FWG Plant Sale 2012 Top Ten: #1 – Grey-headed Coneflower (Ratibida pinnata)

We’re profiling ten plants available at this year’s Native Plant Sale which may be less well-known – but still very lovable! Why not consider adding one of these to your garden?

Photo by C Burns

Flowers: Yellow

Height: 35-70” (90 to 180 cm)

Width: 16-40” (40 to 100 cm)

Light: Full Sun

If you’re expecting a subtle grey flower, you’ll be sorely disappointed when you discover Grey-headed Coneflower is actually yellow! Its petals hang beneath its centre so it looks like a dancer when the wind blows. The common name is derived from the flower centre, which is a brown-grey shade until it dries to a lighter grey-brown in the late autumn. The leaves are lance-shaped.

A plains flower, Grey-headed Coneflower prefers well-drained soils with a gritty texture, though it can grow in all textures. It can withstand periods of drought. Deep roots make it good for finding water in the soil profile or for stabilising slopes.

When grown from seed it does not usually flower its first year, but will do so once established the second year with cheery flowers from July to September. For every subsequent year, Grey-headed Coneflower will re-grow from the same roots in an ever-expanding clump.

Butterflies and bees will be spring and summer visitors to this plant. In late autumn and winter, the seed heads are a particular favourite of Goldfinches to snack upon.

Photo by pollinators-welcome.blogspot.ca

Pioneers used the crushed seed heads to scent their stored clothes, and various parts of the plant have a history in herbal treatments. Grey-headed Coneflower is a common inclusion in prairie restoration mixes as it can hold its own amongst other species. You can see it blooming from here to the Prairies!

We have small first-year plants and larger second-year plants. Like all the featured top ten plants, we have some for sale at this year’s fundraising plant sale on 2 June, from 9:30 until 12:30.

Read about the other top ten:

#2 – Bottlebrush Grass

#3- Great Lobelia

#4- Spreading Dogbane

#5- Bigleaf Aster

#6 – Yarrow

#7 – Lanceleaf Coreopsis

#8 – Blue Flag Iris

#9 – Wild Columbine

#10 – Obedient Plant



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