How to Grow Yellow Coneflowers

Yellow coneflowers (Echinacea paradoxa)

 undefined undefined / Getty Images

In This Article

Echinacea (Coneflower) are famous for their brown or black center cones and purple daisy-like rays. Though a plethora of coneflowers are available in a wide variety of colors besides purple, they are hybrids. Echinacea paradoxa (Yellow Coneflower) is the only species in the genus that produces yellow flowers.

This North American native plant was highly prized by Native Americans and is still used today as a medicinal herb. It makes a perfect addition to pollinator gardens, wildflower gardens, meadows, or rain gardens.  

Botanical Name Echinacea paradoxa
Common Name Yellow coneflower, Yellow echinacea, Ozark coneflower
Plant Type Perennial
Mature Size 2 to 3 feet tall; 1 to 1.5 feet wide
Sun Exposure Full sun
Soil Type Well-drained
Soil pH Alkaline
Bloom Time Summer, Fall
Flower Color Yellow
USDA Hardiness Zones 3 to 9
Native Area North America

Yellow Coneflower Care

Yellow coneflowers are very hardy plants and don't require very much attention. These plants are drought-resistant, heat-resistant, and naturally resistant to deer and other animals.

Plant yellow coneflowers in a sunny area with alkaline soil for the best results. Because they are drought-resistant, yellow coneflowers do not need constant watering. These plants can handle a bit of neglect without a problem.  

As blooms begin to fade, deadhead the spent blooms to encourage more blooms, keep plants tidy, and control self-seeding. The seed heads are a food source for birds, particularly the American Goldfinch, so you might want to leave a few for them to feast on.

Light

These heat-tolerant plants do best in full sun, but they can also be grown in partial shade. But, be aware that yellow coneflowers located in partial shade might not bloom as well as those in full sun. A garden location with at least six to eight hours of direct sunlight each day is best.

Soil

Yellow coneflowers thrive in alkaline soil conditions, but they tolerate a variety of soil conditions. With a deep taproot, they have access to water and nutrients that are found deep in the soil. This makes them hardy and tolerant of a wide array of soil types from dry and poor to moist and rich.  

Water

As previously noted, yellow coneflowers are drought-tolerant. Therefore, these plants do not need to be watered often. The most common scenarios for a more rigorous watering schedule are during extended periods with no rainfall or when new plants are becoming established. When watering yellow coneflowers, water deeply so that the moisture reaches their taproots.  

Temperature and Humidity

Temperature and humidity are two areas where the yellow coneflower shows off its hardiness. These plants are tolerant of heat and a wide range of humidity levels. When colder months approach, consider adding a layer of mulch to help insulate plants from the cold. 

The fibrous roots of the yellow coneflower will absorb winter moisture and survive the harsh conditions, provided the plant has been established in spring or summer months with enough time to establish a substantial root system.

Fertilizer

Fertilizer is often not needed. Soil that is too rich and fertile can cause this plant to become leggy. Mixing compost or organic material into your soil will provide yellow coneflowers with nutrients without overwhelming it with too much of a good thing.

How to Grow Yellow Coneflower from Seed

Growing yellow coneflower from seed is generally preferred over propagation by division because the plant's vitality relies heavily on its taproot. Dividing a yellow coneflower plant can be done, but runs the risk of damaging the plant beyond regrowth.

Yellow coneflower seeds require a cold, moist stratification period in order to germinate. You can achieve this by either sowing seeds in the fall to allow this process to naturally occur over winter or by mixing the seeds with damp sand or vermiculite in a sealed plastic bag and placing the bag in the refrigerator for one to two months.

Start the seeds indoors 8 to 10 weeks before the last frost, or place them directly into the garden once the threat of heavy frost is gone. In either case, follow these steps to plant yellow coneflower seeds:

  1. First, prepare your soil by mixing in a healthy amount of compost or organic material. 
  2. Sow your seeds and press them gently into the soil. 
  3. Keep the soil moist as the seeds germinate and the seedlings become established. 

Patience is key. Plants started from seed will not bloom until their second or third year. 

Potting and Repotting Yellow Coneflowers

Yellow coneflowers can be grown in containers, but it is important that the pot is tall enough to accommodate this plant’s deep taproot. Make sure the pot has adequate drainage holes. Allow the soil to dry between waterings. When the soil is dry to the touch (about 1 to 2 inches deep), apply water until it flows from the pot's drainage holes.

Because potted plants do not have access to nutrients found in garden bed soil, fertilizing your potted coneflower might be necessary. Feed your plants with a well-balanced, water-soluble fertilizer once a month. By planting it in tall pot with good drainage, these yellow bloomers will grow anywhere they receive plenty of sunshine.   

Echinacea paradoxa vs. Ratibida pinnata 

Yellow coneflower is sometimes confused with Ratibida pinnata, commonly called grayhead coneflower or prairie coneflower. Both sport yellow rays and prickly cones, but a few key differences can help you distinguish one from the other. The cones on prairie coneflowers are much taller than those on yellow coneflowers. Prairie coneflowers also have pinnate leaves, while yellow coneflowers do not.