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When gardeners garden, it is not just plants that grow, but the gardeners themselves.

~Ken Druse~
 


































Coneflower Mania

Have you been bitten by the 'coneflower bug'? I have.

Choices for coneflowers have come a long way in the last 15 years. Our garden started out with a few purple and whites. Now it sports the whole gamut from green to red with just about ever shade in between. The flowers attract bees and butterflies and once the seedheads from, finches and other birds are frequent visitors.

Coneflowers are valued for their cheerful and bright flowers and are a mainstay in today's garden. Drought-tolerant once established, they will form attractive colonies and live for many years. At least they are supposed to!

I can't say that the statement above is true for our garden, I have murdered my share of coneflowers every season. How? most likely with too much water, either from Mother Nature or from our garden hose. Coneflowers like it sunny, hot and dry.
Here are some suggestions to help you achieve success with these beauties in your garden:

Location Location Location

Coneflowers need sun. Not enough sun results in taller and leggier plants with weak stems. Plants will have less blooms and will not be able to withstand windy conditions or a heavy rain.
Choose a spot with at least 6 hours of full sun and watch your cones thrive!

Pests and Diseases


Space plants to provide plenty of air circulation to prevent fungal diseases.
Aster yellows is a disease of coneflowers and many other plants which is caused by mycoplasma-like organisms and spread by leaf hoppers, once infected, there is no cure. Diseased plants should be promptly removed and discarded in the trash (not the compost) to reduce further spread. Symptoms include: deformed flowers, yellow foliage and stunted growth. To help prevent aster yellows, keep your garden clear of dead foliage and debris in late fall to eliminate overwintering sites for leaf hopper adults and eggs.

Caterpillars are known to defoliate coneflower plants. If you prefer the plants to the potential butterflies, use BT (Bacillus thuringiensis - mosquito dunks) to control caterpillar infestation. Daily caterpillar picking is the butterfly-friendly alternative.

Aphids and whiteflies are ocassionally attracted, use a strong spray of the garden hose for the former and yellow sticky traps for the latter. You can make your own sticky traps with Tanglefoot pest barrier spread on yellow paper. Hang the homemade traps near infested plants using bent paper clips. Commercially available chemical pest control products will also work, check the labels.

Soil

While coneflowers are able to grow in any well-drained soil, light and loamy soils are best. Amend your planting areas with compost and add a slow release fertilizer in early spring.
Coneflowers like good drainage, heavy clay soils and a high moisture content spell certain death.
In my experience, mulching the plants with shredded bark improves viability, most likely because this helps keep the roots at a more even temperature and prevents excessive drying out or 'baking' of the top soil layer.

Water

While drought-tolerant once established, newly planted coneflowers need water. The easiest way to tell when one needs to water is to check on them early in the morning. If the plants look droopy, it's time to give them a good drink.
Afternoon droopiness in new plantings is not an indication of need for water, most likely, the plants have not yet become accustomed to their new home and reached a turgid state. Watering them in this situation is an invitation for root rot. Snip a branch off a nearby shrub - surely there is one in your garden that's begging for a little trimming - and provide some shade to the new plants. A turned over laundry basket will also work in a pinch!

Propagation

The purple coneflowers self-sow generously in our garden, the white ones occasionally and the new hybrids have either sterile seeds or they produce plain purple off-spring. I am not growing 'Doubledecker', but have been told that it will also come true from its seeds.
For the newer hybrids, division in late fall or early spring will help spread the beauty around in your garden. Dig up the root ball and carefully divide the rootstock, making sure each resulting piece has a crown. Patented varieties may not be propagated or sold without paying royalties to the patent holders.


 

August in the Garden:

New Coneflowers:
Tiki Torch
Tomato Soup:
Pink Poodle :