With their tall, elegant flower stems and central structural cones, it’s no surprise that coneflowers are fantastic as cut flowers. Echinacea flowers are rich in meaning and symbolism and are excellent for creating summer or fall flower vase displays. You can use both flower stems and seed heads to add color and structure to your displays. In this article, we’ll explain how to cut coneflowers for a vase or bouquet arrangement.
- How to Cut Coneflowers for a Vase or Bouquet – The Essentials
- About Coneflowers
- Growing Coneflowers in Your Garden
- Best Tools for Cutting Coneflowers
- When to Cut Coneflowers for Cut Flower Arrangements
- Step-by-Step Guide to Cutting Coneflowers
- How Long Will Cut Coneflowers Last For?
- Tips For Extending the Life of Cut Coneflowers
- How Do You Preserve or Dry Cut Coneflowers?
- Wrapping Up
How to Cut Coneflowers for a Vase or Bouquet – The Essentials
Coneflower stems should only be harvested from established plants. Cut stems once the flowers start blooming and the petals are unfurling. Make sure the stems feel strong and firm. Cut coneflower stems last approximately four to seven days. Harvest seed heads once flowering has finished.
Coneflowers are part of the Echinacea genus in the daisy or sunflower family (Asteraceae). Ten species are recognized, and horticulturalists have also created a range of gorgeous cultivars. The name Echinacea refers to the spiky central flower cones and comes from the Greek word ‘ekhinos‘, meaning ‘sea urchin’.
Coneflowers come in a range of beautiful colors, from purple and pink to orange, red, yellow, white, and green. The petals radiate from a cone of tiny nectar-rich flowers and droop slightly to resemble a shuttlecock. Coneflowers make excellent cut flowers, although some cultivars are better suited to cutting than others.
Echinacea plants can grow up to 4 or 5 feet tall, with flowers emerging from the tips of long stems called peduncles. Depending on the variety, these perennial wildflowers can enjoy a long flowering season that runs from mid-summer to fall. Coneflowers bring some fantastic benefits to your garden, such as attracting pollinators.
Many Native American groups used Echinacea as part of their traditional medicine practices. Coneflowers are thought to alleviate burns, colds, and even toothaches. As a result, coneflowers are believed to represent healing and health. Cut or dried coneflowers are a wonderfully thoughtful gift for someone recovering from an illness.
Growing Coneflowers in Your Garden
Coneflowers are low-maintenance, easy-to-grow perennials that need six to eight hours of direct sunlight daily, preferably in the morning. Established coneflowers are drought-tolerant and rarely need watering, although young plants need weekly watering for the first 6 to 12 months. Echinacea plants thrive in loose chalky, loamy, or sandy well-draining soils that are slightly acidic. They’re also easy to transplant and divide if you ever need to relocate or are looking to expand your collection.
Best Tools for Cutting Coneflowers
To cut coneflower stems, use a pair of sharp pruning shears or secateurs. When cutting any flower, it’s essential to clean and sterilize your shears before and after each cut. This prevents the spread of unseen diseases. Wash your pruning shears in warm, soapy water before cutting your coneflowers.
When to Cut Coneflowers for Cut Flower Arrangements
Choosing the right time to cut your coneflower stems helps them last a little longer. It’s important only to take cuttings from strong, established plants. Gently shake each flower stem and only harvest if the stem feels firm and the flower doesn’t wobble too much.
Coneflower blooms should be cut just before they’re in full flower when the petals have started unfurling. It’s also worth checking that the pistils of the central flower cone are still light-green. The best time to cut a flower stem is in the early morning or late evening rather than mid-afternoon.
The blooms will last longer by cutting younger flowers because they’ll continue to unfurl in the vase. Using your shears, remove the stem with a diagonal cut and remove the lower leaves. Place the stem in a vase of lukewarm water.
You can also cut the seed heads of an Echinacea to add some beautiful structure to a flower vase. Wait until later in the season when the petals are wilting and the cones have started turning brown. Remove the fading petals and any foliage and put the stem into a vase of lukewarm water.
Step-by-Step Guide to Cutting Coneflowers
- Before cutting, make sure your pruning shears are clean and sterile. Have a container of lukewarm water on hand for the stems.
- Remove the stem using a diagonal cut, leaving any unopened buds on the plant.
- Remove any leaves remaining on the stem.
- Place each stem into the water container, ready to transfer into your vase later.
- Fill a clean vase with lukewarm water and put the stems in. Place the vase somewhere cool, away from direct sunlight.
- Add some flower food to prolong the blooms.
- Follow the same process later in the season if you’re harvesting the seed heads.
How Long Will Cut Coneflowers Last For?
Fresh-cut coneflower flower stems will last four to seven days in cool conditions away from direct sunlight. Seed head stems will last longer – anywhere between 10 and 14 days. Always use lukewarm water in the vase and change it regularly to keep your stems hydrated.
Tips For Extending the Life of Cut Coneflowers
There are a few tips you can use to get the most out of your cut coneflowers. Let’s take a closer look at a few tried-and-tested methods:
Regularly Change the Water
Cut coneflower flower heads and seed heads should be placed in a vase of lukewarm water. Change this water regularly for fresh lukewarm water every few days. Each time you refill the vase, trim the base of the stem down slightly using fresh diagonal cuts.
You can also add flower food or floral preservative to the water each time you refill the vase. This can help eke out a little more time for enjoying your coneflower stems.
For more tips on how to prolong the life of freshly-cut flowers, check out our comprehensive guide.
Keep Your Vase Out of the Sunlight
Placing your vase in the right place helps prevent your freshly-cut coneflower stems from dying off too quickly. Choose a spot that’s fairly cool and has stable temperatures. Make sure the vase is kept out of direct sunlight as well.
Potassium aluminum sulfate, also known as alum powder, is one method of prolonging the life of your freshly-cut coneflower blooms. Alum powder is traditionally used when pickling vegetables because it helps keep them crisp and fresh. In addition, alum powder consists of potassium aluminum sulfate crystals, which you can usually find near pickling spices in a supermarket.
Alum powder helps preserve cut flowers because it stimulates the stem to absorb more water. When refilling the vase, use alum powder each time you recut your coneflower stem. Before placing the stem back into the water, dip the base of the stem into some alum powder.
Boiling Water Treatment
A quick bath in boiling water can help your cut coneflower blooms last longer. Boiling water kills any bacteria building up on the stem or in the vase, allowing the stem to stay hydrated. When you recut the stem during water changes, place it into a couple of inches of boiling water. After the water has cooled, the stem will stay hydrated more easily.
How Do You Preserve or Dry Cut Coneflowers?
Coneflowers don’t just make great fresh-cut flowers, and they also perform well as dried flowers. Both coneflower flower heads and seed heads can be dried and used in vase displays. Seed heads can be left to die and dry naturally on the plant, then snipped off and used straight away.
If you want to dry them, Echinacea flower heads can be harvested anytime during the flowering season. Choose stems with flowers that are fully open for the best results. The flower heads should be fully dry within one or two days and will last for up to six months.
Let’s take a look at how to preserve and dry cut coneflowers:
- Using sterile pruning shears, cut your chosen stem. Make sure to leave any unopened or emerging flower buds on the plant.
- Lightly rinse the stems to remove dirt and other contaminants, especially from the petals.
- Using pegs or hooks, hang your coneflower stems upside down in a cool, dry location. Place a container or sheet underneath to catch any petals that fall off.
- Alternatively, spread your Echinacea stems out on a tray and place them outside in a sunny, sheltered location. Depending on your climate, it may take up to five or six days to dry the stems.
- Once your stems are dry, you can use them in dried flower arrangements as whole stems. You could also cut the dried stem up into pieces and use them to make echinacea tea and other products.
Not only do coneflowers flower for a long time, but you can also use them as cut flowers. Always use clean, sterile pruning shears to harvest Echinacea flower heads or seed heads. Once you’ve cut the stems, remove any remaining leaves and place the stems in a clean vase of lukewarm water. Freshly-cut coneflower stems can last for up to a week and can also be dried.
Edd is a budding content writer and gardener living in the United Kingdom. He has a bachelor's degree in Creative and Professional Writing and has written for several gardening publications online. He is passionate about nature and sustainability with a focus on gardening and wildlife.