Why plant Audubon® Native Gray-headed Coneflower?
A slice of the prairie in your backyard! Gray-Headed Coneflower captures the spirit of the prairie in its bold, beautiful flowers. In midsummer, its strong stems rise to five feet, topped by buttery yellow blooms. The petals surround a pale gray cone, which becomes chocolatey brown as the blossoms age. The color change is a cue to Goldfinches to come and harvest the seeds. You’ll enjoy watching the nimble birds balance on the swaying seedheads as they dig in. Gray-Headed Coneflower is easy to grow and is perfect for backyard bird habitat, meadows, native gardens, cut flower gardens, and children’s gardens.
Gray-Headed Coneflower, also known as Yellow Coneflower, is native to much of the eastern U.S., though it is most prevalent in the Midwest. A relic of the vast, majestic prairies that once graced our country’s heartland, it now appears along roads and railroad tracks, in old fields, and in open woods. Beside being attractive to finches, Gray-Headed Coneflower is valuable to our native pollinators. Green metallic bees, leafcutter bees, cuckoo bees, and beneficial wasps, flies, skippers, and beetles visit the flowers. A lovely little orange and black butterfly called the silvery checkerspot also feeds on its foliage.
How to use Audubon® Native Gray-headed Coneflower in the landscape?
One fascinating insect that makes use of the Gray-Headed Coneflower is the wavy-lined emerald moth, which lays its eggs on the flowers. Known as the camouflaged looper in its immature state, the caterpillar, which is patterned like a pair of camo pants, disguises itself even further by actually detaching pieces of the flower and sticking them to its back! When it transforms into an adult, it becomes a beautiful lime-green moth.
Hardiness Zone: 3-8
How To Plant Audubon® Native Gray-headed Coneflower
Gray-Headed Coneflower needs full sun to avoid getting too lanky and falling over. Rich soil and excess water will also encourage flopping, so go easy on the irrigation and fertilizer. Do water well during the first summer while the plant is getting established. Gray-Headed Coneflower is otherwise simple to please. Wait until late winter or early spring to cut back plants, taking care to put the cuttings in a safe, out-of-the-way place. Native bees sometimes overwinter inside the stems and will emerge in the spring. Gray-Headed Coneflower may reseed, but not so much that it becomes a problem.
How To Water
Water twice weekly for the first 3-5 weeks; then water weekly for the remainder of the year until winter. When you water, water slowly and thoroughly. Watering needs may be altered due to extreme weather conditions.
How To Fertilize
Incorporate Elements Starter Plant food granular form into the soil when planting. If planting in spring or summer start fertilizing late fall using Elements Starter Plant food granular form on an annual basis each late year. Continue this for three years to get your plant well established.
How To Prune
Each fall, just before winter sets in clean up the previous years foliage and compost it. Be sure your perennials are mulched well for winter protection. Two inches of an organic mulch will do the job. Consider leaving the plant debris in place through the winter and doing your clean up on the weather warms in the spring. While it doesn't make things neat and tidy, the debris provides overwintering protection for insects, their eggs and pupae including our native Viceroy butterfly.