Looking for an interesting wildflower that is incredibly easy to grow and blooms up to two months? One that can easily be grown in most soils? Then look no further than Mexican Hat, a beautiful perennial wildflower. Learn everything you need to know about this wonderful plant here!
Mexican Hat Flower is a herbaceous, short-lived perennial flower. Growing well in full sun and well-drained soil, it is scientifically known as Ratibida columnifera. This native wildflower will reach 3′ tall and produce red and yellow blooms for up to two months, attracting many bees.
Mexican Hat Coneflower Facts
- Ratibida columnifera gets it’s common name, Mexican Hat Flower, from it’s resemblance to Sombreros
- Mexican Hat Flower is part of the prairie coneflower group in the Aster Family
- Although classified as a perennial, it is generally short lived lasting only 2-3 years (in my experience)
- Mexican Hat Plant will produce colorful red and yellow blooms for up to two months in the Summer
- The Native Range is primarily the great plains, although it does extend to the East Coast and Canada
- Used medicinally by many Native American tribes for a variety of ailments, as well as dye-making and tea.
- This is an extremely easy flower to grow from seed
- Another ‘fun’ fact, nearly half of the Mexican Hat seed ingested by Cattle was viable after digestion!  Another amazing way for a species to propagate itself – LOL.
General Description and Identification – Mexican Hat Plant
Mexican Hat (also known as upright prairie coneflower, long-headed coneflower, and Mexican Hat Flower) is an interesting native perennial that has unique blooms. The flower has somewhat resemble sombreros (hence the common name!). Mexican Hat (Ratibida columnifera) is part of the prairie coneflower group, and in the aster family.
This native plant thrives in full sun and well drained soil. I grow mine in rocky clay, and they love it! They don’t get too big or overbearing, as mine never exceed 3′. They start bloom in June and generally go until sometime in August, lasting about two months.
Ratibida columnifera has a well earned reputation for being a tough wildflower. Mexican Hat can naturalize an area, so could be useful for helping stabilizing banks, etc. It does tolerate competition, and can make a good border. But will naturalize easily.
The stalk of Mexican Hat is generally smooth, or nearly hairless and sometimes branches. It is light green in color and erect, but will sway in the wind. If in a partially shaded area, the stalks can tip over.
Mexican Hat Plant leaves are multi-lobed, pinnately divided, and mostly smooth. They are light green in color, and generally around 2″ wide (5 cm) by 4-6″ long (10-15 cm).
Blooms from Mexican Hat produce both nectar and pollen, so you will get all manner of pollinators. They produce tons of blooms that seem to be preferred by bees.
The petal colors can range from mostly yellow to all red. The plants I’ve grown have always been full of blooms, and keep their foliage all summer into fall. The blooms are very beautiful. I find the best word to describe them as graceful, similar to Grey-Headed Coneflower or Pale Purple Coneflower.
In my experience, the flowers will be done blooming by September. Then, you can easily harvest the seed. Save it in a cool dry place or scatter it to see what comes up next year!
This plant produces a taproot, and is thus quite drought tolerant.
Mexican Hat Flower Reference Table
|Common Name||Mexican Hat Flower, Long-headed coneflower, Mexican Hat Plant, Mexican Hat Coneflower,|
|Bloom Time / Duration||Late Spring – Summer, 6-8 weeks|
|Height||1′-3′ (30-90 cm)|
|Spacing/Spread||1′-2’ (32-65 cm)|
|Sunlight Requirement||Full Sun|
|Soil Types||Clay/Loam/Sand – Anything well drained. Does well in poor, disturbed soils.|
|Moisture||Dry to Medium|
|Typical Use||Flower beds, border gardens, meadows|
|Fauna Associations||Bees frequent this flower. Also the following caterpillars; Sunflower Moth, Blackberry Looper Moth, Wavy-Lined Emerald – and a few more not listed.|
|Sowing Depth / Requirements||Surface, 30 Days Cold Stratification|
|Native Range||The original native range is from the Eastern Rocky Mountains in Canada, to the great lakes – then South to Texas-Arizona. Although it has been established in just about the whole continental USA except for Oregon/Washington.|
Growing Mexican Hat from seed
Mexican Hat Flower is easy to grow from seed. To help break dormancy Mexican Hat Plant seeds should be winter sowed or stratified for 30 days prior to planting .
Then, surface sow, or barely cover the seed by a dusting of soil. I’ve always had a very high germination rate from these plants. So, shouldn’t need many seeds.
I start them in six-cell pots that are 3″ deep, then transplant into 4” pots after a few weeks. Then, transplant into the garden when they are about 4” tall.
We have ordered a variety of native flower seeds from Everwilde Farms, which you can order right from Amazon through our link on our RECOMMENDED PRODUCTS PAGE. (We may earn a small commission when you purchase through our links, at no cost to you. This helps support our website.)
Sun sun sun! Mexican Hat Flower loves the sun and can be a great addition if you have a drier area as they are quite drought tolerant. They don’t require much watering, but as always – if you see the edges of leaves turning brown and crispy, then give them a drink.
Just try to make sure they are in well drained soil, as this plant can succumb to root rot.
I’ve had them flop over after a while, as the stems can get a bit top heavy. But, I’ve found this to be something that happens to individual stems. Overall, this is a very easy plant to grow, and gives long blooms.
To help avoid them flopping over, try to make sure that they get sun from all possible directions. Also, the more wind they are exposed to, the more likely they are to stay erect.
Mexican Hat is a good choice for an ornamental wildflower, but you need to have more than one. A single specimen won’t ‘pop’ with color as much as a small cluster.
I personally have 5 (as of now) grouped, and use them as a border between some taller flowers and smaller plants (winecups). They can also be used to reestablish or naturalize an area, with the large amount of seed they produce and the ease of germination.
Does Mexican Hat make a good cut flower?
Mexican Hat Plant makes an excellent cut flower. This flower has produced so many blooms for me that it always finds it way into bouquets. Additionally the blooms tend to look great for a long time in a vase.
And the best part – when it is time to compost the flowers, you can be assured that the plants have produced tons of new blooms for a new bouquet!
Is Mexican Hat Edible or Medicinal?
Mexican Hat Flower was been used medicinally by Native Americans. A total of 17 different methods were documented of Native Americans using Mexican Hat Plant medicinally . A tea would be made form the leaves and flower heads and used for treating various ailments like cough, fever, nausea, and chest pains.
Additionally, a yellow or red dye from the boiled flower petals was produced by Native Americans.
Harvesting Mexican Hat Coneflower Seed
Harvesting Mexican Hat Coneflower seed (Link is to a video) is one of the easiest – maybe even an easier seed to harvest than Blue Vervain! Several weeks after the blooms have dried, clip off several seed heads. Then just roll them in your fingers and voila! You have several hundred chaff-free seeds! Store them in a cool dry place, in envelopes or bags until next year when you are ready to plant. Please have a look at our detailed guide to saving/storing your own flower seeds. There are a lot of great tips in there.
Bees love this plant. It is the main visitor I see when I go to admire them in our wildflower garden. As far as pests go, I don’t think I’ve ever noticed rabbit damage on any of my Mexican Hat Coneflowers. This is significant, as I have them very close to other plants that the rabbits love, such as Winecups and Echinacea Purpurea.
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 – K.M. Doucette, K.M. Wittenberg, W.P. McCaughey. Seed recovery and germination of reseeded species fed to cattle. Rangeland Ecology & Management. V54, no5 Sep 2001.
 – J. T. SORENSEN AND D. J. HOLDEN. Germination of Native Prairie Forb Seeds. JOURNAL OF RANGE MANAGEMENT 27(2), March 1974, p123-126.
 – Ratibida columnifera (Nutt.) Woot. & Standl. USDA
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