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Prairie coneflowers in bloom in native plant gardens at MDC Discovery Center in KC
Kansas City, Mo. – They’re lavender, light pink, and bright yellow, and they are blooming despite recent dry and hot weather. Four prairie coneflower species are putting on a show in June at the Missouri Department of Conservation’s (MDC) Anita B. Gorman Discovery Center in Kansas City. People interested in native plant gardening, or in adding new species, will find this a good time to visit.
The Gorman Discovery Center has an outdoor garden with paths through native plants and trees. Several wildflowers are blooming, but the coneflowers are the most prominent this month.
“Coneflowers are such a great plant for native gardens,” said Cydney Ross, MDC native landscape specialist. “They have a long bloom time in summer. They support all of the pollinators such as bees and butterflies. In winter, goldfinches crave the seeds. I like their winter structure, too.”
At Discovery Center, low-growing glade coneflowers with lavender petals began blooming in mid-May and are still showy. Pale purple coneflowers and yellow coneflowers began in early June and are still going strong. Purple coneflowers were blooming by mid-June and many still have blossoms developing for a later bloom. Bloom times can be weather dependent. Having more than one species in a bed adds attractive variance in summer.
“Some species, if they are cut early by a gardener or browsed by deer, will have more blooms per stalk at a later time,” Ross said. “Gardeners are getting a lot of bang for their buck with this plant.”
Coneflowers and other native plants are low maintenance once established in gardens, she said. They do require some maintenance but less than most non-natives. They’re adapted to local climate and soils, which includes growing deep root systems. Coneflowers blooming at the Discovery Center have not been watered by staff and are colorful despite recent high temperatures and low rainfall. However, watering may be needed in some garden layouts. New plantings often need extra watering to get established.
“You should not have to water established plants unless there are extreme weather conditions,” Ross said. “But if things get too dry, we will water.”
MDC staff hosts a free in-person guided tour of the garden from 1 to 2 p.m. on the first Friday of each month, with July 2 next. Registration is required. To register, visit https://short.mdc.mo.gov/ZHK. For more information about the Gorman Discovery Center at 4750 Troost Ave., visit https://mdc.mo.gov/discoverycenter.
Ross and Alix Daniel, MDC native plant specialist, also host a free virtual Native Plants at Noon webinar every third Thursday of the month in partnership with Deep Roots KC. The next one will be July 15. Registration is required for the webinars. To register, visit https://short.mdc.mo.gov/ZEF.
To learn more about native plant gardening, visit https://mdc.mo.gov/trees-plants/native-plants-your-landscape.