Years ago when I started gardening like a mad man I got into coneflowers big time. After getting Echinacea purpurea, the standard, I got its knockoffs — red ones, orange ones, umber ones, white ones. Yikes. They proved to be much weaker than the straight species, succumbing to foliage diseases and never flowering that much. The last holdout is probably one of the earlier cultivars, ‘White Swan,’ which isn’t weakened as much as more recent introductions. This has been my experience and others I know, though I hope yours has been different. I will say, I’m completely turned off from those double decker, aster-yellow-disease-looking cultivars out now.
So what’s a mad man to do when cultivars don’t work out? Get smart. There are a wealth of species plants out there that offer good diversity and superb vigor.
Above is one of my dry trouble spots, made less troublesome by going with species coneflowers. That’s the yellow E. paradoxa to the left, the hairy and thin-leaved E. pallida up front, and in back is E. simulata. I know these all aren’t native to eastern Nebraska, but I’m comfortable cheating on coneflowers. Wouldn’t you be?
This is E. angustifolia, or so it’s labeled. It looks almost identical to E. pallida, having hairy thin leaves, but the ray flowers are a bit shorter. It’s slower to establish than E. pallida for me, but looking good this year.
I keep thinking this is a self-sown E. atrorubens, given its very pointy head, but the ray flowers are too long. I know I have an atrorubens somewhere but have lost it in the masses of blooms. What do you think — just a regular old E. purpurea?
That’s not all of them, right? Of course not! There are WAY more:
Here’s the very fuzzy-leaved Rudbeckia hirta.
And Rudbeckia maxima, giant coneflower with large blue leaves.
Ratibida pinnata, grey-headed coneflower, a nice self sower for larger areas.
Ratibida columnifara, mexican hat, so far is a well-behaved shorter variety.
I better stop before I start sounding like a crazy local car ad guy over Memorial Day. What other species coneflowers do you use? Do you find them more hardy than cultivars?
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