- Choose the right coneflower varieties for your tastes and your garden.
- Plant coneflowers in full sun in the spring or early fall.
- Prepare in-ground soil by adding Miracle-Gro® Garden Soil for Flowers.
- Water plants thoroughly at the time of planting and regularly throughout the season.
- Feed plants with Miracle-Gro® Water Soluble Bloom Booster® Plant Food.
- Deadhead to keep plants tidy and encourage reblooming.
- Let plants stand through the winter to provide food for wildlife before pruning back to the ground to prepare for new growth in the spring.
If you enjoy watching pollinators buzzing and flitting around beautiful, hassle-free flowers that bloom for a long time, coneflowers are a must-grow. While purple coneflowers (Echinacea purpurea) are the most common, you’ll also find lots of new varieties of coneflowers in an array of happy colors, like pink, yellow, orange, red, and white. They don’t just delight for a season, either, as these are perennial flowers that will come back year after year.
Coneflowers are named for the “cone” that begins to stick up in the center of the circle of petals as each flower matures. This is actually a cluster of seed heads that, when left to dry on the plant, acts as Mother Nature’s bird feeder, attracting lots of cardinals, goldfinches, and other birds looking for a feast.
How to Choose Coneflowers
With the dozens of varieties of coneflowers available, which ones should you grow? The short answer is, whichever ones you think are pretty and have space for (check the plant tag for info on this). Need some suggestions? Try these:
- There are many native species of coneflower, but as we mentioned above, the most popular is the purple coneflower,, which usually grows between 2 and 4 feet tall.
- Among other easy-to-find varieties, ‘White Swan’ is a popular selection that grows up to 4 feet tall and has large white flowers.
- There are also a many dwarf coneflower varieties that stay quite compact, such as ‘Kim’s Knee High’ (with pinkish-purple flowers). Plant these if you have a small garden, as you’ll get lots of blooms in just a little bit of space.
- You’ll also find coneflower varieties that hardly look like coneflowers at all, such as hybrid double types that have two rows of petals. Just be aware that some of these have blooms that don’t last as long in the garden as others.
Where to Plant Coneflowers
Plant coneflowers where they’ll get at least 6 to 8 hours of sun per day. In warmer regions (zones 8 and higher), though, a little bit of afternoon shade is actually a good thing, as it will help keep the flowers from fading. These plants naturally grow in clumps, so they won’t spread as far as some other perennials. Many of the older varieties will self-seed if you leave blooms in place — an easy way to get more plants!
When to Plant Coneflowers
The best time to plant coneflowers is in the spring, when all danger of frost has passed. You can also plant in early fall. Just be sure your new plants have at least 6 weeks to establish roots before the first expected frost or they might not come back in the spring.
How to Prepare the Soil for Planting Coneflowers
To create an ideal environment for coneflower roots to grow strong, improve your native in-ground soil by mixing 3 inches of Miracle-Gro® Garden Soil for Flowers in with the top 6 inches of existing soil. This rich, nutrient-filled garden soil has Moisture Control® technology, which helps protect plants during those times when they accidentally get too much—or too little—water. Plus, when you use Miracle-Gro® soil and plant food (and follow all the directions), you’ll get up to triple the flowers over the growing season (vs. unfed)—so be sure to check out the "How to Feed Coneflowers" section below. Just planting one coneflower? Dig a hole and blend garden soil with the soil you just dug up in a 50:50 ratio.
How to Plant Coneflowers
1. Lay out where you want to plant your coneflowers, making sure to leave enough space between plants. (The plant tag should tell you how much space you need.)
2. For each plant, dig a hole that’s slightly wider than, and just as deep as, the root ball.
3. Drop a Miracle-Gro® Quick Start Planting Tablet into the planting hole (following label directions) to give root growth a jumpstart for the first 30 days.
4. Slip a coneflower plant out of its container and place it in the hole. The top of the root ball should be at the same level as the soil around it.
5. Fill in around the plant, patting down the soil around the base.
6. Water well.
7. To help keep soil moist and block sunlight so weeds can’t grow, lay down a 3-inch layer of mulch around the plant—but don’t let it touch the plant stem.
How to Stake Coneflowers
Coneflowers have strong stems to go along with their big flowerheads, so they rarely need to be staked. If you do find yourself with floppy plants, though, push a sturdy stake into the soil near the center of the plant (but not through the plant), then loop twine loosely around both the stake and the individual stems. Or, you can purchase a circular stake intended for clumping flowers. Either way, you want the end result to look natural, not like there’s a belt cinched tight around the plant’s middle.
How to Water Coneflowers
Once they’ve had some time to get established, coneflowers are quite drought tolerant. After planting, check them every other day; if the top inch of soil is dry, water thoroughly. Droopy leaves are also a sign that your coneflowers are thirsty. Once coneflowers have been in the garden for an entire growing season, you shouldn’t need to water them unless it hasn’t rained for 2 months or more.
How to Feed Coneflowers
Want loads of gorgeous flowers? Start to feed your coneflowers in the spring with Miracle-Gro® Water Soluble Bloom Booster® Plant Food as new leaves are sprouting. This flower feast starts to work instantly and will help your plants get bigger and produce more blooms. It won’t take any extra time to feed with water soluble fertilizer, either, as you can do it while watering.
How to Deadhead and Prune Coneflowers
In the beginning of the bloom season, to encourage more flowering, deadhead coneflowers regularly by cutting off the faded blooms before they produce seeds. Always cut back to a leaf or part of the stem where you can see a new bud forming. Later in the season, when the plant begins to produce fewer blooms, you can just let them be.
Let the plants stand during the winter to provide food for birds. In late winter, prune them back to the ground. Leaves will emerge at ground level in early spring, soon to be followed by flower stalks.
Try this easy pruning trick to enjoy coneflower blooms even longer on plants you’ve had for at least a season. Once they’ve begun to grow again in the spring, cut some of the stems back by half to delay flowering on those stems. The uncut stems will produce blooms first, then the cut stems will add their beauty a little later in the season.
Can I Divide Coneflowers?
While some perennials need to be divided in order to keep on thriving, coneflowers do not. Because each plant has a single taproot, they’re not easy to split up. So just leave them alone!