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
1 rating

Sunday - August 16, 2009

From: Hampshire, IL
Region: Midwest
Topic: Propagation, Transplants
Title: Trimming prairie coneflower for lower height when blooming in Hampshire IL
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

Can the prairie coneflower, Ratibida Columnifera, be cut by half or some amount before setting flower buds to force the plant to bloom at a shorter height? If not, when is the best time to dig and transplant?

ANSWER:

Ratibida columnifera (upright prairie coneflower) is a perennial wildflower, native to the area around Kane Co., in the northeastern corner of Illinois. It ranges in size from 1 to 3 ft tall, and the tall, unleaved stem carrying the flowers well above the rest of the plant is one of the features most noticed, especially when the plant grows in fields or along roadsides. 

Plants have their genetic instructions in their seeds. If a plant is supposed to grow 3 ft. tall, there is no good reason besides severe drought or disease for it to do anything else. Plants' prime imperative is to reproduce themselves. In order to do that they must seed, and in order to seed, they must bloom. This principle means that you can sometimes get a plant to bloom more profusely by deadheading, or nipping off the bloom when it starts to wilt. However, this process takes a lot of energy, and there is no way of explaining to the plant that you will allow it to bloom, but it has to do it lower down on the stalk. If you cut the height in two, the plant will probably still try to bloom, but it is going to be trying to grow those longer bloom stalks, and in your climate, it is likely to be freezing weather before the plant manages that. 

We're assuming that you have your prairie coneflowers in a place where you wanted shorter plants, since you asked when you could move it. All the research we did indicated that, while perennial, this plant's recommended propagation is by seed. However, we believe it would be possible to divide the plant and replant it somewhere else. It should be trimmed back after the first freeze, but leave sticks or a marker so you will know where it is when you are ready to transplant. We would recommend you do this transplanting in Spring, after the ground begins to thaw. You appear to be in USDA Hardiness Zone 5a to 5b, which means you have average annual minimum temperatures of -20 to -10 deg. F. It would be harder on newly divided roots to cope with very cold temperatures soon after transplanting than with the gradual warming in the Spring. For more detail on the process, here is a website from About.com:Gardening on How to Divide Perennial Plants

From our Native Plant Image Gallery


Ratibida columnifera

Ratibida columnifera

Ratibida columnifera

Ratibida columnifera

 

 

 

More Transplants Questions

Want a source for Mexican redbud in Houston, TX
October 04, 2010 - I live in west Houston and would like to purchase and plant a Mexican redbud in my yard. I have Googled to find one and also searched the Growit site without success. Where can I find one in Texas? I ...
view the full question and answer

Transplant shock for non-native Plumbago auriculata
May 19, 2008 - I planted some full plumbago plants that were in containers, in a partially shaded area, they had beautiful flowers when I purchased them, but have since lost them all and the plant is looking very wi...
view the full question and answer

Transplanting roughleaf dogwood in Pflugerville, TX
March 28, 2007 - Hello. My rougleaf dogwood is suckering enthusiastically, and rather than mow off all the root suckers, I'd like to transplant a couple of them to the stream bank in the greenbelt behind my house. ...
view the full question and answer

Leaves browning on non-native willow from in Cumbla PA
July 10, 2011 - We recently planted a willow tree. A lot of the leaves turned yellow and some turned brown, but it is also getting some new buds. my question is, should I take the dead leaves off or leave them there...
view the full question and answer

Madrone too close to house in Oregon
February 02, 2009 - I have a small Madrone tree (8ft tall) located approximatly 15 feet from my house, with a basement. Should I remove it? ie will it damage the foundation and is the tree strong enough that it will no...
view the full question and answer

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