In a casual stroll about the Wildflower Farm, I started to notice just how many coneflower species are growing amongst the myriad of mid-summer bloomers. At my home, I have a few growing but they’re late this year and definitely not as far along as the ones at the farm. I was, however, able to capture a photo of this amazing little jumping spider sitting atop the unopened purple coneflower.
Back to the farm…
There are five species of true coneflower growing here at the farm. By true coneflower, I mean those from the Echinacea family. You should know that all of the coneflowers are excellent for attracting pollinators. Plus, they provide a high quality food source for the adult monarch butterflies. Yes, the caterpillars require milkweed to survive but the adults have to eat, too. They need the energy to mate, lay another batch of eggs for the summer, and, eventually, to make the long journey to Mexico. Beyond having your garden look great all season long, know that by providing native blooms from spring to fall, you’re supporting several generations of monarchs and many other native species.
And now for the amazing coneflowers here at Wildflower Farm…
The classic coneflower. Pictured here with a goldenrod crab spider at the edge of one of Wildflower Farm’s meadows, the Purple Coneflower is a beautiful addition to any garden. Growing well in sand to clay, it can tolerate dry to medium soils and will bring about the birds and the bees. And the monarchs, swallowtails, soldier beetles…and spiders.
Definitely the saddest looking of the bunch, the Pale Purple Coneflower just screams Eeyore to me. The long, narrow petals range in colour from the deep pink you see below to a very light, almost white, pink.
The Pale Purple Coneflower works surprisingly well in arrangements with other tall-stemmed flowers like the Yellow Coneflower, Prairie Blazingstar, and Culver’s Root. And as an added bonus, it loves the clay.
Looking similar to the Purple Coneflower, the Narrow-leaf Coneflower is stockier with short petals. They will grow 1-3 feet in sandy to loamy soils. No clay for these guys.
The only non-purple/pink coneflower on the list, the Ozark Coneflower originates from Arkansas and Missouri, specifically in the mountainous Ozark regions.
The cone of the Ozark Coneflower is fairly robust and contrasts well with the brilliantly bright yellow petals. A hardy plant that survives Ontario’s winters, it will grow 3-4 feet tall in everything from sand to clay.
A rare plant thought to have gone extinct in the 1960s, the Tennessee Coneflower is unique in that its petals remain upright as it ages. As you have seen with the other coneflower species, petals that begin pointing upwards at a young age eventually droop downwards over time.
Excellent in sandy soils and also tolerant of clay soils, it is a hardy plant for compact spaces, growing 1-2 feet in height.
All of the coneflowers need cold, moist stratification or winter to germinate. Plant them outdoors in the fall or start them indoors in the fridge. For an extra show after summer has ended, consider leaving the stems standing for the winter. Birds will eat the seeds and the dark stems and seed heads provide beautiful contrast against winter’s snowy surprises.