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The versatile, varietal coneflower

This perennial plant is a fit in any garden

Over the last 20 years, I have seen an explosion of coneflower varieties becoming available. Purple, white, yellow, orange, bright pink, light pink, regular pink, double, semi-double, and fragrant—you name it, and it is probably out there. I can’t think of a better plant for this to happen to.

This perennial flowering plant excels in the full sun in the heat of summer, is drought-tolerant, does not require any special care or fertilization, and blooms from mid-summer to frost. It is hard to ask more than that from a perennial, but there is more. Along with being insanely easy to grow, it flowers prolifically and is an important source of nectar in the summer for bees and butterflies. Then, in the fall and winter, its brown, cone-shaped seed heads become an important food source for the birds.

Even with its strong, coarse texture, I can always find a place for a few coneflowers in almost any garden style. For the cottage garden, plant several small groups dotted throughout the perennial border. In a traditional-style garden, plant them in one large group. In a contemporary garden, plant just one in a very strategic spot for summer-long color.

With all the new varieties available, I still find myself gravitating to some of the more common ones like Magnus, White Swan, and Prairie Splendor. Each of these varieties is seed-propagated and can reseed in your garden or meadow planting. If you are looking for something with modern pizazz, look for the hybrids like Tomato Soup, Hot Papaya, and Powwow Wildberry.

Check out missouribotanicalgarden.org, where they list about 111 varieties to consider.

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