Coneflowers are varieties of wildflowers that have become popular as garden plants. Each type of cornflower is easy to distinguish from the others and each type has many varieties to choose from. They have two things in common--the cone-shaped center that gives the plant its name and drooping petals.
Echinacea is also called purple coneflower. The petals of the flower resemble those of the daisy with one exception. They droop down instead of laying out straight to the side. The center is a cone that stands upright. Echinacea is a perennial, meaning the plants will last for many years. It will bloom all summer, has dark green leaves and the flowers are on top of tall stalks. Echinacea like full sun, but can take partial shade. There are varieties that can grow in all but the coldest and hottest zones in the continental United States. Most varieties grow from 2 to 4 feet tall and 2 feet wide at the base, but there are some that deviate from the norm. Big sky sunset will grow to 24 to 30 inches in height and 18 inches wide. The cone is brown, the petals orange and the flowers can be 3 to 4 inches across. Pixie meadowbrite only grows to about 18 inches tall and 20 to 24 inches wide. Doppelganger produces double flowers, but the second layer usually does not appear until the second year. Magnus has large pink flowers that attract goldfinches.
Ratibida columnifera is also known as Mexican hat, prairie coneflower, upright prairie coneflower, red-spike Mexican-hat, long-headed coneflower and thimbleflower. The plant has branches and green leaves on the bottom with leafless stalks that grow from 1 to 3 feet tall and support from three to seven 2-inch in diameter flowers. The colors can be yellow or yellow and reddish brown with a red-brown center cone. The plant needs full sun and moist soil. It can also survive in clay soil. The flowers bloom from May through October. Mexican hat grows fast and can become invasive, crowding out other plants. It is best planted by itself, on a rocky hillside or in a container as a patio plant.
Rudbeckia is also known as coneflower or black eyed Susan. There is a total of 25 rudbeckia species. The flowers can be single, semidouble or double and colors can be yellow, gold, chestnut, mahogany, bronze or multicolored. Clasping coneflower is a rudbeckia variety that has heart-shaped leaves, petals that are yellow with red/purple markings and a long black cone. The brown-eyed Susan, or three-lobed coneflower, produces yellow 1- to 2-inch flowers with black centers. It will grow from 2 to 5 feet tall.