prairie coneflower (19222 bytes)

Prairie Coneflower: Ratibida Asteraceae compositae

 By Judy Feather, Colorado Master GardenerSM, Colorado State University Cooperative Extension, Denver County

These colorful perennials are native to the prairie and western states. They are commonly referred to as Mexican Hat. Their flower heads resemble black-eyed Susans (Rudbeckia) but have fewer ray flowers and a round or cylindrical central disc.

One variety seen most often is Ratibida columnifera, Mexican Hat. It’s about 2 feet tall; flowers have drooping ray flowers of yellow, butterscotch, and brownish purple. There’s a columnar brown disc, which makes the flower looks like a sombrero with a drooping brim.

Another color choice is Ratibida pinnata. This coneflower is about 3 feet tall and has yellow ray flowers with a globular brown disc. It too has the appearance of a droopy sombrero.

Mexican hat (12359 bytes)

Ratibida pinnata

Prairie coneflowers grow well in all zones in full sun and with regular watering. They look great in natural borders with grasses and other minimum-care perennials. And they continue to bloom until frost. Plants die back to the ground, and care should be taken in early spring so that plants aren’t uprooted during cleanup. They are slow to emerge and green-up.

So if you’re looking for a carefree, eye-catching perennial, plant prairie coneflower.

Photographs courtesy of Judy Sedbrook.

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Date last revised: 01/05/2010