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Everything You Need to Know About When and How to Deadhead Coneflowers

If you’ve heard coneflowers are a low-maintenance plant, you’re right. However, that doesn’t mean they won’t benefit from a bit of care! If you’re looking to keep your cornflower plant producing flowers for months to come, you may want to check out deadheading. While this process isn’t necessary to keep your plant alive, it can lead to more blooms. Keep reading to learn about deadheading coneflowers.


Deadheading Coneflowers – The Essentials 

Deadheading coneflowers can help the plants produce more flowers, but it can also limit food for birds. Begin deadheading in mid-summer when the blooms become dried. Remove each spent bloom just above the stem’s first leaf node.


Botanical Overview 

Botanical Overview

Coneflowers refer to a group of plants in the Echinacea genus. They are all members of the daisy family (Asteraceae). They’re prized for their ornamental value and also look beautiful as a cut flower for a vase or bouquet arrangement.

All coneflower species are native to the Eastern United States, extending east from the Rocky Mountains to the Atlantic Coast. They grow in open prairies as well as sparsely wooded forests.

In their native ranges, coneflowers grow as perennials. Although they die back in the winter, they will reemerge the following spring again.

Coneflowers are known for their large flowers. Each flower has spiky, raised centers, which leads to the name coneflower. The petals bend downwards from the center of the flower.

Coneflowers bloom in an array of colors, including purple, red, orange, pink, green, or other colors. Bees, butterflies, and other pollinators often visit the flowers.

Coneflower plants typically grow three to four feet tall. The flowers form on long stems that emerge from the base of the plant.

What is Deadheading? 

Deadheading refers to the process of removing flowers that are done blooming. Not only does this remove unsightly flowers, but it can also encourage the plant to produce new blooms.

Deadheading is a form of pruning, but the main goal is to remove old flowers rather than impact the shape or size of the plant.

Do Coneflowers Need Deadheading?

Do Coneflowers Need Deadheading?

Ask five different people this question, and you’re likely to receive five different answers! To help you decide what’s the right option for you, we’re going to cover all opinions and considerations.

Before we dive into the details, remember that coneflowers grow into nature without anyone deadheading them. So they will grow even if you don’t deadhead them. However, deadheading can help your plants produce a larger number of flowers.

Cons

Removes Food for Birds

Many people plant coneflowers not only for their beauty but also for their benefit to wildlife. While pollinators like bees and butterflies love the nectar and pollen, these flying critters aren’t the only ones who love the flowers.

Once the flowers set seed, birds flock to eat the seeds. Birds that eat coneflower seeds include goldfinches, juncos, chickadees, and more.

However, you should remember that seed production can vary between varieties. Some newer hybrid cultivars don’t produce many seeds, so if you deadhead these varieties, the birds won’t lose out.

Adds Extra Work

One of the many reasons gardeners love coneflowers is for their easy-to-care-for nature! While deadheading isn’t difficult, it does involve some time.

If you’d like to plant your coneflower and forget about it, deadheading may not be the best choice for you.

Pros

Encourages Plants to Produce More Flowers

One of the main reasons people choose to deadhead coneflowers and other plants is to encourage the plants to produce more flowers (fertilizing coneflowers can also help).

When you deadhead, the goal is to remove flowers as soon as they begin to fade. If you do so, you remove the flowers before they produce seeds.

Since the plant doesn’t have to put energy into producing seeds, it can send energy to produce more flowers. This can keep your plant blooming throughout the summer and early fall.

Diminishes Plant Spread

If you want to keep your coneflower plants contained in a small area, deadheading can help accomplish this. When you deadhead, you remove the flowers before they produce viable seeds. This prevents the seeds from spreading and developing into new plants.

Of course, this could be a pro or con, depending on your goals. If you’d like to create a large coneflower patch or meadow, deadheading can increase the time this will take.

Obtain a Bushier Plant

If you forego deadheading, your coneflower plant will continue producing new stalks topped with a few flowers. However, each time you remove a spent flower, you encourage the plant to produce lateral shoots.

Each of these shoots will eventually produce flowers. And when these flowers fade, you can deadhead them to encourage even more shoots! The end result is a voluminous plant.


When’s the Best Time to Deadhead Coneflowers?

When’s the Best Time to Deadhead Coneflowers?

You should prune coneflowers once the blooms fade and begin to produce seeds. Since coneflowers begin blooming in midsummer, you’ll need to begin deadheading in mid to late summer.

As the flowers continue to bloom, more flowers will stop blooming and begin producing seeds. Therefore, you can continue deadheading as more flowers fade.

Since coneflowers stop blooming in the early fall, you can stop deadheading around this time. However, if you’re worried about seeds spreading, you can deadhead into the fall.

What Tools Will I Need to Deadhead Coneflowers?

What Tools Will I Need to Deadhead Coneflowers?

When you deadhead, you can choose to use a variety of tools. A pair of gloves and steady hands can do the trick, but it isn’t the easiest nor best option.

To make deadheading easy, you can utilize a pair of hand-held pruning shears. If you keep the blade sharp, both deadheading and pruning can become a breeze.

It’s a good idea to sanitize your shears with rubbing alcohol both before and after pruning. This will help prevent the spread of disease between plants.

How to Deadhead Coneflowers

How to Deadhead Coneflowers

To deadhead your coneflower plant, follow these steps.

  1. Identity spent blooms. When the petals begin to fade in color and the middle of the flowers starts to darken, the flowers are considered spent. This means it’s time to deadhead them.
  2. Locate the proper cut point. Coneflowers will continue to produce flowers from leaf nodes. Therefore, you should cut the stem of the spent flower just above the top leaf node.
  3. Cut the stem. Use a sharp pair of pruning shears to cut the stem of the coneflower.

Once you start deadheading your coneflowers, it’s a good idea to check your plants at least once a week. Continue deadheading spent blooms following the steps outlined above.

Post Deadheading Care Tips

Fortunately, coneflowers are hardy plants. They can tolerate drought, extreme heat, poor soil, and deadheading! They thrive best in sunny locations, though, so they are best suited to open spots in your garden and will only require occasional watering.

Coneflowers are also relatively easy to transplant and divide if you’re looking to expand your collection or relocate to a more suitable location.

With that in mind, you don’t need to complete any specific actions after deadheading your plants.

When you remove the spent flowers, you can place them in a compost pile. Or, you can leave the stems in your garden since some species of native bees like to nest in the hollow stems.

If the flowers have already set seed, save the seeds for future plantings or leave them out for the birds.


Deadheading Coneflowers FAQs:

How do you know when to deadhead coneflowers?

You should deadhead your coneflowers when the flower petals begin to fade, and seeds start to form. This will begin to happen in mid to late summer.

Will coneflowers rebloom if deadheaded?

Yes, coneflowers will rebloom after you deadhead them. Deadheading your plants will increase the number of flowers they form.

Will coneflowers spread after deadheading?

Deadheading will not cause coneflowers to spread. However, removing the old flowers will prevent flowers from releasing seeds and sprouting new plants.

When should you cut back coneflowers completely at the end of the season?

You can cut back your coneflower plants back completely when they stop blooming. This typically occurs in early to mid-fall.


Wrapping Up

Should you deadhead your coneflowers? It’s your call! If you decide you’d like to deadhead your flowers, remember to trim them near the leaf nodes and check for spent flowers at least once a week.

For more, see our in-depth guide to growing coneflowers in your garden.


Author

Briana holds a B.S. in Plant Sciences from Penn State University. She manages a small market garden where she grows vegetables and herbs. She also enjoys growing flowers and houseplants at home.

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