June 14, 2014
Purple coneflowers are great native plants and I personally think they are one of the best plants you can grow in your garden. Today I'm in the All America Selections trial garden at the MSU South Mississippi Branch Station in Poplarville and I have to say I'm crazy for coneflowers. Who can resist the two to four inch flowers with bright purple petals and dark center cones? The foliage and stems have hairy surfaces that might remind you of medium-grit sandpaper. Typically, coneflowers are large back-row plants in perennial beds or borders. But plant breeders are developing more compact plants such as the 2010 All America Selections winner Pow Wow Wild Berry that grows up to 20 inches tall. The superior branching results in more three to four inch flowers that bloom continuously with no deadheading. Though named for the color purple, varieties are being developed with other colors. These coneflowers with orange, yellow, and red flowers are being evaluated for future release. Coneflowers should be considered a tender perennial in coastal regions, but it's a true perennial for the rest of the state. The plant is susceptible to crown rot the winter months. Mississippi gardeners should plant coneflowers in raised beds to help keep the plant crown drier. Coneflowers may be the ideal plant for busy gardeners because they thrive on neglect. Irrigation is only needed during extreme droughts. I'm Gary Bachman for Southern Gardening.