I was first introduced to coneflowers from a packet of wildflower seeds I planted when I first started gardening. I can easily picture in my mind the purple flower which is a staple of many perennial borders and cottage gardens across the United States but over the past several years coneflowers have gone through a dramatic transformation and while the purple coneflower is still popular you can now find them in white, pink, orange, yellow and even green! Not only have the colors been expanded but coneflowers are not limited to the perennial border anymore. In addition to the taller varieties that we’ve always known they now also come in more compact varieties which means they can be used in containers and well, just about anywhere!
Coneflowers may appear delicate as they wave in the wind during the summer months don’t let their looks fool you; this is one of the toughest perennials I have ever grown! Coneflowers were originally discovered growing wild in meadows and prairies in the Midwest and are hardy as far north as zone 3 and as far south as zone 9. I have grown them in a variety of soil conditions from soil that is consistently moist to soil that is as dry as a desert in the summer. As long as the soil drains well and they don’t sit in standing water they will provide beautiful blooms for years to come. I have never had to split a patch of coneflowers and I have beds full of clumps that are nearly 20 years old. How’s that for tough!
Another great feature is that unlike many perennials that bloom for a short period of time during the growing season coneflowers will start blooming in the late spring and if you remove the spent flowers, which last for weeks, they will continue to bloom into the fall. They bloom generously when planted in full sun but will put on a show even if they are planted in partly shady conditions. If they find a spot that they particularly like they will self seed and provide new plants for years to come. I have found their self seeding to never be a nuisance and the only drawback I have found is that the flowers aren’t always as bright as the parent plant.
If all of this isn’t enough reason to grow coneflowers did I tell you that they are highly resistant to insect pests and fungal diseases? They are highly attractive to bees, birds and butterflies and they make great cut flowers for vases or dried flower arrangements. Coneflowers are related to the Daisy family and they make great companion plants with Shasta Daisies, Black-Eyed Susans and Coreopsis. While the Coneflower has gone through a makeover of sorts recently one thing hasn’t changed; they belong in your garden today!