The Unknown Coneflower

OK, it’s not really unknown. But generally when people talk about Coneflowers, they’re talking about the genus Echinacea, or less frequently, Rudbeckia. Seldom are they referring to the Yellow Coneflower, Ratibida pinnata.


Incidentally, it’s pronounced rah-TIB-ih-dah. Don’t embarrass yourself as I have by saying RAT-ty-bee-dah, which could be a gangster’s nickname. I have a knack for always choosing the wrong Latin pronunciation.

Anyway. I planted Yellow Coneflower in part because my Purple Coneflowers (Echinacea purpureum) kept coming down with Aster Yellows, for which there is no cure. I don’t have Echinaceas any more, and I miss them.

However, Yellow Coneflower has been resistant to Aster Yellows, even though it also is a member of the Aster Family. (Actually, Purple Coneflower is the only plant in my garden ever to succumb to Aster Yellows.)

DSC_0767aYellow Coneflower has a number of other virtues. The abundant flowers are a bright, clear yellow. It combines nicely with the blue spikes of Anise Hyssop (Agastache foeniculum). The rays are endearingly droopy, like the ears of a basset hound. And the cone reminds me of a clown’s nose.

Overall, this is an adaptable Midwest native that needs no coddling, and it’s of special value to native bees.

DSC_0768aFloppiness, especially in our rich soil, is the one problem I have with Yellow Coneflower. In my garden, it grows about 5′ tall, and the stems tend to be slender and a bit too flexible.

This year, I propped up the Yellow Coneflowers in the Driveway Border with peony hoops. Even after that, I found them smothering some of their neighbors, so I got out the stakes and green twine.

But even with the excessive flopping, I find that Yellow Coneflower makes a charming addition to our Driveway Border in July and August.

That’s all for now.

39 Comments on “The Unknown Coneflower”

  1. A long-ago non-gardening acquaintance wanted to grow Ratibida — he had moved to SC from Chicago.

    It doesn’t like the SE heat and humidity (unlike some of its relatives), so I wasn’t encouraging. Glad to see it flourishing for you!

  2. It’s absolutely beautiful. The name was familiar, too. Lo and behold, it’s related to our native Mexican hat, or upright prairie coneflower: Ratibida columnifera. Your yellow coneflower isn’t native to Texas, but it is listed for Oklahoma, so it comes close. it’s such fun to see these beautiful plants that many of us down here don’t know.

  3. They’re gorgeous, cheery and summer-appropriate. As shoreacres mentions, the do look similar to our R. colmnifera, but also they remind me a bit of the Clasping coneflower (Dracopis amplexicaulis).

    And yeah, that Latin pronunciation thing.

  4. I think I have seen these growing on the roadside near here, but I could be mistaken. Anyway they are lovely! I have some Echinacea that was given to me by a friend, and it is just about ready to bloom for the first time. Hopefully nothing happens to it!

  5. I love these! It took me awhile to get them established here, but one year I suddenly noticed their blooms opening up and was so happy. Thanks for the correct pronunciation–I have been corrected several times on my botanical names. Try asking for agastache:)

  6. Such a pretty sight. I too, know them as gray coneflower, and have them in my garden. Aster yellows is a real bane. Lost all my purple coneflowers about five years ago. Do you know if the cultivars are resistant to aster yellows?

  7. One of my favorites! It’s a bit of a seeder but in a charming way. The C-value is 4. I enjoy using in between grasses like Panicum which keeps it propped up. Has a very low profile (skinny) so it can easily be added to an established garden. Try seed!

  8. Hello Jason, we had Rudbeckia in the previous garden and they grew long and leggy in the rich soil (but did flower well). I’m expecting to have the same problems here when I introduce them. I’ll have to surround them with sturdy shrubs or something for them to lean against.

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