Crazy for Coneflowers
Your Extension Experts
May 29, 1997
May 22, 1997
May 15, 1997
May 8, 1997
May 1, 1997
These are definitely not the coneflowers of your grandma’s garden which were fairly tall (30” to 36” or more), limited to shades of purple, and had to be planted in the back of the perennial border. Today there are orange, white, pink, mango, yellow available, many with smaller statures (20” x 20”) suitable for the starring role in the flower bed.
The new selections are the result of very sophisticated breeding programs that use the nine native Echinacea species found in North America and are easily hybridized. Once a hybrid having potential is selected many of the plants are produced in the lab using tissue culture. The home gardener can easily create their own hybrids by collecting seed and planting next season.
Coneflowers are not of those garden plants that need tending every day. In fact, they thrive on neglect. These plants require little fertilization, love full sun and are drought tolerant. Deadheading (removing old flower heads) can prolong the bloom season.
A word of caution is required. Coneflowers like well drained soils. This can be a problem on the Coast. Be sure to plant in raised beds to help with drainage.
Why don’t homeowners try out these great new coneflowers? It has been suggested that cost and limited hardiness (in reference to heat and humidity) are to blame. The new colors and selections can cost as much as $20 each and many feel this is expensive for a garden perennial that may have questionable longevity in south Mississippi.
However, we will pay $20 or more for a poinsettia for the holidays, or maybe hundreds of dollars for annuals knowing these plants will have to be replaced next year. Perhaps we should rethink our plant purchase paradigm.
Why not utilize plants in our gardens regardless of annual or perennial classification, but simply to enjoy the show.