Yellow Coneflower

How to Grow Yellow Coneflower

The yellow coneflower, otherwise known as prairie coneflower or gray-headed coneflower is a common wild, prairie plant.  When you see these long slender stems protruding through the meadows at four feet tall, they tend to leave a lasting impression.  Their slightly rigid and broken yet delicate appearance is unlike any other flower you have ever seen.

The basal leaves of the yellow coneflower are quite irregular-shaped and are only found near the very   bottom of the stem.  Of course, these unique leaves are often overlooked by their viewers since the flower enjoys growing amongst other tall, messy greenery that hides their intriguing leaves.  The larger leaves on the plant are divided into three to seven lobes and then they are often subdivided as well into one or two secondary lobes.  The smaller leaves that are up slightly higher on the stem are very few in numbers and not present on all plants.  When you do stumble across them, you will notice that they feel rough due to bumps and an abundance of tiny stiff hairs all over them.

The daisy-like flower is found directly at the center of the plant's tall stem.  Every flower is a display of roughly 13 large yellow, drooping florets that appear to be stretching for the ground.  The peculiar looking head of the yellow coneflower starts out as gray or even light green but will eventually become a dark brown shade which is why they are often confused for a brown-eyed Susan.

The blooming period of these flowers begins in late summer and usually lasts for nearly two months.  Although an anise scent is released when the seeds are crushed, the flower itself offers very little fragrance.

Ranges And Habitat

The yellow coneflower is extremely common in Illinois.  Habitat generally includes slightly dry to moist black soil prairies, thickets, clay prairies, limestone glades, woodland borders and along railroads.  They traditionally will colonize in the most disturbed area of their habitat.


These are an ideal choice for any wildflower garden because they really are relatively simple to grow.  The entire plant is constructed delicately and they sway with every passing breeze providing your garden with a beautiful accent.  That being said, the yellow coneflower does not appreciate being pampered or fussed over.  They prefer to live in full sun with clay-loam or straight loam soil.  However, these are robust plants and will tolerate other soil varieties and dry to moist conditions as well.

If you do decide to pamper your plant and offer it fertilizer, you will find that the long flowering stems will flop over in disapproval.  Usually about one half pound of seed for every acre is sufficient for planting if they are mixed up with conservation grasses, forbs and legumes.  If you are trying to really maximize the forb component then you should avoid bromegrass or reed canary grass and stick with bunchgrasses.  Once the plants have been established, new seedlings generally will be produced as a result of the preceding crop.


Insect Attraction

The yellow coneflower is quite inviting to many insects, primarily bees.  These plants are absolutely adored by large leaf cutting bees, epeoline cuckoo bees, green metallic bees and halictine bees.  They also enjoy visits from small butterflies, wasps, flies and beetles.  Most of the insects suck out the nectar from the flowers however, the beetles will actually eat the pollen and the bees will gather it to take to their hive.

Caterpillars from the silvery checkerspot and the wavy-lined emerald butterfly families also feed on the yellow coneflower.  Additionally, goldfinches eat the seeds and livestock and groundhogs enjoy eating the flowering stems and foliage.  The plants are not harmful for consumption so all of the animals and insects in your yard can enjoy them.