By Kerry Ann Mendez
Isn't it a great feeling when you do something beneficial for the ecosystem AND you reap the benefits as well? This is how I feel when planting gorgeous coneflowers in my gardens and watch bees and butterflies zoom in.
With the myriad varieties to select from, one would be hard pressed to find a coneflower that didn't capture the fancy of pollinators. All but the puffy multi-petal (looking like pom-poms) sterile varieties are adored.
Coneflowers, native to North America, range in height from 16" to 48", with 18-30" being the most common. Flowers can have drooping, horizontal or upturned petals and the blooms may be comprised of single, double or multiple petals (resembling a mum). Some coneflowers are fragrant and almost all (except pom-pom varieties) have seed cones that birds will enjoy in fall and winter. The flowers are available in almost every color except blue.
Coneflowers bloom best in full sun, although they will also flower in less sun. They are drought and heat tolerant, deer resistant and are not finicky about soil, as long as it is well drained (they dislike wet soil). Too much fertilizer, overly rich soil and shade may lead to leggy plants that flop. Removing spent flowers (deadheading) will extend their bloom, yet I never deadheaded my 'Cheyenne Spirit' and they provided a marathon of blooms through September!
Estabrook's carries dozens of striking coneflower varieties. Look for a cloud of butterflies and you will find them!