally known as a prairie plant, growing with little fuss and brightening beds and borders in Southern gardens.
These sun-loving perennials form large clumps of long-stemmed, very showy flowers with drooping to horizontal rays and a beehive-like central cone. The plants bloom over a long period in summer and may continue sporadically until frost. Deadheading will prolong the bloom season. (In mild-winter climates, they have been known to start blooming in spring.) When left in place, the coneflower’s bristly seed heads hang on into winter, giving finches a natural food source. To make coneflowers last, be sure to plant where drainage is good.
2–5 ft. tall, 1–2 ft. wide
Full sun, partial shade
Neutral to acidic
USDA Zones 6-9
Coneflowers grow well and without much care. They generally do not need staking. They perform well in summer heat and tolerate drought. Clumps spread slowly, becoming crowded after 3 or 4 years. Fleshy rootstocks can be difficult to separate; divide carefully, making sure that each division has a shoot and roots. Plantings can also be increased by taking root cuttings, seeding, or transplanting self-sown seedlings.
Coneflower needs a minimum of 6 hours of full sunlight every day. While they tolerate part shade, it will affect how much the plant flowers. Give coneflower sunshine and it will repay you with endless summer blooms.
Although coneflower can grow in a variety of soils, they grow best in neutral to slightly acidic soil. Coneflower doesn’t like wet soil, so if the soil tends to be too heavy, add some compost when planting to improve drainage.
Even though many think of coneflower as being a tough and tolerant grower, the plant will grow even better if you keep a watering schedule. Once the plants are established, try to give them about an inch of water every week through their first year. Keep your eye on them during droughts. They might require more.
Temperature and Humidity
Coneflower doesn’t like too much humidity, preferring hot, dry climates.
Give your coneflower plants a top dressing of compost each spring to give the plant the nutrition it will need to grow well and produce lots of blooms.
Types of Coneflower
E. angustifolia. NARROW-LEAF CONEFLOWER. Zones US, MS, LS; USDA 6-8. Native to central U.S. Prairie wildflower to 3–4 ft. high, 2 ft. wide. Flowers to 2 in. wide, with pink-to-rosy purple rays drooping from a purple-brown cone. Narrow, bristly leaves to 6 in. long.
E. hybrids. Zones US, MS, LS, CS; USDA 6-9. Complex crosses have produced hybrid coneflowers that are popular for their vigor and extended color range. Plants in the Big Sky series grow 2–3 ft. high and 2 ft. wide; choices include butter-yellow ‘Sunrise’, bright orange ‘Sunset’, and reddish orange ‘Sundown’ (‘Evan Saul’). ‘Cheyenne Spirit’ first-year flowering, heavily blooming, drought tolerant, grows to 2 ft. ‘Adam Saul’ (‘Crazy Pink’) is one of the heaviest bloomers, topping out at only 2 ft. tall and wide. ‘Flame Thrower’ grows 21⁄2-3 ft. tall and has bright yellow petals flushed with orange near the cone. Heavy bloomer. ‘Green Envy’, 2–3 ft. high, has fragrant, lime-green blooms that pick up magenta-purple near the cone as they age. The green cone also fades to purple. ‘Hot Papaya’ is doubled with a pompon rather than a cone and blooms in mango-red. ‘Mango Meadowbrite’ grows 2–3 ft. high and wide; orange-yellow petals surround orange-brown centers. ‘Orange Meadowbrite’ (‘Art’s Pride’) grows about the same size, bears reddish orange flowers. ‘Pixie Meadowbrite’ grows only about 11⁄2 ft. tall and a bit wider, with pink, nondrooping petals surrounding a yellow-brown center. The Sombrero series grows to 2 ft. and has bold colors on early-blooming, heat-tolerant plants. ‘Tomato Soup’ has bright red flowers up to 6 in. wide on 2-ft.-high plants. ‘Tiki Torch’ has bright orange-to-rose blooms on a 2- to 21⁄2-ft.-tall plant.
E. paradoxa. YELLOW CONEFLOWER. Zones US, MS, LS; USDA 6-8. Native to the Ozarks. To 2–3 ft. high, 2 ft. wide. Drooping, yellow to orange-yellow rays surround a brown cone; flowers are about 2 in. wide. Smooth, lance-shaped leaves to 8 in. long. Hybrids involving this and E. purpurea have produced many new colors.
E. purpurea. PURPLE CONEFLOWER. Zones US, MS, LS, CS; USDA 6-9. Native to central and eastern North America. Coarse, stiff plant to 4–5 ft. tall, about 2 ft. wide, with bristly, oblong leaves 3–8 in. long. Blossoms reach 2–3 in. wide, with drooping rosy purple rays and an orange-brown central cone. Many fine selections are available. ‘Coconut Lime’ has a double flower, with a single row of large white petals surrounding a tuft of smaller light green petals around the cone. Grows to 2–3 ft. high. ‘Doubledecker’ (‘Doppelganger’), another 2-footer, has something extra: a second set of pink petals emerging from the top of the cone. ‘Fragrant Angel’ grows 2–21⁄2 ft. high with sweetly scented white flowers. ‘Kim’s Knee High’ grows 11⁄2–2 ft. high and has clear pink flowers. ‘Magnus’ grows 3–4 ft. tall and has deep purplish pink, orange-centered flowers to 7 in. wide. ‘Pink Poodle’ produces fully double pink flowers that resemble zinnias. ‘Rubinstern’ (‘Ruby Star’) grows 2–3 ft. high with carmine-red, non-drooping rays. Both ‘White Lustre’ (21⁄2 ft. high) and ‘White Swan’ (11⁄2–2 ft. high) have white rays and orange-yellow cones. ‘PowWow Wildberry’ grows 11⁄2 -2 ft. tall with pink-purple flowers that bloom heavily the first year.
E. tennesseensis. TENNESSEE CONEFLOWER. Zones US, MS, LS; USDA 6-8. From the southeastern U.S. Similar to E. purpurea, but rays are horizontal rather than drooping, and cones are greenish pink. Stems to 11⁄2 ft. tall. Forms a low, casual mound. This beautiful coneflower is rare and endangered in the wild but is being propagated under permit. Available from a few wildflower nurseries.
To keep the coneflower in full bloom, pinch off any dead flowers during the growing season. Deadheading spent blooms will encourage the plant to send up more flowers. At the end of the growing season, you can leave the remaining flowers. Their seeds will feed the birds through the winter.
How to Get Coneflower to Bloom
Plant coneflower in the spring to give the plant months of growing before going into the winter. well established going into winter. Use on outskirts of garden or in wide borders with other robust perennials such as Shasta daisy (Leucanthemum x superbum), sunflower (Helianthus), Michaelmas daisy (Symphyotrichum novi-belgii). Coneflower is seldom bothered by deer.
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