Cutting Coneflowers to the Ground

mary_maxSeptember 19, 2013

Can I cut the black eyed susans and the purple coneflowers to the ground now or do I have to wait until a hard freeze. The plants have finished blooming and the foliage looks quite ratty now. So can I cut to ground or should I wait til hard freeze? Weather is still warm so I thought I better ask you folks for help on this. Thanks so much.

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mnwsgal 4 MN(4)

Yes, you can cut the flower stems back to the basal mound now. You may see some new flowers forming along the stem and decide to cut only to that point. Many of us leave the seed heads on for the birds. Both plants will also self seed. Since I have many plants and don't want a lot of seedlings I cut some of the seed heads back and leave some for the birds.

    Bookmark   September 19, 2013 at 7:23PM
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Thanks, Yes I did cut the stem heads back as you said. Can I also cut the foliage back to the ground and be done with the plant til next year? Or do I need to wait til a hard freeze.

    Bookmark   September 19, 2013 at 7:29PM
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mnwsgal 4 MN(4)

No, leaving the foliage will help feed the roots until the ground is frozen. At least in my area it is too late to expect regrowth that would also help protect them over the winter. If it is too ugly you could set some potted plants in front of them. Any potted annuals or fall plants you can move there?

    Bookmark   September 19, 2013 at 7:40PM
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Carolinaflowerlover NC Zone 7b

Should I be worried if my foliage is ratty/brown, but I have no basal growth?

    Bookmark   September 19, 2013 at 9:17PM
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A favorite of goldfinches

    Bookmark   September 19, 2013 at 9:43PM
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mnwsgal 4 MN(4)

On some plants I have had the foliage die, crispy brown. I clean the foliage away and hope the plant comes back. Sometimes it does and sometimes it doesn't. If the foliage is still at all green or not crisp I would leave it until killed by frost. If the plant got too dry it might have died back to the roots.

    Bookmark   September 19, 2013 at 11:52PM
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terrene(5b MA)

I do the same as Mnsw, I deadhead some Echinacea seedheads and leave some up for the birds. But I would leave the basal foliage so the roots can become stronger for next season.

If by "black eyed susans" you mean Rudbeckia hirta, I think it would be okay to pull these if the foliage is ratty or brown. R. hirta is a short lived perennial at best, sometimes will return over the winter, sometimes not. It reseeds like crazy and will bloom the first year from seed anyway.

Nice pic Crunch! I love to watch the Goldfinches on the seedheads. They are constantly flittering and tittering around the gardens from mid-summer on!

    Bookmark   September 20, 2013 at 1:43AM
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Carolinaflowerlover NC Zone 7b

Thanks everyone. I have some completely brown (I will remove those) and some with green stems ( I will leave them). When is a good time to sow new seeds? I cut off seedheads to try to control them. After seeing crunch's AWESOME photos, though, I am leaving most seedheads up next year. :)

    Bookmark   October 3, 2013 at 1:53PM
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I leave my coneflowers & Rudbeckia up through the fall & winter. Since I enjoy watching the finches feeding on the seeds, I'm guessing the finches appreciate the fact that I leave them rather than tidy up the garden beds. It doesn't bother me to wait until Spring to do garden bed clean-up. While I can't say it's true of other perennials, I haven't experienced any heavy reseeding problems with either coneflowers or Rudbeckia.

I figure Mother Nature knew what she was doing millions of years ago so I don't normally interfere with her plans as the seasons progress. If she gave plants ratty foliage, I'm guessing there's a reason for it. Even if I don't particularly enjoy it I rarely interfere with it.

You can winter sow either Echinacea/coneflower or Rudbeckia hirta seeds whenever you have time altho' according to my notes, Echinacea/coneflower seeds do need cold stratification in order to germinate. The link below is a portal to Tom Clothier's Seed Germination database. It's generally considered reliably accurate in my experience. Rudbeckia/black-eyed Susan seeds typically don't require a cold period in order to germinate.

The "official" start of winter sowing is the Winter Solstice in December. There's a wealth of information about the method available on that GW forum.

Good luck to you!!

Here is a link that might be useful: Tom Clothier's database

    Bookmark   October 3, 2013 at 8:33PM
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docmom_gw Zone 5 MI(5)

Now is a perfect time to toss down seed if you are direct sowing into the ground. Autumn rains, snow, and spring freeze/thaw cycles will work the seed into the ground and break down the seed coat and germination will happen according to Mother Nature's calendar. Direct sowing is by far the easiest way to grow new plants, but many seeds are lost to animals feeding or are washed away in heavy rains, or do not have the ideal moisture levels when they are very small. Wintersowing is an excellent method which takes advantage of Mother Nature, but protects the seeds.


    Bookmark   October 5, 2013 at 5:53PM
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Carolinaflowerlover NC Zone 7b

Thank you, both! I did sow some outside in containers now. I will wintersow some, too. I appreciate the advice. :)

    Bookmark   October 5, 2013 at 6:44PM
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