The Other Coneflower
When people talk about coneflowers, most often they mean Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea). But there is another coneflower that is underutilized in home gardens. I speak of Yellow Coneflower (Ratibida pinnata).
This is a plant with lots of virtues. At times the golden rays seem to glow in the late afternoon light. The large central cone reminds me of a clown’s nose, but I find that endearing.
The slender, almost leafless stems of Yellow Coneflower have a see-through effect, distinct from the solid mass created by drifts of most other summer perennials.
Yellow Coneflower is pretty adaptable, as long as it has sun and well-drained soil. Its native range runs throughout the Midwest and parts of the South as well, and it attracts North American bees and other pollinators.
In rich garden soil, Yellow Coneflower can grow to 5+ feet, and has a tendency to flop. This is my only criticism. I cope with this shortcoming with tall, narrow tomato cages and the judicious use of a bit of green twine. The cages are a little unsightly, but are mostly hidden by mid-summer. In my experience this plant does not respond well to cutting back.
In our garden, Purple Coneflower was particularly susceptible to aster yellows, which is why I stopped growing it. Fortunately, the disease hasn’t touched Yellow Coneflowers, nor our Rudbeckias or Asters.
It would make me happy to see this plant growing in more sunny gardens in our neighborhood.