En Espa—ol

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?


Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions
Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.
Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.
rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

Monday - August 20, 2007

From: West Bloomfield, MI
Region: Midwest
Topic: Pruning, Herbs/Forbs
Title: Leggy purple coneflower
Answered by: Barbara Medford


Last year I planted purple coneflowers and this year when they bloomed they were extremely tall & leggy. I'd like next year to get them to be shorter and fuller. How do I do that & is it something I should do to them this year or next year? Also, should they be cut all the way down in the fall?


Echinacea purpurea (eastern purple coneflower) is naturally a tall and leggy plant. The height of the plant is given at 2 feet to 5 feet, and that is almost all stems for the flowers, as the basic plant is a low-growing rosette, with smaller leaves along the stems up toward the flowers. Legginess in plants is usually caused by too much shade and, although this plant is said to be tolerant of part shade, perhaps yours are getting too much shade. Since I don't think there is any way a plant can be trained to be shorter, and since you are obviously growing the plant for its lovely wildlife-attracting flowers, it would seem your choices are to move the plants into a sunnier spot and get used to tall flowers. In answer to your question about cutting them down in the fall, if you would like to give the birds a chance at the seeds in the "cone", don't deadhead them too soon. However, just about any plant benefits from having spent flowers and stems clipped off and discarded. This will encourage them to bloom more and help to prevent disease and insects from gathering around the dead plant tissue.


Echinacea purpurea



More Herbs/Forbs Questions

Maintenance of milkweed from Austin
September 12, 2013 - I help plant and maintain a Monarch Waystation Garden in San Leanna, Texas (South Austin). Should milkweed plants be cut back during the winter? Last year we cut them back a bit late and some died c...
view the full question and answer

Re-landscaping neglected garden in Franklin CT
April 03, 2011 - I am starting from scratch in a yard that has no planting beds or, for that matter, plants at all. House was vacant for quite some time, grass was three feet tall when we moved in. I would like to p...
view the full question and answer

Native plants for southwest side of house in Birmingham, AL
April 18, 2009 - I would like to know what I can plant on the southwest side of my house where there is a brick foundation and is really hot in the summer. I've tried irises and day lilies-not good. Suggestions?
view the full question and answer

Suggestions for native perennials in Staten Island, NY
April 03, 2008 - My back yard garden has a good base of evergreen shrubs and perennials all doing well in clayish soil and I am ready now to add color and texture in an area with partial sun. Can you suggest hardy...
view the full question and answer

Converting a Texas backyard to grow Xerophytic native plants
January 09, 2015 - I am planning the conversion of our backyard, about 4000 sq ft of largely St Augustine, into a grassless landscape of hardscaping and native plants. Iíve been an avid gardener of rock garden plants i...
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants's Facebook profile Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.

Mr. Smarty Plants wants you to be his Facebook friend. Click the Facebook icon to add yourself to Mr. Smarty Plants list of friends.
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center