Do Coneflowers Spread or multiply?

Over the years I’ve grown dozens and dozens of Coneflowers of multiple species. I’ve come to know exactly how Coneflowers spread, and the best ways to manage them. So, let me tell you what I’ve learned….

Coneflowers spread by self-seeding, as well as growing a larger root mass. But coneflowers don’t take over gardens via roots that spread (rhizomes). A Coneflower plant may generate multiple seedlings each Spring, and its root mass will grow 1-2′ diameter. But it will not send out runner roots.

So, if you want to see just how much a Coneflower will spread then read on into the details and see some pictures……

How do Coneflowers Spread?


Coneflowers spread by self-seeding.  Each flower has a central cone and petals.  The cone produces numerous seeds, while each petal has a seed attached to the base, where it connects to the cone (this is called a ray flower).  Each bloom produces many seeds, some of which inevitably fall to the ground.  Goldfinches in particular will land on dried seed heads and pick out seeds.  During this process, seeds fall to the ground, and if not eaten by another bird or mouse, may germinate in the following Spring.

Volunteer seedlings under purple coneflower. This is a mix of Echinacea purpurea and partridge pea seedlings.

Coneflowers will multiply under good conditions, namely disturbed soil and plentiful seed that falls from the spent flower.

coneflowers spread from seed
Two Coneflower Plants that grew from seed dropped by the nearby, larger plant.

Root Mass

This is only applicable for common Purple Coneflower, Echinacea purpurea and its hybrids, as they have a fibrous root system.  The central root mass of a coneflower will grow in size each year, eventually growing up to 2’ diameter.  Once the coneflower root mass approaches this size it should be divided to keep the plant attractive and vigorous.  The problem is the central part of the root mass will die, and you will have a void in the center of the plant the following growing season.

Want to learn how to divide Echinacea?  Click HERE!

See our guide on dividing Perennials for detailed process on dividing perennials HERE

And if you don’t want to pull seedlings, why not consider growing Coneflowers in containers?

==> Click here to read out guide to growing Coneflowers in Containers!

Other notes on Coneflowers spreading

I’ve not seen Coneflowers produce more then 20-30 unwanted seedlings per plant.  And this also only occurs in disturbed/open soil, or mulch.  The seedlings only take about 5 minutes to remove, as the roots are only 1” long or so (25 mm).  So, I don’t see the spreading as a concern. 

Additionally, the young tender seedlings can easily be potted up to grow further, and eventually be located somewhere more desirable.  But if you don’t want any volunteer Coneflower Seedlings, then skip to the next section.  There is a very simple trick to stop coneflowers from spreading via self-seeding.

Coneflower Seedlings
The seedlings in these pots germinated under one of my Purple Coneflowers by themselves. Aka – they were volunteers!

Deadhead Coneflowers to prevent spreading

Purple Coneflower, Echinacea Purpurea

There is a very easy way to stop Coneflowers from spreading.  Just deadhead the coneflowers once the blooms are fading.  You have to keep doing this until they stop blooming.

Take a scissors, or pruning shears, and starting at the spent bloom, follow the stem to where it meets two leaves.  Cut the stem just above these two leaves.  Doing this will prevent seeds from forming, and therefore prevent new plants germinating next Spring.

Physical Description

Purple Cone Flower

Coneflowers produce multiple daisy-like flowers on tall stems that reach 4’ in height.  The plant itself at full size will reach 2’-3’ in diameter / spacing.  The leaves are lance-shaped, serrated, and large being 6” long by several inches wide in most varieties.  Most Coneflower species have taproots and do not transplant easily.  However, common Purple Coneflower, Echinacea purpurea has fibrous roots and can be divided easily.

Common uses of Coneflowers are in manicured flower beds, border gardens, and backyard meadows and micro-prairies.  These plants are generally well behaved, and if placed in the correct location look absolutely beautiful.  Coneflowers are loved by pollinators and are heavily visited by bees, butterflys and birds (eating seeds), making them an important part of the ecosystem.





Native Plant Profiles

Joe Foster

Hi - I grew up outdoors in nature - hiking, fishing, hunting. In high school I got my first job at a garden center where I learned to garden and landscape. I've been growing plants from seed and designing native plant gardens for over 10 years. I hope to share some of my knowledge with you! You may have seen some of my videos I create on our YouTube channel, GrowitBuildit (more than 10 million views!). You can find my channel here: Additionally I am a wood worker / DIY enthusiast. I enjoy designing/building projects (with hand tools when I can!). I hope to give you some tips and useful information!

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