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Urban Safari: Cone Flowers

On Tuesday we gave an update on the state of the RainyDayGarden, at the end of which we mentioned that the cone flowers are hardy perennial which can be a great addition to any garden. Apparently quite many readers agree.

Cone flowers, or Echinacea, is an herbaceous, drought-tolerant, perennial that grows to almost five feet in height. They are native to eastern and central North America and bloom from early to late summer. The ones in the RainyDayGarden started opening up during the last week of June.

Cone flowers are very easy to propagate. The typical way to get more cone flowers is to divide up the clumps. We have had better success with transplanting when we kept the clumps relatively large (minimum of 4 stalks to the cluster). Also, it is best to cut off the top of the plant (from stalk up) and let the plant focus its energy on establishing new roots. Cone flowers are quite hardy and we have not found that it matters much when we did the transplanting.

If you want an even simpler way to spread the plant around the garden, here is a trick we “discovered” a few years ago. At the end of the season, cut down and keep all of the stalks which still have their cones. Take the bunch and place it in the area where you hope to have cone flowers next year. Now walk on the stalks to mash up the cones, releasing any seeds which not been eaten by the birds (finches love these) or dropped on the ground. Leave the bunch there until next Spring.

We did that for the past two years to great success. We like it because it required no additional work, since cutting down the spent stalks had always been part of the Fall garden cleanup. Try it, it won’t make the Fall cleanup any less of a chore, but it may make your garden next season “more better.”

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