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Coneflowers

Every year we fall in love with new types of annuals in stunning new shades, shapes and sizes. While there’s a lot to be said about playing with something new in the garden, there are a lot of reasons why we never quite move on from the classics.

Coneflowers are the ultimate statement in simple beauty and elegance. We’re always enchanted looking at these confident and colorful blooms. They’re a great choice for any garden, pairing the beauty of traditional flowers with the color choice of modern annuals. These perennials are hardy, stunning, and easy to grow, all while attracting the right kinds of pollinator traffic to your garden.

purple close-up coneflowers

Beautiful Echinacea

Coneflowers are also commonly known as Echinacea, the terms being interchangeable as “Echinacea” is the scientific genus for this type of bloom. Whichever term you use, every variety of this flower is noted for its distinctive shape: a prominent seed head is the centerpiece that a ring of delicate blooms fan away from, angled gently towards the ground. Their cascade of petals in a cone shape is eye-catching and unique in any garden.

While purple coneflower is the traditional favorite, new variations are constantly available, offering the same elegance in new shades and varieties. Each new type captures the elegance that we depend on from echinacea, but the exciting new colors and styles offer us fresh flowers to take on supporting or leading roles in any garden. From exciting and fiery double-petaled divas to dainty and understated whites and purples, there’s a coneflower for any garden aesthetic.
No matter the variety, these flowers seem to capture a simpler time. Including them in your garden is an easy way to transform your backyard into an elegant country cottage sanctuary, or even add a touch of nostalgia in a garden bursting with contemporary color.

white coneflowers

Coneflowers in Iowa

While their blooms might look dainty and delicate, these flowers are anything but. Their heavy seed heads and petals are supported on tough stems that can usually grow very successfully with limited supervision.

Coneflowers are also a famous Iowa native, meaning they won’t need extra pampering to withstand everything our summer weather might throw at them. These perennials will bloom mid-summer, year after year, without you working hard to help them survive drought or heat conditions. Echinaceas are a perfect balance between pretty and practical to give you a gorgeous garden aesthetic while saving you most of the back-breaking work.

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Growing Coneflowers

These perennials can be started from root division in the fall, but the most popular way to introduce them is by starter plant in the spring. They are easy plants to care for that will reward you with abundant blooms every year.

Planting: Choose a location for your coneflowers that will receive lots of sun. While full sun is ideal for these flowers, they can tolerate some shade as long as they see direct sunlight for about 6 hours every day. They’ll grow best in soil that has good drainage but will benefit from having a little bit of compost mixed in before planting to nurture them as they grow.

purple coneflowers

Care: Coneflowers won’t need any supplemental watering if they see average rainfall, but will need a drink weekly to keep them looking their best in droughts. Echinaceas are extremely tough and can handle dry conditions, but a layer of mulch around them will do wonders to lock in the little moisture that they need, especially on hot summer days. Although a little fertilizing won’t hurt your echinacea, they usually don’t need the extra help to thrive in their home soils.

Maintenance: You can expect to see lots of coneflower blossoms in the middle of summer. Prolong their blooming season as long as you can by deadheading the blooms. Near the end of the season, though, leave the last seed heads on your flowers to dry and attract songbirds. If your flowers are looking floppy on weak stems, or are fading in the late summer season, cut the blooms to the ground instead of deadheading or cut back the plant by a third to revitalize it when it grows back.

light pink coneflowers

Coneflowers are garden powerhouses that provide a long list of aesthetic and practical benefits to your garden. These classic beauties are the perfect choice for any garden, fitting seamlessly into your design while beautifying their surroundings. Incredibly simple to grow, these gorgeous perennial blooms are a gift to you and your garden, year after year.

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Best Iowa Perennials for Spring Blooming

“I am more myself in a garden than anywhere else on earth.” 
– Doug Green

Perennials are the perfect reminders that spring has sprung. Popping up again year after year, perennials are perfect for celebrating the warmer weather. With our tough winters, however, picking perennials for our climate can be tricky, but just as important. The healthiest plants are the best way to achieve a stunning garden. Below are a few of our favorite spring blooming perennials to recommend that flourish in Iowa!

Irises

This outstanding flower is one of the most gorgeous plants to add to a garden. It’s a popular old-fashioned classic for good reason. These iconic blooms are statement makers that are sure to please, and they are quite easy to take care of. Irises prefer full sun and moist soil, but they tolerate a variety of conditions. You can use them in part shade and drier soils as well. After they are established, they do not need a lot of attention, making them a great option for low maintenance gardens. When planting them, add some organically enriched soil and you will have delicate, draping blooms all spring. While available in many colors and varieties, some of our favorites are the dark purple Caesar’s Brother and the cream and white Butter and Sugar Siberian.

Pictured below: Iris ‘Caesar’s Brother’

Creeping Phlox

Creeping Phlox has amazing, star-shaped flowers that are both drought-tolerant and pet-friendly. These flowers don’t compromise beauty for being very hardy and functional flowers. True to their name, these flowers have a creeping quality, making them perfect for ground cover in the garden. WhitePinkBlue, and Purple are amazing springtime colors to choose, but you can get them in almost any shade you desire. They prefer full sun (but not too hot) and regular watering, letting the soil dry in between. Plant in moist and well-draining soil that is loamy or slightly sandy for the best growth.  However, they do tolerate a variety of conditions.

Old-Fashioned Bleeding Hearts

A true classic that gardeners have adored for years and years, Bleeding Hearts are amazing, native perennials, meaning they’re designed by nature to grow here! Their long reputation with gardeners speaks for itself, and their dainty blooms are sure to inspire a certain nostalgia. While many new variations of this plant have come out in recent years, our favorite is still the classic dark pink and white. Make sure the dangling, heart-shaped flowers have full to partial shade and weekly waterings and you’ll have beautiful blooms without fail.

Columbines

The name “Columbine” is derived from the Latin “Columba,” meaning “dove,” as the flower is said to look like five doves huddled together when the flower is inverted. They prefer partial to full sun and regular waterings, letting the soil dry slightly in between. You can choose from a wide range of varieties, but we are loving the pale yellow Corbett Columbine and the red and yellow Little Lanterns variety. With regular deadheading, these show-stopping flowers seem to bloom forever. They may even attract some hummingbirds, too, providing extra details to your backyard masterpiece!

Pictured below: Old Fashioned Bleeding Hearts

Pictured below: Lenten Rose

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Lenten Roses

Charmingly captivating, Lenten Roses feature amazing blooms that come in many interesting colors. Lenten Roses are some of the early spring flowers, which will give your garden a pop of color almost as soon as the snow melts.

They come in almost any color imaginable, but our favorites this year are Apricot BlushBlue DiamondCherry Blossom, and Painted Double. Plant them in a rich, well-draining soil and give them full to partial shade with weekly waterings. Mulch to keep their roots cool and use an acidic fertilizer after blooming for the best show this season.  

For best results year after year, try to pick out a spot that is protected from our harsh winter conditions, perhaps on the East side of your home, as Lenten Roses can sometimes react poorly to harsh winters.

Other Perennial Favorites

With so many beautiful perennials to choose from, it’s hard to make the shortlist. Here are a few of our other top choices for perennials this spring. There are many lovely flowers available that will thrive in our climate, filling your outdoor space with delightful blooms.

  • Salvia: Gorgeous, dark stems with stunning flowers – we love violet blue Carodonnas and lavender Pretty in Pinks. Give them full sun and plant in enriched, well-draining soil and water weekly.
  • Bellflowers: Classic, cup-shaped blooms that come in hundreds of colors – we love the violet-hued Takion Blue. Give them partial to full sun and ensure their well-draining soil is consistently moist for best performance.
  • Penstemons: Garden greats with colorful foliage and flowers – we love Husker Red (burgundy foliage and white flowers) and Dark Towers (bronze-red foliage with pink flowers). They need humus-rich and well-draining soil, partial to full sun, and regular watering.
  • Catmint: Fragrant flower spikes that cats love almost as much as catnip – we love the periwinkle blue Walker’s Low. Ensure they have good air circulation, partial to full sun, and weekly waterings to keep them at the top of their game.

Choosing perennials that work with you, rather than against you, is the goal this spring. You’ll spend less time fighting the elements in your garden and more time sitting back and enjoying the spectacular display in your own yard. These perennials are proven performers in our Iowa climate and are gorgeous options for your garden this year. Check out our full perennial blooming calendar to see more spring blooming perennials and stop by the Garden Center today to get your garden going with these vivacious varieties and more!