by Karen Weiland, Advanced Master Gardener
Your flower gardens may tend to not look their best by mid to late August. It’s hot and dry and many perennials may be finished blooming now. The coneflower may just be what you need to perk up that garden. They all have a similar type of flower structure which are in clusters that form a head like a sunflower or daisy.
Many of you I’m sure are familiar with the purple coneflower, botanically known as Echinacea purpurea. It is a popular and easy to grow perennial that blooms from mid-summer up until frost. It is commonly known for it’s bluish-purple flower but it also comes in white and red. It grows 2 – 4 feet tall and handles summer heat very well. Echinacea will tolerate light shade which will enhance the color of the bloom. Cultivars to look for are ‘Magnus’ (rosy-violet), ‘Alba’ (white) and ‘White Lustre’ (also known as White King). There are some exciting, rather new hybrids to be had. Cheyenne Spirit, Double Scoop and Doubledecker are a few of my favorites. They are hardy in zones 3 thru 8.
Coneflowers are easy to grow in just about any type of soil, but do best in well drained loamy soil and full sun. They can easily be propagated by cuttings, seed or division. The roots of coneflowers do not like to be disturbed, so avoid moving them. Perform any dividing in the spring or fall. To prolong flowering, cut the spent flowers off (deadheading). In the fall, leave the spent flower heads on the plant to encourage seed formation which will provide some landscape winter interest and will provide food for hungry birds.
Coneflowers can be susceptible to bacterial diseases that cause leaf spots and powdery mildew. Insect pests include an eriophyid mite that causes the flower to develop lumps. Remove and destroy any infested flowers.
Rudbeckia hirta or Black-eyed Susan is another popular late bloomer. It has yellow-orange flowers, will grow 2-3 feet tall and is drought tolerant once it is established. This also blooms from mid-summer up until frost kills the plant parts above ground. These plants are considered an annual, biennial or short lived perennial type and includes the cultivars ‘Marmalade’ (golden-orange), ‘Rustic Colors’ (petal colors range in shades from oranges, bronzes, gold and deep mahogany) and ‘Goldilocks’ (semi-double to double golden yellow petals). They may reseed freely and act like a true perennial. During a mild winter or in a sheltered bed, varieties such as ‘Marmalade” can survive to become perennials with some winter protection.
Black-eyed Susans are a pretty tough plant but it can be susceptible to powdery mildew.
As always, Happy Gardening!
More information about gardening and related subjects is available online at http://www.hort.purdue.edu/ext/garden_pubs.html The Purdue University Cooperative Extension Service can be reached at 499-6334 in LaGrange Co., 636-2111 in Noble Co.,925-2562 in DeKalb Co. and 668-1000 in Steuben Co.
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