There’s no getting around it now, Fall has officially…fallen. With the changing of the season comes colder temperatures, falling leaves, and harder ground, indicating that even colder days are on the horizon. Don’t get us wrong, there are some upsides to Fall. For one, the dropping temperatures can be a welcome change to some of the more sweltering days in July and August. Plus, there’s no better time to enjoy a spooky movie by the fire with a nice hearty bowl of soup! (Just try to do that comfortably in the middle of summer). In the spirit of transitioning to the cooler days of Fall, we thought we’d highlight a flower that blooms in summer but is still rather showy in October. If you’ve already finished preparing your garden for fall, then read on for a profile of our October Species of the Month: Grey-Headed Coneflower (Ratibida pinnata).

What a Looker!

Perhaps the most noteworthy aspect of the Grey-Headed Coneflower (Ratibida pinnata) is its bright-yellow petals surrounding its bulbous brown head like a skirt. The Grey-Headed Coneflower almost resembles a Sunflower, save for its somewhat droopy quality. As the flower blooms atop a thin, fuzzy stem, the plant tends to lean under its own grey-headed coneflowerweight, which is how it earned its other common name, ‘Drooping Coneflower. The flower is appealing to more than just your sense of sight too! Grey-Headed Coneflower emits a sweet aroma that’s sure to brighten up anyone’s day who passes by your garden.

The Nitty Gritty

Grey-Headed Coneflower is a perennial wildflower that grows to be about 2-5’ (0.6-1.5m) tall and has a spread of about 2’ (0.6m). It’s easily grown in areas with full Sun and enjoys moist to somewhat dry soils. Grey-Headed Coneflower can tolerate partial Sun, drought, seasonal flooding, and harsher types of soil however, making it a relatively low-maintenance flower.

Where Does It Look Best?

Grey-Headed Coneflower (Ratibida pinnata) works wonderfully when planning a prairie or meadow garden as an accent, or part of a mass because of how beautiful it looks when grown in a group. Want to welcome butterflies to your cottage? Like many of our favourite plants, Grey-Headed Coneflower is a favourite of pollinators. Plant some in your garden and watch them start to make it their home.

A Smooth Transition to Fall

If you planted Grey-Headed Coneflower this summer, now’s the time to enjoy it. The flower usually blooms from ratibida pinnataJune through September, so the plants have definitely reached maturity by now. Though the cold will eventually take over, you can cut the flowers down to soil level to help promote self-seeding for next summer. Because the plant is so low-maintenance however, leaving the seed heads as they are over winter often works just fine as well. This is one of our favourite flowers because though we have to say goodbye to our gardens for a little bit, we know that plants like this one will be waiting with us to bloom once more when spring rolls back around (which is the kind of motivation we need to get through some of these Ontario winters).


For more on Grey-Headed Coneflower (Ratibida pinnata) stay tuned to St. Williams, and don’t forget to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube to stay up on environmentally friendly blog-posts and features like Fast Facts!

Additional information on Grey-Headed Coneflower (Ratibida pinnata) sourced from: 1http://www.newmoonnursery.com/plant/Ratibida-pinnata

2https://www.nrcs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_PLANTMATERIALS/publications/mopmsfs5196.pdf

Species Profile: Grey-Headed Coneflower (Ratibida pinnata)