The orange coneflower is an herbaceous perennial plant with many excellent features for home gardens. It is correctly placed in the Aster family since it has both ray and disk flowers. The ray flowers are on the outside of the “flower” and are what we used to pull off when playing “He loves me, he loves me not.” The disk flowers are in the center and are where, for example, our sunflower seeds come from.
This plant achieves a mature height of about 3 feet and a diameter of approximately 2-1/2 feet. It is a native to the southeastern United States and is found in Hardiness Zones 3 through 9, thus, it is a perfect fit for the Chattanooga area. In addition, it is very forgiving as to its growth environment. After having been in the ground for a few years, this species will expand its area by underground stems or rhizomes, however it is not considered invasive.
The orange coneflower is best found in moist, rich soils and full sun. It blooms from June through October and usually is full of 2-1/2 inch bright orange/yellow flowers.
This plant makes a remarkable statement in the naturalized or the rain garden. In addition, it is often used for cut flowers and for dried flowers.
Perhaps the greatest beneficial trait of this species is that it is low maintenance. Thus, when placed in a suitable habitat, you can forget about it until it rewards you with its many flowers.
This species also attracts pollinating insects, including butterflies, and will provide lots of time to closely examine these insects.
The difference between sweet coneflower and the orange coneflower is that the sweet coneflower is in the genus Echinacea with petals that bend backwards at maturity while the orange coneflower is in the Rudbeckia genus and its petals extend straight out of the flower at maturity.
Removing the spent flower heads (referred to as dead-heading) will prolong the blooming of this species. If not dead-headed in the late autumn, this plant will provide seeds for several species of small birds, e.g., chickadees, cardinals, and finches.
Once it has become established in its environment, this species will become more tolerant of drought conditions.
About the Author
Charlie Belin is a retired professor and biological oceanographer. He taught five courses in the University of Georgia system for many years from his home base in Savannah, Georgia.
Charlie loves hiking at Reflection Riding, teaching children about the ecology of the area, and interacting with the Reflection Riding staff. They are GREAT!
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