Wildflower Whining

The wildflowers aren’t whining, I am.

For starters, why can’t the Yellow Coneflowers (Ratibida pinnata) stand up STRAIGHT! I could put up with some nonchalant leaning, but these guys want to just flop over like, I don’t know, like something that is very floppy.

Yellow Coneflowers
Yellow Coneflowers

For the past six weeks I have been in a quiet struggle with my Yellow Coneflowers, trying to get them to be just the tiniest bit vertical. At first I would allow them to lean (I hoped) gracefully and naturally against lengths of twine tied inconspicuously between discretely placed stakes.

Eventually, though, they would always end up looking like they needed someone to call them a cab after a night of way too much fun at the neighborhood tavern. Finally, I gave up on subtlety and started trussing each one to its own personal post.

DSC_0912 yellow coneflower

All this after I cut them back by about half back in June.

I don’t know why my Yellow Coneflowers are so excessively flexible. They get full sun. Perhaps the soil is too rich?

Even with all the angst over staking, I still love this plant. The petals are a clear, cheerful yellow and their droopiness reminds me of a basset hound’s ears. The cones make me think of clown noses. Needless to say, they are great plants for birds and pollinators.


Another wildflower I feel like complaining about is my Ironweed (Vernonia fasciculata). So far it just doesn’t seem to be a plant with much visual impact. Maybe I just need to give it more time (this is its third summer in the Driveway Bed). It was DSC_0631 ironweedseriously damaged by the four lined plant bugs this spring, so perhaps I am being too harsh.

Or perhaps I shouldn’t have planted it in the raised Driveway Bed, which could be a bit too well-drained. Maybe the Ironweed should be transplanted to another spot with more moisture? I’ll probably give it one more year before making a decision. I’m reluctant to just get rid of this plant. For starters, it is a host plant for American Painted Lady butterflies.

To read about more wildflowers, check out the Wildflower Wednesday post at Clay and Limestone.

66 Comments on “Wildflower Whining

  1. So your yellow coneflowers are horizontally challenged? And give the ironweed a break–those four-lined bugs are pests. πŸ™‚

    • Very true! I think all bloggers should be required to occasionally write about something that went horribly wrong in the garden.

  2. Come on Jason, you know plants grow like this when they are in soil that is too rich or they are getting too much water. With all the other problems I have, leaning plants is not one of them in my lean, dry soil. The cuttings garden is another thing of course because that is irrigated. I use bamboo canes with pea netting stretched horizontally between the canes; I put it in early before the plants begin to grow and they soon grow up to hide it. I think I’ve shown it in some of my cuttings gardens posts so I’m sure you’ve seen it.

  3. I love your description of the coneflowers- petals like basset hound ears πŸ™‚ I have quite a few floppy plants at the moment but that’s because they’ve been battered by very heavy rain for three days.

  4. I like reading posts like these because then we know you and your plants are not “perfect”. We all have those woes in the garden for sure. Could they be leaning towards the sun?

  5. Kvetch, kvetch, kvetch. If you didn’t whine sometimes about your plants, you wouldn’t be a gardener. It’s always something. (big smile)

  6. I just love iron weed. I have tried to get it started in my garden. It doesn’t like it here. I can see why you might not like it in your garden. When I see it in the wild it isn’t in big clumps blooming up a storm it is usually individuals scattered about an area. Those striking magenta blooms are so worth the space to me…that is if I could get them going.

  7. Thanks to all the rain and heavy moisture we’ve had lately, many of my flowers are finding it hard to stand up.

  8. Maybe the yellow flowers that want to go horizontal should be called Proneflowers.

  9. I’m glad I’m not the only one who whines about leaning plants. The phlox in my back garden are a sight. I’ve been thinking about getting rid of them, but Judy, from New England Garden and Thread, and her comment on this page, have given me second thoughts.

    • I stopped growing phlox paniculata because it tended to get so top heavy. However, there’s something to be said for a relaxed approach. Depends on how much you love those phlox flowers.

  10. Well, even with their poor posture, they’re all very pretty. I don’t mean to make you jealous, but my yellow coneflowers stood up tall without any help from me. But my butterfly garden doesn’t have the best soil, and it’s filled with goldenrod and asters, which I think help to prop up any neighboring plants that can fight for space with them. I am jealous of your Ironweed, though–a plant I’ve always wanted!

    • You did make me jealous, so thanks a lot. But seriously, I think I need to interplant the Yellow Coneflowers with more upright plants.

  11. I don’t know enough about either plant to give you advice. But I do remember seeing an enormous stand of ironweed on a garden tour last year, standing nice and tall and straight in full sun. It was very impressive.

  12. The color of the ironweed bloom is one of my favorites. I look for it along the roads in summer. As for your leaning coneflowers, have you tried shouting, “Attention!” It sure worked when I was in the Navy.

  13. The wildflowers seem to stand up straight wherever they have chosen their own real estate. They’re pretty headstrong about being coaxed into the spots I have in mind for them.

  14. I am having problems with floppy plants too, even teasel and roses!The coneflower is lovely floppy or not…..and the ironweed is certainly good for your wildlife so I’m glad it has another year to behave itself!xxx

  15. Perhaps we should set up a soil exchange program to fix the problem.
    Once a week, I’ll fly to Chicago with three suitcases of my sandy, rocky, nutrient-deficient blech, and I’ll bring back your lovely, rich loam.
    Within a few months, we’ll get those cone flowers struggling for life! Now all I need to do is find a way to fund the $3000 a week in air-fares πŸ™‚

  16. Is it possible your cone flowers are too hot? I’ve noticed that my tall rudbeckia stands up straight and tall in the part-shade at the edge of the woods but often flops over in the full sun of the fence border.

  17. My ironweed is headed to a friends house. I’ just don’t have enough sun for it and it’s as floppy as a pile of spaghetti. Some plants just need some support. Maybe putting an old ladder in the garden next to it would give it something to lean on and grow through.

  18. Jason your coneflowers are so nice, yellow with brown heads. Let them grow as they want, I have mine horizontally too.

  19. Are the beds level? A slope in grade to the street makes tall plants lean. It is so dry in my area the cone flowers and Rudbeckia never grew very tall. Those that have to stretch for light will lean too.

  20. Ironweed grows in moist prairies, so it probably does need a wetter situation. Yellow Coneflower is native to dry soils, so your soil probably is too rich. It doesn’t do well in a same plant groupng. Interplant it with Stiff Goldenrod, Smooth Blue Aster, Rattlesnake Master, and Euphorbia corollata (which I like to call Prairie Baby’s Breath).

  21. I don’t like floppy plants, either. One of my main complaints about many asters, though I have not had the problem with my pink coneflowers.

    • It’s really a problem with my New England Asters, even if I cut them back in May. Calico, Short’s, and Aromatic Aster seem better in terms of flopping.

  22. Jason, I solved my/their leaning problem by growing them between a Eupatorium Gateway and Hydrangea Limelight – alone he’d look like a drunk at closing time, but between these two giants he stands nice and tall.

  23. We had record amounts of rain this spring, in SE Nebraska, and have continued to have some storms. Many plants here are taller and floppier than usual. I had also cut a number of plants back in the spring in hopes of them being stronger.

    I had to laugh about your efforts to tie discreetly at first. I have tied up way more plants than usual this year, and not so discreetly. I was a little embarrassed about it this weekend, when some people from our local Audubon Society came to see if the yard is big enough to accommodate the number of people who come to their garden tours on Father’s Day. I was relieved when someone commented on my good job tying up the plants. πŸ˜‰

    I am enjoying the places my ironweed seeded around the yard. It’s a nice break from all of the yellow.

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