Virtues: This drought-tolerant US-native perennial blooms through much of the summer, with bright coneflowers appearing in profusion on tall stems. The flower clearly inspires the common name “Mexican hat,” as it consists of a long central cone surrounded at the base by drooping petals—reminiscent in shape of a sombrero or 10-gallon hat. Attracts bees and butterflies with its flowers and birds with its seeds. Deer resistant.
Common name: Mexican hat, prairie coneflower, upright prairie coneflower, red-spike Mexican hat, long-headed coneflower, thimbleflower
Botanical name: Ratibida columnifera
Flowers: Central cone is brownish red. Widely oval petals can be all yellow, all red, or red edged with yellow (sometimes called R. columnifera var. pulcherrima). Blooms from early summer into the fall.
Foliage: Green leaves appear at the base of the plant. Flower stalks are leafless.
Habit: Herbaceous perennial typically 18 inches tall and wide at the leafy base. Flower stalks can rise to over 3 feet tall.
Season: Summer and autumn, for flowers.
Origin: Prairies, meadows and roadsides of the western half of North America, as far north as southern British Columbia.
Cultivation: Grow in full sun. Unfussy about soil type, but needs good drainage. Tolerates moist or dry soil. Highly drought tolerant owing to its long taproot. Provide supplemental moisture in late summer to extend flowering into fall. Easy to grow from seed; direct sow in fall or spring. Blooming may not occur in seed-grown plants until year two. Naturalizes easily by self-seeding and may overtake weaker plants in a garden setting. Excellent for meadow gardens, natural areas, containers, mass plantings. Deer resistant. USDA Zones 4–9.
Image courtesy of Missouri Botanical Garden PlantFinder