Planting Native Echinacea (Coneflowers) to Feed Birds
The strong stems and bright colors of purple coneflower (or Echinacea) make them one of the most beloved of our native plants – both to birds and to gardeners alike! WIld native species have purple, white, or pink flowers, and can be found in prairies and open woodlands, but many colorful culitivars have been added to this rainbow over the last decade. True to their name, they are a cone-shaped flower with prominent, spiky seed heads.
Though coneflower seeds can be harvested by the gardener, it is much more enjoyable to leave the seedheads in place at the end of the season, and watch the birds taking all they want in the fall and winter. Some birds will feed while perched on the swaying plants, and some will wait for the fall and winter to pull the remaining stems back down to the soil line.
Birds Attracted to Coneflowers
Coneflowers attract many birds, including goldfinch, sparrow, brown towhee, indigo bunting, cardinal, house finch, grouse, and chickadee.
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Cultivation Guidelines for Coneflowers
Coneflowers are not only a wonderful plant to try when feeding birds, but a great choice when you are putting together a children’s garden. They require little care, grow well in average soils, and can even handle a small amount of shade – though too much will cause legginess and poor flowering. For best results, plant in a sunny location in a soil with good drainage and some organic content. Kept moist until germination, and thin seedlings to 8-12 inches apart. Plants will self-seed. You can encourage later-season flowering for fall feeding by dead-heading the first blooms in mid-summer.