When and How to Fertilize Coneflowers Each Season

In my experience, coneflowers (Echinacea) benefit from low doses of fertilizer in the late spring and early summer of each season. For optimal results, I go with a fertilizer designed for flowering plants and apply it once or twice yearly. If you are growing your coneflowers in a nutrient-rich soil base, they may not require fertilizer. Read on to learn when and how to fertilize coneflowers. 

How To Fertilize Coneflowers (Essential Guide)

The Role of Fertilizers in Plant Health, Growth, and Development

All plants need nutrients to grow and function properly. However, the type and amount of nutrients plants require varies between species.

You can break plant nutrients into three main categories: primary, secondary, and micronutrients.

Primary nutrients include nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus. Plants need these nutrients in large amounts to function.

Fertilizer labels list the amount of primary nutrients as an NPK label. For example, a fertilizer with a 10-8-6 label would contain ten percent nitrogen, eight percent phosphorus, and six percent potassium.

Secondary nutrients include magnesium, calcium, and sulfur. Micronutrients include boron, zinc, manganese, iron, copper, molybdenum, chlorine, cobalt, and nickel.

It’s important to note that each nutrient plays a unique role within plants. Therefore, plants must have access to all essential nutrients.

While plants need nutrients to function, this doesn’t necessarily mean they need fertilizer. Native soils generally contain nutrients, and nutrients also cycle through ecosystems. This is why forests and meadows can thrive without fertilizer.

Different Types of Fertilizers

If you need to apply fertilizer to your plant, you’ll have many options.

First, decide whether you want to apply organic or synthetic fertilizer.

Organic fertilizers are typically made from rock dust, crab shells, feathers, and other naturally occurring ingredients. These fertilizers typically slowly release nutrients to plants.

Synthetic fertilizer (inorganic fertilizer) is man-made in a lab. These fertilizers may be quick-release or slow-release.

Once you decide between organic and synthetic fertilizer,, it’s time to choose what type of product you’d like. Liquid and granular are the two main options. Both types of fertilizer can be effective, so it’s mainly personal preference which type you’d like to use.

Signs Your Coneflowers are Lacking Nutrients

A cluster of wilting white coneflowers

Although coneflowers can often thrive without adding fertilizer, you should look for signs that your plant lacks nutrients.

Yellowing Leaves

One sign that your plant may need more nutrients is yellowing leaves. If your plants’ leaves are fading from green to yellow, they could need a boost of nutrients.

If new leaves are green but older leaves are yellow, your plant may be lacking nitrogen. And if you notice older leaves are yellow, but the veins remain green, your plant may be deficient in magnesium.

While yellowing leaves can signify nutrient deficiencies, there are other possible causes. Saturated or compacted soils can also lead to yellowing leaves in coneflowers. Therefore, you should check environmental conditions before applying fertilizer to your plant. You’ll also want to watch for common coneflower pests and diseases.

Lack of Flowers

If your coneflower plant looks healthy but it’s not producing flowers in the summer, a nutrient imbalance could be to blame.

Phosphorus is the primary nutrient that promotes flowering so that low phosphorus could lead to a lack of flowers. High amounts of nitrogen can also lead plants to produce lots of vegetative growth but no flowers.

Try adding a high phosphorus fertilizer to your coneflower to encourage flowering.

When and How Often Should You Fertilize Coneflowers?

Bright red conefowers growing in a garden

In general, coneflowers do not require fertilizer. Since they are native to the Eastern United States, they are well-suited to grow in natural soils without adding fertilizer.

However, if you’re growing your coneflowers in a pot or in very depleted soils, you may need to fertilize.

If you find that you need to fertilize, once in the early spring and once in the early summer will generally suffice. You can also deadhead your coneflowers throughout the flowering season to boost blooming. 

The Best Fertilizer and Soil Conditioners for Coneflowers

A person seen mixing liquid fertilizer in a cap alongside potted plants and a watering can filled with water

After you’ve decided that your coneflower could benefit from fertilizer, you must select a proper product. The main thing you’ll want to look at is the balance of nutrients.

Since coneflowers are flowering plants, they benefit from a fertilizer with more phosphorus and potassium than nitrogen.

Some products that may work well include Espoma Organic Flower Tone and Dr. Earth Flower Girl Bud & Bloom Booster (via Amazon).

It’s best to start with a low dose of fertilizer. Different fertilizers will have different recommended rates, so check your fertilizer’s label first. Next, apply half the recommended amount.

You can also apply a soil condition instead of fertilizer. Compost and/or compost teas can provide a boost of beneficial microorganisms. These organisms can help make nutrients in the soil available to your coneflower plants.

How to Apply Fertilizer 

A collection of flowering colorful coneflowers
  1. Ensure your plant needs fertilizer.

Remember that coneflowers don’t necessarily need fertilizer. If your plant looks healthy and the soil is rich, you may not need to apply fertilizer.

  1. Calculate the proper amount of fertilizer.

Look at the fertilizer label to find the recommended fertilization rates. There should be a recommended rate for single-flowering plants. Apply no more than this recommended dose.

  1. Apply fertilizer.

Apply the fertilizer following product directions. Granular fertilizer can be mixed into the top inch of soil. Liquid fertilizer can be diluted in water and then applied to the soil.

  1. Water well.

If you apply liquid fertilizer, water the soil until it is moist.

Key Considerations to Keep In Mind

Bright yellow coneflowers in bloom

Avoid Applying Too Much Fertilizer

Remember that while plants need fertilizer, there is a thing called too much fertilizer! With that in mind, be careful not to over-fertilize your coneflower plants.

It’s best to start with a low fertilization dose and apply more if necessary.

If you over-fertilize your plant, it may develop yellow or brown leaf edges. Other possible signs include leaf drop and stunted growth.

Select a Fertilizer with the Right Nutrient Ratio

Just like you can apply too much fertilizer, you can also apply the wrong type of fertilizer. Therefore, you must check a fertilizer’s label before applying the product to your coneflowers.

If you apply a fertilizer high in nitrogen, you may end up with a plant with many leaves and few flowers.

Fertilizing Coneflowers FAQs:

Do Coneflowers Need Fertilizer?

While coneflowers need nutrients, they don’t necessarily require fertilizer. Coneflowers can grow in many native soils without the addition of fertilizer.

When Should I Fertilize My Coneflowers?

The best time to fertilize coneflowers is late spring and early summer. You only need to fertilize one or two times a year.

What Is the Best Fertilizer for Coneflowers?

The best fertilizer for coneflowers contains more phosphorus and potassium than nitrogen. This encourages the plant to produce many flowers.

Is Miracle-Gro Good for Coneflowers?

Miracle-Gro can be used for coneflowers, but it may not be the best fertilizer option.

Are Used Coffee Grounds Good for Coneflowers? 

You should avoid applying used coffee grounds on coneflowers. They can lower soil pH, which can limit plant nutrient uptake.

Wrapping Up

That’s it! Remember to examine your soil and other environmental factors before applying fertilizer to your coneflowers. Factors like compacted soil, overwatering, and a lack of sunlight may be causing issues that fertilizer won’t solve.

For more, see our in-depth guide to the best companion plants for coneflowers and whether coneflowers can change color.

Contributing Editor | briana@petalrepublic.com | Full Bio

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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