If you are planning to grow coneflower plants, you will be getting much more than just a beautiful flower. Coneflowers are long-lasting, hardy flowers that will likely be the first plants in your garden to blossom and the last to go dormant for the winter. In the past, American settlers used wild coneflowers on the prairies and fields of the Midwest and reaching all the way down to the South to make tea, syrups, and salves that served as natural remedies for infection and immunity boosters.
Growing coneflower plants is easy. If you have fertile, drier soil, your coneflowers will thrive. Of course, there are ways to get your flowers growing even if you don’t have this type of soil. Use some organic fertilizer and work in a little compost for fertility. You can also use a raised garden bed to make your soil drier. Plant your coneflower seeds in early spring when your soil can be worked and you expect the last frosts. Sow the seeds a quarter inch deep and about two inches apart. When the seedlings are an inch tall, thin the existing flowers until they are eighteen inches apart. During this time make sure that you are watering your coneflower seedlings until they are established. Once they are established they will subsist on rainwater. If you plant before the first fall frost of the year, your coneflowers will have a much better bloom period the next year.
Coneflowers do not require much maintenance besides weeding. However, if you want to keep your flowers healthy and plentiful-looking, cut off dead looking flowers to encourage new ones to grow. Also, when weeding, look out for small coneflower seedlings because you may want to move them. If you would like to save seeds for future seasons, find mature flowers and place them upside down in a paper bag. This way, your coneflowers will release their seeds into the bag. Once this happens, remove the plant debris and spread out the seeds on newspaper for 10-12 days so that they can finish drying. Once dry, store them in a jar with a tight fitting lid and keep it in your refrigerator for up to a year.
If you want to harvest your flowers, wait until they are three years old, which is when they will be at their best quality and highest potency. If you wish to harvest the roots, use a sharp knife to cut off a portion of the root while also leaving enough for the plant to continue growing. Cut large root pieces into smaller ones so that none are longer than an inch. Wash them and pat them dry. To continue letting them dry, hang them or lay them on a screen away from direct sunlight to help ventilate. This may take a few weeks but once dry, they can be stored in a glass jar for up to a year. To harvest the tops, cut off the plant underneath the point where the first healthy leaves are growing. Lay the tops in bundles or hang them until completely dry. You will know the plant is dry when the leaves crumble when touched. Like the roots, store the heads in a sealed jar in a cool, dry place.