Coneflower, a Heat- and Drought-Resistant Perennial, Will Add Tons of Interest to Your Garden
Coneflower is a popular perennial that can be found in backyards and gardens across the United States. These flowers are easy to grow, return year after year, and offer a nonstop supply of blooms throughout their growing season. According to Zolene Quindoy, horticulturist at Yardzen, coneflower is a common name for plants in the genus Echinacea. "The most well-known is purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea), which is purplish-pink, though plant hybridizers have introduced myriad cultivars ranging from red, orange, yellow, white, and even multicolor," she explains. "Most varieties stand between two to four feet tall and are a cheery addition to mixed perennial borders, where they'll bloom from summer through frost."
While these flowers will definitely add a pop of color to your garden, they also make great cut flowers—by snipping a few blooms to display inside your home, Quindoy says you'll also encourage your plant to focus on producing more buds. What's more, these bright blooms will invited important visitors to your garden. "Coneflowers are pollinator-friendly and will attract wildlife like birds, bees, and butterflies to your garden to support self-seeding for the next season's yield," says Rebecca Sears, chief gardening guru at Ferry-Morse.
How to Grow Coneflower
Coneflower plants are heat- and drought-resistant, which makes them easy to grow even for beginners. "Coneflowers do best in full sun, and bloom within roughly 60-90 days," says Sears. "Most coneflowers will do best in USDA zones three to nine." Just make sure you plant them somewhere they'll see plenty of light. "Coneflowers perform best in full sun (at least six hours per day) and loose, well-drained soil, but will also tolerate heavy clay and even shallow, rocky soils with aplomb," says Quindoy. "These highly-adaptable plants are also drought-tolerant once established."
How to Plant Coneflowers
If you want to plant these perennials in your own garden, Sears advises waiting until the last frost has passed and then sowing coneflower seeds in open, well-exposed ground that is covered with a quarter-inch of soil. "For earlier blooms, you can even start them indoors about six- to eight- weeks before the last frost of the season," she says. "Once the plants reach two inches in height, they can then be thinned or transplanted outside." If you're planning on growing these colorful flowers in pots on your deck or patio, Sears says you'll need to make sure they have plenty of room. "If you're planting in containers, Coneflowers do best in containers over 24 inches in size." You can also skip the seeds and purchase more mature plants from your local nursery.
How to Care for Coneflowers
To get the best results from your coneflowers, Christina Matthews, urban flower farmer-florist and owner of The Flower Lady, says you should add a bit of fertilizer each spring. "I like to 'top dress' the soil around the plant with [a] good two inches of compost," she says. "I find that in my gardens the compost is all they need in order for the plant to provide me with an endless amount of summer blooms." However, if composting isn't your speed, Matthews says you can use standard fertilizer as long as you test your soil first. "Your local county extension agency is a great place to start this process and your results often come with an array of information that is specific to the exact plants you want to grow in your space."