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Mr. Smarty Plants - Leggy purple coneflower

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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

 

 

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