How Do I Keep My Coneflowers Alive?

Q: I planted a dozen beautiful coneflowers of different colors last year. The label said they are perennial but the six that came back this spring gradually died in summer. The soil is well-drained and I only watered when things were dry. What am I doing wrong?

A: In my opinion many of the new coneflower varieties are short-lived. One garden expert says that because the newer varieties are typically sterile, they don’t drop fertile seed. The original purple coneflower, Echinacea purpurea, drops lots of good seeds. Although the plant itself may only last a couple of years, there is always a seedling or two at the plant’s base to take its place, giving a perennial look. If you are seduced by the bright colors of new cultivars of coneflower, think of them as annuals and you won’t be disappointed.