Have you ever collected seeds from a plant you saw somewhere else -- a friend's garden, a shopping center planting, a field? I've done this a few times, but really have had only two great successes with it. One is with the Brown-eyed Susans (Rudbeckia triloba) that I took from a wild plant I saw at the edge of woods at a park and now is everywhere in my yard.

The other is Ratibida columnifera or "Mexican hat". (I always just call it "Ratibida" because it's fun to say.) The seeds of this one I took from the garden of some friends when I was charged with watering while they were out of town a few years ago. I really liked the flowers, and the small plants looked like a good fit for my yard.


Now I realize that their small plants were only that size because they were growing in a non-ideal spot and were completely neglected. Once these plants got into a full-sun location in my garden and were tended to a bit, they doubled in size. 

I now have a decent little patch of them in my "prairie" area of my garden, and although they tend to flop over, they support each other to some extent and end up looking okay.

They're not an "in your face" type of bloom, probably due to their darker color and somewhat smaller size. I think they're really attractive, and they really make this part of the garden special.

I don't typically think of them as attractive to pollinators, since I never see bees swarming around them like I do some of the other flowers like blue globe thistle or cleome. As I was taking these photographs though I realized that there were several bees visiting the flowers, and other wildlife too.

So they have nice blooms, attract pollinators, reseed readily... what else?

They're quite drought tolerant, probably because they form a taproot. That does make them more difficult to transplant if they end up growing in the wrong spot (say for instance in the middle of your grassy path), but I've never had a pest or disease problem with these plants. The deer seem to ignore them too for the most part, although they may nibble them once in a while. They bloom from early or mid-summer until frost too.

You can see from this photo that the flowers open from the bottom, forming a "column" as they open. Hence the species name "columnifera' I assume.

Here's a new flower bud, just about to start opening:

And here's one going a little wonky:

Looks more like Ratibida shnozifera

I've just reminded myself that I want to start some of these plants to put into another bed on the other side of the yard. They'd probably do really well on the south side of my house too, in the hot zone that I have so much trouble with. The Brown-eyed Susans are doing well there, so the Ratibida may too.

This is one plant I wouldn't mind having all across my yard. I love it!


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Gerhard Bock (Succulents and More)  – (August 4, 2011 at 10:39 AM)  

These are AWESOME. We had one in our front yard for a few years but it was in the wrong spot--it always hung into the lawn and got whacked each time we mowed or trimmed. I just wish it grew more upright. I love everything else about it.

Yours mixes so well with the pennisetum. It looks perfectly natural.


:: Bamboo and More ::

TheGardeningBlog  – (August 4, 2011 at 10:46 AM)  

gorgeous! I love the look of the whole plant and how well it works in your planting scheme with the Grass (photo number 16). Really looks stunning.

Alan  – (August 4, 2011 at 11:08 AM)  

Gerhard: One isn't enough unless you support it somehow. I supported these when there were fewer of them, but now I let them pretty much just flop, intertwine, and do what they want. They did completely cover a pennisetum last year, but that's life in this part of my garden. :-)

sllawrence –   – (August 4, 2011 at 11:58 AM)  

I love the Mexican Hats, too. They're a native to TX and reseed readily here. I even had some return this year in areas not supplemented with water during our record-breaking drought, but they have long since gone to seed. The plus is that our lesser goldfinches love the seed, and it's a lovely sight to see those tiny, brilliant yellow and black birds riding on the stems in the breeze in order to feast off the seed heads.

Anne McCormack  – (August 4, 2011 at 2:59 PM)  

Mine are probably not in an ideal spot either--I may try moving them. They're native to Missouri as well as Texas. Now Ratibida schnozifera--that's a plant!

Jennifer  – (August 4, 2011 at 4:05 PM)  

heehee - shnozifera! Love it!

Christine @ the Gardening Blog  – (August 7, 2011 at 7:50 AM)  

Hi Alan - Guess what!! I found these Ratibisa at a nursery here in Cape Town! So excited to get these and I'm also getting my first ever Bamboos. I'm getting Phyllostachys nigra - I found a grower who will have bare root plants for me in mid September! (All your influence :)

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