How to Grow and Care for Coneflower, a Native Perennial That Brings Color and Pollinators to Your Garden

If you're looking to bring cheerful texture and helpful critters to your garden, coneflower is a must-plant perennial.

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When it comes to perennial blooms, coneflowers have it all. They're colorful, heat- and-drought resistant, easy to care for, offer a nonstop supply of blooms, and attract pollinators. A part of the daisy family, coneflower is the common name for Echinacea purpurea as well as a handful of other Echinacea species. The plant thrives in USDA gardening zones 4 through 9 and can grow up to 24 inches tall at maturity. Native to the United States, coneflower is extremely hardy and can withstand less than ideal growing conditions, but it still requires some general care to continue blooming year after year.

purple coneflowers garden
Martin Wahlborg / Getty Images

How to Plant Coneflower

Coneflowers should be planted in spring after the threat of frost is over. Plant them in an area that receives full sun and has good drainage. "Ideally, they prefer a lengthy time frame for root establishment before heading into their first winter," says Adrienne Roethling, garden director for Paul J. Ciener Botanical Garden.

Planting Potted Coneflower

When purchasing coneflowers from your local garden center, look for ones growing in a pot. "Some stores will sell them in bags that arrived from overseas," says Roethling. "Usually plant roots are dry and will sometimes not recover."

  1. Dig a hole about twice the size of the pot.
  2. Chop up the sides and bottom of the hole and backfill with a little compost.
  3. Remove the plant from the pot and tease its roots.
  4. Place the roots in the hole.
  5. Gradually fill the hole in with a mix of compost and soil, keeping the crown well above ground level.
  6. Apply a thin layer of mulch, making sure not to smother the stems.
  7. Water immediately.

Planting Coneflower by Seed

Coneflower is typically planted in the ground from a pot, but it's also possible to grow it from seed. After the last frost has passed sow coneflower seeds in open, well-exposed ground, placing them about 1/4 inch deep in soil. "For earlier blooms, you can even start them indoors about six to eight weeks before the last frost of the season," says Rebecca Sears, chief gardening expert at Ferry-Morse. "Once the plants reach 2 inches in height, they can then be transplanted outside."

How to Care for Coneflower

The hardy plant is easy to maintain, but you'll need to ensure you're fulfilling its basic care requirements in order to have healthy blooms that return each spring.


After planting coneflower, you should continue watering it every other day for about three to four weeks to help it get established. "Provide watering at least once a week if hot and dry weather persists," says Roethling. "After a year, hopefully, there should be no need to provide water." When watering, provide about 1 liter of water every time.


Although the plant can tolerate some shade, coneflower should generally be planted in an area that receives at least 6 hours of full sunlight a day.


Coneflower prefers well-drained, loamy soils. "For a lot of us, we may find sand or clay, too," says Roethling. "If you mix compost to the sand and clay, that will help the coneflowers thrive." If you keep your coneflower in a pot rather than transplanting it into the ground, use a blend of potting soil (which contains peat moss) and soil conditioner. "Peat moss holds moisture and with coneflowers being prairie plants, too much moisture will most definitely lead to rot," says Roethling. "Soil conditioner is porous and the soil combination will yield a better result."


To get the best results from your coneflowers, you should add a bit of fertilizer during later winter or early spring. "I like to top dress the soil around the plant with a good two inches of compost," says Christina Matthews, urban flower farmer-florist and owner of The Flower Lady. "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, you can use a slow release fertilizer such as plant tone or another low ratio product. "Coneflower will not thrive with synthetic fertilizers" says Roethling. "Compost or plant tone can be used for both plants in the ground or in potted containers."

How to Prune Coneflower

Pruning coneflower isn't a necessity, but it can be done by cutting back the bare stalks to the ground once the growing season is over. During the growing season, though, you can deadhead any spent or dying blooms to encourage more growth. Once the perennial has stopped blooming, leave dormant seed heads for winter pollinators. "Gold finches and other birds will scavenge the pods during the winter months," says Roethling. I would consider leaving the seed heads until there's a nub left behind." Then you can cut back the stems.

Common Pests and Diseases

Despite how hardy they are, there are a few common issues you'll run into when growing and caring for coneflower.


While coneflower welcomes good critters, it also attracts the bad—specifically, wasps, ants, and leafhoppers. "Aster leafhoppers are long narrow, green to brown insects," says Roethling, noting that these insects should be removed from your garden immediately. To prevent bugs, make a solution of soapy water and gently spray the pedals and leaves of your coneflower.

You may also encounter four-legged critters and voles. "One may need to create a barrier fence around the yard," says Roethling. "With voles, mix pea gravel, such as PermaTil, into the hole to prevent them from eating the roots."


Aster yellow is the disease that impacts coneflower most. "It's spread by the aster leafhopper and once infected, there is no cure," says Roethling. "Plants will need to be discarded to the trash. Do not leave your plants to rot as this may still attract the leafhopper." Signs your coneflower plants have aster yellow include: discolored leaves, an irregular pattern and shape, stunted growth, and a lack of pedals. "Aster yellow will carry in the affected plant from year to year," says Roethling. But, luckily the disease will not impact neighboring plants.

Updated by
Lauren Wellbank
Lauren Wellbank, Freelance Writer

Lauren is a freelance writer for

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