Wildflower Whining

The wildflowers aren’t whining, I am.

For starters, why can’t the Yellow Coneflowers (Ratibida pinnata) stand up STRAIGHT! I could put up with some nonchalant leaning, but these guys want to just flop over like, I don’t know, like something that is very floppy.

Yellow Coneflowers
Yellow Coneflowers

For the past six weeks I have been in a quiet struggle with my Yellow Coneflowers, trying to get them to be just the tiniest bit vertical. At first I would allow them to lean (I hoped) gracefully and naturally against lengths of twine tied inconspicuously between discretely placed stakes.

Eventually, though, they would always end up looking like they needed someone to call them a cab after a night of way too much fun at the neighborhood tavern. Finally, I gave up on subtlety and started trussing each one to its own personal post.

DSC_0912 yellow coneflower

All this after I cut them back by about half back in June.

I don’t know why my Yellow Coneflowers are so excessively flexible. They get full sun. Perhaps the soil is too rich?

Even with all the angst over staking, I still love this plant. The petals are a clear, cheerful yellow and their droopiness reminds me of a basset hound’s ears. The cones make me think of clown noses. Needless to say, they are great plants for birds and pollinators.


Another wildflower I feel like complaining about is my Ironweed (Vernonia fasciculata). So far it just doesn’t seem to be a plant with much visual impact. Maybe I just need to give it more time (this is its third summer in the Driveway Bed). It was DSC_0631 ironweedseriously damaged by the four lined plant bugs this spring, so perhaps I am being too harsh.

Or perhaps I shouldn’t have planted it in the raised Driveway Bed, which could be a bit too well-drained. Maybe the Ironweed should be transplanted to another spot with more moisture? I’ll probably give it one more year before making a decision. I’m reluctant to just get rid of this plant. For starters, it is a host plant for American Painted Lady butterflies.

To read about more wildflowers, check out the Wildflower Wednesday post at Clay and Limestone.

66 Comments on “Wildflower Whining”

  1. Come on Jason, you know plants grow like this when they are in soil that is too rich or they are getting too much water. With all the other problems I have, leaning plants is not one of them in my lean, dry soil. The cuttings garden is another thing of course because that is irrigated. I use bamboo canes with pea netting stretched horizontally between the canes; I put it in early before the plants begin to grow and they soon grow up to hide it. I think I’ve shown it in some of my cuttings gardens posts so I’m sure you’ve seen it.

  2. I just love iron weed. I have tried to get it started in my garden. It doesn’t like it here. I can see why you might not like it in your garden. When I see it in the wild it isn’t in big clumps blooming up a storm it is usually individuals scattered about an area. Those striking magenta blooms are so worth the space to me…that is if I could get them going.

  3. I’m glad I’m not the only one who whines about leaning plants. The phlox in my back garden are a sight. I’ve been thinking about getting rid of them, but Judy, from New England Garden and Thread, and her comment on this page, have given me second thoughts.

  4. Well, even with their poor posture, they’re all very pretty. I don’t mean to make you jealous, but my yellow coneflowers stood up tall without any help from me. But my butterfly garden doesn’t have the best soil, and it’s filled with goldenrod and asters, which I think help to prop up any neighboring plants that can fight for space with them. I am jealous of your Ironweed, though–a plant I’ve always wanted!

  5. Perhaps we should set up a soil exchange program to fix the problem.
    Once a week, I’ll fly to Chicago with three suitcases of my sandy, rocky, nutrient-deficient blech, and I’ll bring back your lovely, rich loam.
    Within a few months, we’ll get those cone flowers struggling for life! Now all I need to do is find a way to fund the $3000 a week in air-fares πŸ™‚

  6. My ironweed is headed to a friends house. I’ just don’t have enough sun for it and it’s as floppy as a pile of spaghetti. Some plants just need some support. Maybe putting an old ladder in the garden next to it would give it something to lean on and grow through.

  7. Ironweed grows in moist prairies, so it probably does need a wetter situation. Yellow Coneflower is native to dry soils, so your soil probably is too rich. It doesn’t do well in a same plant groupng. Interplant it with Stiff Goldenrod, Smooth Blue Aster, Rattlesnake Master, and Euphorbia corollata (which I like to call Prairie Baby’s Breath).

  8. We had record amounts of rain this spring, in SE Nebraska, and have continued to have some storms. Many plants here are taller and floppier than usual. I had also cut a number of plants back in the spring in hopes of them being stronger.

    I had to laugh about your efforts to tie discreetly at first. I have tied up way more plants than usual this year, and not so discreetly. I was a little embarrassed about it this weekend, when some people from our local Audubon Society came to see if the yard is big enough to accommodate the number of people who come to their garden tours on Father’s Day. I was relieved when someone commented on my good job tying up the plants. πŸ˜‰

    I am enjoying the places my ironweed seeded around the yard. It’s a nice break from all of the yellow.

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