Mexican hat (Ratibida columnifera f. pulcherrima) has drooping, mahogany-brushed, yellow petals around a columnar center. The intensely colored florets and tall centers resemble a Mexican sombrero, the reason for its common name. The billows of fine, airy, green foliage and unique flowerheads are attractive in a meadow garden or mixed border. Good companions include yarrow, butterfly weed, and daylilies. Native to the prairies of the western states from Canada to Mexico, it blooms June to September in mixed-grass prairies and drier parts of tall-grass prairies.
Common name: Mexican hat, prairie coneflower, long-headed coneflower
Botanical name: Ratibida columnifera f. pulcherrima
Plant type: Herbaceous perennial
Zones: 3 to 10
Height: 24 to 30 inches
- Sun: Full sun
- Soil: Moderately fertile, well-drained garden soil
- Moisture: Prefers dry soil
- Mulch: Add a thin layer of mulch to deter weeds during the growing season.
- Pruning: Cut foliage and flower stalks in late autumn.
- Fertilizer: None necessary
- Sow seed in dry, well-drained soil in a cold frame in early spring.
- Divide perennials in spring when plants are young. Older plants do not transplant well; they have a strong tap root that becomes woody with age.
Pests and diseases
- Powdery mildew, downy mildew, and fungal spots may occur in damp weather. To discourage fungal diseases, space plants to allow for good airflow.
- The gray-head coneflower, (Ratibida pinnata), also called drooping coneflower, has blue-green leaves and yellow, daisylike florets around a brown, cone-shaped center.
- Mexican hats make an interesting, long-lasting cut flower.
- It's attractive in a wildflower garden.
- Native Americans made dye from the flowers.
- The species Rabibida columnifera usually has deep yellow petals.
All in the family
- The Asteraceae family includes plants with flowerheads made of many florets. Examples include aster, daisy, dandelion, goldenrod, marigold, sunflower, thistle, and zinnia.
- Two other plants in this family have the common name of coneflower. One is the purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea), which has several cultivars. The common name for Rudbeckia is coneflower; this genus includes the black-eyed Susan (R.. fulgida) and gloriosa daisy (R.. hirta). The columnar cones and fine-textured foliage of the Mexican hat distinguish it from other coneflowers.
(Text by Mary Pestel, photo courtesy of Monrovia Growers, www.monrovia.com)