Rent Shop Volunteer Join

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?

Share

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

Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

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

QUESTION:

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?

ANSWER:

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 Pruning Questions

Poverty plant overgrown in Austin
June 06, 2012 - We have a poverty plant that is too big for its space in our yard. We like it and want to keep it. Can it be transplanted easily? What about pruning it.
view the full question and answer

Pruning Texas Mountain Laurel
September 04, 2014 - I've had a Texas mountain laurel for 4 years that's being trained into a tree. I think it was a 3-year old tree when I purchased it. Unfortunately, it has suffered from overwatering, and the two mai...
view the full question and answer

Should black-eyed susan (Rudbeckia hirta) plants be cut back
May 02, 2007 - I have black-eyed susan plants that were beautiful last year and flowered for a long time. Do they need to be cut back and if so, how much?
view the full question and answer

Trimming of Flame acanthus from Bastrop TX
February 17, 2012 - My flame acanthus never lost leaves off the bottom tier of branches this winter. With the brief warm weather and rain we've had, the top and middle tier of branches have all re-leafed. It is very l...
view the full question and answer

Leaf loss on Cenizo in Bertram TX
November 17, 2009 - I need help with a purple sage (Leucophyllum frutescens) problem. Most of one of my plants started having paler, more greyish leaves, then the leaves began to fall off. It seemed to still look healthy...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.