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Direct Sowing Purple Coneflower Seeds

Growing plants from seeds is probably my favorite part of gardening. My second favorite part of being a gardener is finding ways to make gardening easier for myself and spending less money. While I spend a lot of time growing seeds in plastic baggies, and making homemade biodomes, I find direct sowing seeds to be the best method for perennials. Take, for example, this purple coneflower seed head I direct sowed in the garden last fall. Purple coneflowers are so inexpensive at garden centers and nurseries, but they're even cheaper to grow from seed, especially if you direct sow your purple coneflower seeds in the fall.

how to plant purple coneflower seeds

In the fall as the blooms to go seed I'll just cut off the seed heads of my purple coneflowers and stick them right in the soil where I want them to grow. If I'm not feeling like a lazy gardener, which isn't often, I may break apart the "cones" and spread the seed. Usually, I just plant the whole seed head in the soil. Sometimes I come across the purple coneflower seed heads sprouting in the garden when I'm working the soil to plant something else like in the picture above.

The result is an expansion of the purple coneflower colonies in the garden which attract a lot of Red Admiral butterflies.

I know that by direct sowing the entire purple coneflower seed head I'm breaking a couple of seed starting rules, but I don't care. I don't expect every single seed that you see sprouted in the photograph above to grow into a mature flowering plant, just some of them. Purple coneflowers seeds need to undergo stratification to germinate and sowing individual seeds inside seems like a waste when I can just plunge an entire seed head into the soil and let nature do the work. This fall as you're preparing to put the garden to bed if you have any purple coneflowers that you're thinking of saving seeds from, don't do it! Just stick the seed heads in the soil where you want them to grow and soon you'll have more coneflowers than you know what to do with.


  1. Thanks! I was wondering why I couldn't get my seeds to start this spring. Got them by a trade with no instruction :/

  2. Yep, I've planted a whole seedhead (though not echinacea). And in the fall, finches LOVE the seeds.

  3. I need to start doing more fall planting. This would be a great place to start. thanks.

  4. Brilliant idea! I never would have thought to do that. I love coneflowers, the birds usually beat me to the seeds. I am definitely going to try doing this in the fall!


  5. I sit here thinking, now why didn't I think of that. I will definitely try this technique. Thanks for sharing such wonderful ideas.

  6. So cool! I always take my coneflower seeds out of the heads - but this makes it even easier. Thanks for sharing!

  7. Wow, that picture is teriffic! Thanks for the tip. I winter sowed some, but this method is even easier. Is coneflower a perennial that will bloom in the first year from seed?

  8. What a great idea. I guess this technique could be used for other plants too!

  9. Betty8196:35 PM

    Hey, that sounds pretty fail-safe and easier to me! Okay, leave it to me to ask the stupid question. Do you turn the dried seed head downward so the seeds drop out and plant it that way or the seed head up like it was on the plant? I will have to make a note to myself to try that. Remind us when you do some of yours so it will jog our memories to try it.

  10. Love coneflowers and the pollinators they attract! I also love that they often bloom their first season, especially since so many other perennials started from seed require waiting patiently for three years or more before they bloom.

    I've had much better luck with coneflowers started from seed than I have with all those fancy cultivars sold in garden centers. I've pretty much sworn off buying perennials. I've wasted a lot of money on now-dead plants. Whether started from purchased, saved, or swapped seeds, or even from planted seed heads, perennials started from seed are easy and so much more economical than buying plants.

    I use an open-weave plastic nursery tray to cover seeded areas - around here it prevents all those dastardly squirrels from digging up newly-seeded spots.

  11. @Mary, Hope the post was a little helfpul and that you've seen the next one.

    @Monica, Yeah, finches love them, but they don't come around enough in the fall in my garden to make use of them, so I just plant out most of them.

    @Webb, You're welcomed. I hope you do, it is cheaper and easier than trying to sow seeds indoors.

    @Amy, Save a few seeds from those birds for yourself!

    @Kristin, You're welcomed, hope you give it a try in your garden.

    @Garden Hoard, You're welcomed, saving them isn't very hard, I'm just lazy and try to find ways around skipping steps so this helps.

    @Michele, Coneflowers (like most perennials) will bloom the second year. Although, I've started some that have bloomed the first year, but that's very rare.

    @Michelle, Yeah, just about any perennials and sometimes annuals work too. Ever seen a bunch of sunflower seedlings in the garden in spring? They're from seeds that overwintered in the soil.

    @Betty819, Either way works. I don't think I'm particularly careful about which way the cone is pointing. Although, If you leave a stem on the cone that's pretty long, and you plant the cone pointing down, it can act as sort of a plant marker letting you know you have some seeds below.

    @gardengirl, Covering them like that is a great idea. I'm going to have to learn some anti-squirrel techniques as now I have one taking up residence in my garden.

  12. Super! I was looking back a few weeks and found this post and will try it with the coneflowers I bought this summer! Thanks for the tip about leaving the stem long too to act as a marker.

  13. Teri, Your avatar is hilarious. Good luck with the seeding of your purple coneflower seeds!

  14. Anonymous8:10 AM

    Very interesting....However, I have many different variety coneflower throughout my hill and they have, for the most part, come and gone...Only the dead heads remain and it's only July..Can they sit for a few months till fall and then remove them and replant)assuming the birds don't destroy them?...I just cleared out more area on the hill and would love to populate the whole area with different cone flowers and tall perennials flowers(any suggestions) and buying plants isn't economical....what about cutting the heads, saving them till spring and spreading...How would I do that(if I so chose)....

    1. Just go ahead and sow the seeds now. You don't have to wait until spring. In fact, they'll germinate better if they spend the winter in the ground and undergo stratification.

    2. Anonymous9:20 PM

      Love your website!!! I just planted some balloon flower seeds today and then saw your article about the coneflowers. Great idea and I am going to try it. I also want to do my columbine seeds and think you had a blog about those too. Thanks so much for the great ideas!!

  15. Great post! Just found this doing a google search for extracting seeds from coneflowers!

    How deep do you suggest planting the head?

  16. Anonymous3:16 PM

    Some great information here.

  17. Your method works great! Before reading this article, I was trying to harvest/store the seeds. i did it your way last fall and now the baby coneflowers are popping up exactly where I want them too. Thank you.

    1. Darryl,

      Thanks for coming back and leaving this comment. I'm glad to hear that this worked for you in your own garden.

  18. Anonymous2:04 PM

    Mrbrownthumb, I planted purple coneflower 3 years ago and was weeding my flowerbed today and after reading your post about (winter sowing pcf) I noticed that I have 4 new p.coneflower seedlings in my flowerbed. My question is, Do I leave them where they have sprouted or can I just mark where they are and wait tell they grow bigger and then transplant them later. I am going to try your method this fall, I have different coneflowers that I want to try this fall. Thank you so much for your information. I might add that if I had not seen your Post I would have thought they were weeds. Love this site of yours.

  19. Anonymous10:24 AM

    Am curious if this method would work with other perennials as well?

  20. Michaela4:04 PM

    Have you tried this method with other perennials that have seed heads? Possibly Black Eyed Susans? I have several seed heads now that I'd much rather plop in the soil than throw away if this works. I may try it anyway if you haven't!

    1. Hi Michaela, Yeah, this works with any of the "conehead" flowers. If they create a button seed head at the end of the season I've just buried the seed head and they've germinated just fine.



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