The Complete Guide to Growing Coneflowers

Written by Hannah Miller. Fact checked by Daniel Woodley. Published to Summer Flowering Plants on the 20th of August 2022.

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Coneflowers are popular perennials in the Asteraceae (Daisy) family, they bloom for months, are tolerant of drought and heat and mix wonderfully with most other plants. They also multiply easily by seed but are never a nuisance.

The most popular coneflower is the Purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) but the term “coneflower” is also a common name used to describe several different genera in the Asteraceae family, including Rudbeckia.

In this guide, we’ll explain how to grow coneflowers but the same advice will apply to Rudbeckias as they are very similar and the two are often sited together.

Size

Height: Up to 1.5m (5′)

Spread: Up to 40cm (16″)

Type

Type

Herbaceous perennial – dies down in winter and reappears the following spring

Growth icon

Growth

Moderate growth rate. May only reach a short height in the first year. Time to max size: 3-4 years

Difficulty

Easy if grown in a suitable location

Native

North America

Location

Choose an exposed or sheltered spot, also ideal for the middle of a border

Sunlight

The more sunlight, the more blooms it will produce

Hardiness

UK H5 rating – hardy in most parts of the UK down to minus 10 but may die off in the far north or in very exposed locations

Water & Feed

Coneflowers are drought tolerant but freshly planted flowers should be watered until established. They are tolerant of poor soil but bloom best in rich soil. Apply twice-yearly mulch for best results

Companions

Coneflowers are often grouped together or with Rudbeckias but they also mix well with other long-stemmed plants and grasses

Planting

Plant up to 75cm (30″) apart in the spring, add leafmould, compost or other soil improvers as required. Start seed off indoors up to 10 weeks before the last frost

Flowering

Flowers from mid-summer to mid-autumn. If seeds are sown late, they may not produce flowers in the first year

Closeup of purple coneflower
Bunch of purple coneflowers

Coneflowers: A Quick Growing Guide

How Are Coneflowers Plants Sold?

Coneflowers are sold as seeds, bare root plants or as established plants.

What are coneflowers plants grown for?

Coneflowers are grown for their tall stems and daisy-like blooms. They are easy to maintain, set seeds and multiply with little help.

How should coneflowers be planted?

Coneflowers grown from seeds may not produce blooms in the first year if sowed late; consider growing indoors ten weeks before the first frost date.

Bare root coneflowers can be planted anytime as long as the ground isn’t frozen.

Established coneflowers can be planted from spring to summer, but they dislike too much disturbance and may struggle in the first year.

Dig in rich mulch and water well until established.

Where should coneflowers be planted?

In borders or pots in full or good sun. The soil should be free draining – coneflowers will tolerate poor soil but will produce more blooms in rich soil.

How much water and fertiliser do coneflowers require?

A twice-yearly mulch of rich compost is usually enough but a fertiliser top-up will benefit poor soil.

Coneflowers are drought tolerant but will need extra water until established or if grown in pots.

Do coneflowers spread? Are they invasive?

Coneflowers set seeds that germinate easily and this results in some congestion, you can prevent this by deadheading but coneflowers are never invasive or a nuisance and the blooms benefit insects.

They also spread via their rhizomes and they can be thinned out every few years if the area becomes dense with plants.

Are they prone to pests and diseases?

Coneflowers are rarely affected by pests or diseases, especially if grown in full sun.

Common diseases such as powdery mildew can spread via overhead watering and splashing, so water from the side where possible.

When do coneflowers bloom and how long for?

Coneflowers bloom from mid-summer to mid-autumn and you can encourage more blooms by deadheading.

Are coneflower plants suitable for containers?

Yes, but water more frequently and top up with compost in the growing season.

Are coneflowers plants plants toxic or harmful to humans and pets?

No reported toxicity to humans or pets can be found.

Is this perennial beneficial to wildlife?

Yes. Coneflowers are beneficial to bees and other pollinators.

Coneflower Aftercare

In the UK, coneflowers are herbaceous perennials that die back to ground level for the winter and then reappear the following spring. They require little to no care after flowering but you can:

Pruning and Deadheading

Deadhead flowers as they start to fade as this will encourage new flowers to appear and will prolong the flowering season.

Feed and Fertiliser

There is no need to apply feed or fertiliser after flowering.

The best time to mulch is in the spring and summer but if grown in very cold climates (below minus 10), a late autumn mulch can protect the roots and crown from frost.

Protect From Winter Wet

Coneflowers prefer well-drained spoil and may struggle in waterlogged ground.

Companion Plants

Coneflowers are often grown in drifts with other coneflowers but they also mix well with:

  • Rudbeckias.
  • Bee balm.
  • Phlox.
  • Catmint.
  • Ornamental grasses.
  • Hardy geraniums as a ground cover plant.

Consider these varieties/cultivars:

Echinacea purpurea: The classic purple coneflower. Large spiky cones sit atop downward-facing petals. 

Echinacea purpurea “White Swan”: A shorter variety reaching up to 0.6m (2′), this coneflower mixes well with Rudbeckias. White petals surround yellow/orange cones.

10 Key Points

If you’ve never grown coneflowers before, consider these 10 points:

  1. Coneflowers are versatile and mix well with hundreds of popular garden plants.
  2. If grown from seed or cuttings, they may not flower in the first year and may put on few blooms until more established.
  3. Deadhead to encourage more blooms, often well into autumn.
  4. Avoid wet boggy soil.
  5. Drought tolerant but does require some water otherwise growth will be stunted.
  6. They will set seed easily but are never a nuisance.
  7. Divide congested clumps in the autumn every few years or so.
  8. Coneflowers make lovely cut flowers.
  9. If you want to attract bees and other pollinators, start with coneflowers – insects love them.
  10. Divide the roots in autumn to propagate (only on established plants).

Daniel’s Take on Coneflowers

Here is a quote from Daniel, our co-founder:

I always have coneflowers in my garden, I love the large rounded cones with their hard spikes – the bees just love having a good dig around and always come back for more. The stems sway in the wind but are always strong enough that I never need to stake.

I usually cover the ground under the coneflowers with hardy geraniums as the foliage stays strong well into autumn.

The Difference Between Coneflowers and Rudbeckias

Coneflowers (Echinacea purpurea) and Rudbeckias are two separate genera from the Asteraceae (Daisy) family.

They are very similar and are often grown together.

Visually there are a few differences:

The cones on Rudbeckias are usually darker, hence the nickname “Black-Eyed Susans”.

The cones on Coneflowers are spiky but on Rudbeckias they are softer.

Interesting Fact

The name “Echinacea” comes from the Greek word “Ekhinos” meaning hedgehog or sea-urchin, named after the spiky cones on these perennials.

More From Hannah Miller:

Hannah Miller wrote this guide to growing coneflowers which forms part of her Summer Flowering Plants Collection.

Hannah is a keen gardener who is trying to reduce her use of pesticides and move to organic gardening.

She’s also a mother and former NHS administrator with 12 years of experience. She also speaks English, Russian and Ukrainian fluently and enjoys travelling around Europe.

More About Hannah Miller.

Hannah Miller

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This growing guide was published by DIY Gardening

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