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Past Articles Library | How to Grow and Care for Coneflower

As a lover of a natural looking landscape, I have to admit that I really like the coneflower.  It is easy to grow, the flowers last a long period of time as a cut flower, and wildlife just loves it.  The best part is the fact that this flower is an easy to grow perennial that is a native to North America.  It survives during times of drought and has very few growing requirements.  Once established, the plant pretty much takes care of itself.

While you may be familiar with the purple petal color, coneflowers can also be found in shades of pink, red, and white.

Below are the directions that will take you from seed to growing plant with easy.

To begin the planting process, starts with your garden selection and preparation.  Yes, the coneflower has very few growing requirements but the requirements that it does have are very important.  First, this perennial flower does require a soil that is well draining.  A soil that is too wet will cause the plant to rot.  The second important requirement is sunlight.  The coneflower requires at least 8 hours of direct sunlight.  While it can tolerate less sunlight, the coneflower will respond with fewer blooms and a straggly growth habit.  This growth habit will make the plant look weedy and unkempt, which will detract from its naturalizing beauty.

Once you have selected an area that meets the growth requirements, the next step is to prepare the area.  If this is a new area for a flower garden or bed, remove the sod with a shovel.  After the sod has been removed, fill in with well seasoned compost as needed to level out the space.

If it is an existing bed, move on to the next step, which is preparing the soil.  This is done by loosening up the soil with a garden fork or tiller, which should be done to a depth of 12 to 15 inches.  To refresh the soil and add natural fertilizer and healthy soil bacteria and/or fungi, add a 2 to 4 inch layer of well seasoned compost and mix in.

Now that the flowerbed is prepared, the next step is to plant the seeds.  Coneflower seeds do best when they are planted in the spring.  The seeds should be planted so that they are 1 to 3 feet apart.  While this may seem extreme, it will save you from having to go back and thin later.  Once the seeds are planted, cover the seeds with a very thin layer of soil.  Water in once all the seeds have been planted.

Keep the soil evenly moist and in about 2 to 4 weeks, you will begin to see little green sprouts appear.  Continue to keep the soil moist until the seedlings have their first true set of leaves.  After that, begin to back off on the watering.

While planting coneflower seeds is easy, some individuals would like instant flowers.  When this is the case, you will want to plant potted coneflowers.  To do this, you will need to prepare the garden space as above.  Once it is prepared, dig a hole that is the same depth as the container and twice its width.  The next step is to remove the coneflower from its pot.  Do not just pull the plant out by its stems instead cut the pot away or turn the plant upside down, gently tap the bottom of the pot and squeeze the sides.  These steps should be enough to release the root ball from the pot.  After you have the plant in your hand, gently loosen the roots with your fingers or tease the roots.  This step will allow the roots to grow outward.  Once that is done, you are ready to place your plant in the hole and fill in.  Water the plant in and if needed add additional soil to get the coneflower’s soil level even with the ground.

Even though the coneflower is pretty much independent when it comes to care, it does require a little human help.  In the spring, place a thin layer of well seasoned compost around the plants.  This will act as a dose of natural fertilizer.  Next, top the soil with 2 inches of mulch.  This will not only help control weeds but will also help conserve soil moisture.

While the coneflower is drought tolerant, it still needs water.  To help your coneflowers stay health, make sure that they are receiving 1 inch of water a week.

To keep your coneflowers blooming for their 2 to 3 month blooming period, make sure to deadhead the plant often but leave the last flowers of the season.  This will provide food for wildlife. 

If you planted your coneflower in any area that does not receive enough sunlight or if your coneflower grows in a droopy habit, cut the perennial down to grown level after the plant has bloomed.

The coneflower itself really does not like to be disturbed but if you must you should only divide every 3 to 4 years and the division should only occur in the spring or autumn.

Yes, I the coneflower is pretty much disease and pest resistant but it does have a few problems, which include leaf miners, powdery mildew, bacterial spot, grey mold, and vine weevils.  The two easiest to identify and treat is the powdery mildew and grey mold.  Powdery mildew looks like the leaves have been sprinkled with flower.  If the powdery mildew is slight, simply rub two effected leaves together to remove the powdery mildew.  On the other hand, if the powdery mildew is wide spread, cut the effected stems down to the ground and throw away the plant material.  Since this plant is a wildlife favorite, do not use any type of fungicide.

Grey mold is another issue that is easily to identify.  If you see wilting combined with grey spots that turn brown then chances are you have grey mold.  The best thing to do if you find this on your coneflower is to dig up the plant material and throw away but did you know that both powdery mildew and grey mold can be prevented?  Well, it can and it all starts with the environment.

Both of the mentioned plant diseases thrive in hot and humid weather.  Without these conditions, you never see these problems.  In doing so, prevention is the key and starts with spacing.  Proper spacing of the plant material will allow the plants’ vegetation to dry.  Also, the way you water will aid or prevent these diseases.  While you cannot control the rain coming from the sky, you can choose not to water from above instead water just the ground.

Another prevention measure is to clean up between the plants along with protecting the plant material from any type of damage.  Neglecting any of these prevention steps can be all that is needed to develop a plant disease problem. 

All in all, if you are looking for a great plant that is easy to take care of, is beautiful, and a great way of naturalizing an area, you cannot beat the coneflower.


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