The Prairie Coneflower (Ratibida ssp.) is one of our favorite water-wise perennial flowering plants this year. This cheerful, pollinator-friendly bloom is native to prairies and western states, making it a great native plant for your Colorado landscape. The Prairie Coneflower can be planted as a part of your wildflower garden or added in the background of borders and plant beds.
In the spring, the wide greenish-blue leaves at the base of this plant will begin to emerge and unfold from the earth. By late spring and early summer, these basal leaves will send up shoots that will grow very high. In fact, Prairie Coneflowers can grow up to 6 feet high, although most species usually grow closer to 2 to 3 feet high and 3 feet wide. The stalks will eventually flower, contributing to their signature look – a tall columnar stamen surrounded by a single rim of bright, drooping petals.
This look is what earned this flower the nickname Mexican Hat — its shape and color are reminiscent of large, colorful Mexican sombreros. Prairie Coneflowers can add colorful summer interest from late June through August, depending on growing conditions.
The following traits make the Prairie Coneflower – or Mexican Hat – a beneficial addition to your Colorado landscape and wildflower gardens.
- Drought-tolerant. The Coneflower can handle light to moderate watering. Prairie Coneflowers prefer full sun exposure and sandy or well-draining soil but can thrive in just about any soil type, including clay.
- Colorful. You can find them in multiple colors, including yellow, red, reddish-brown, and purple.
- Hardy. As mentioned, Prairie Coneflowers are drought-tolerant, but they’re also resistant to most diseases and pests that plague other garden plants.
- Easy to collect seeds. You’ll have an easy time collecting seeds to plant elsewhere or pass on to family and friends. If you leave the seeds on the flowers, you can enjoy watching birds, especially Goldfinches, forage the seeds in the winter.