Ratibida columnifera is an absolutely fabulous species of flowering plants in the Asteraceae family. This flower goes by many common names including Mexican Hat plant, Upright Praire Coneflower, Column Flower, Praire Coneflower, or Thimbleflower. It is native to several regions of North America (Mexico), hence its most popular name “Mexican Hat flower”.
Besides their obvious lovely blooms, Mexican Hat plants have become one of the best ornamentals in gardens all around the world thanks to their overall easy-going style. These flowers can basically thrive in a wide range of environmental conditions without much effort on your part. They will grow properly in poor soils, lightly shaded locations, and are also drought-tolerant for long periods.
Do these wonderful plants seem like a great option for your garden? Keep reading to find out more curious facts about Mexican Hat plants and how easily you can grow, care for, and propagate them!
About Mexican Hat Plant
- In general, Mexican Hat plants appear in habitats like roadsides, dry plains, prairies, ravines, disturbed areas, and rocky, sandy, or silty open grounds.
- Their delicate, but showy blossoms are very attractive to butterflies and several species of pollinating insects. In autumn and winter, the seedheads of these plants are also a magnet for species of birds that feed on their seeds.
- Ratibida columnifera plants play a big part in traditional medicine. An infusion prepared from their stems and leaves has analgesic properties, treating fever, headaches, stomach aches, poison ivy rash, and rattlesnakes bites.
- Some people use the leaves and flower heads to prepare a tea that has a specific pleasant taste. In the Zuni tribe, folks make an infusion of the whole Mexican Hat plant and use it to induce emesis.
- Mexican Hat plants make for gorgeous additions to numerous landscape decorations, such as cottage gardens, sunny borders, mass planting, meadows, or prairies. They also look great as potted plants in any warm, well-lit indoor setting.
- The most suitable and adorable companion plants for Ratibida columnifera include Echinacea purpurea ‘Magnus’, Foeniculum vulgare ‘Rubrum’, Kniphofia ‘Tawny King’, and Liatris spicata.
Mexican Hat Plant Features: An Overview
- They belong to the Ratibida genus that contains exactly 7 species of flowering plants. All species from this genus have very similar features, so they are generally pretty hard to distinguish.
- Ratibida columnifera plants are upright, clump-forming perennials that can reach up to 3 feet (91 cm) in height and up to 18 inches (46 cm) in width.
- Mexican Hat plants contain feathery, deeply cut, and bright green leaves that grow on slender stems. Their leaves typically measure up to 5 inches (13 cm) in length.
- The blooming season of the Mexican Hat plant usually lasts from spring through autumn. During this period, they produce thousands of long, leafless stalks with a single sombrero-shaped flower head on each one.
- Their blossoms have 3 to 7 dropping petal rays that surround a spiky, slender, spherical/oblong, and green to reddish-brown central disk (cone). The cone can measure up to 2 inches (5 cm) in length.
- The petals of Ratibida columnifera flowers exhibit various shades of yellow or red. However, they can also come in hypnotic mixes of yellow, dark red, and red-brown.
Growing Mexican Hat Plant
Believe us, growing and caring for Mexican Hat plants is surely not as hard as you might expect. Being native to Mexico, these flowers grow at their best in environments that mimic their natural habitat. However, they can also adapt to a wide range of growing conditions with time.
When it comes to lighting, Mexican Hat plants thrive in locations where they can receive full sunlight daily. These buddies will also tolerate some light shade, but they will not show the same results for too long. As a general rule, the more bright and direct light they experience, the longer and more profusely their blooming will be.
Typically, Mexican Hat plants do well in regions with hot and dry climates. These flowers will appreciate temperatures that range from 65 to 75 °F (16-24 °C) all year round. The most important factor in terms of temperature is to protect them from extreme conditions. Likewise, they do not enjoy prolonged periods of cold weather, rainfalls, or too much moisture.
Another cool feature of Mexican Hat plants is their carefree nature regarding pests and fungal diseases. Even if some intruders may visit them once in a while, this is not a reason to make a fuss about it. You can simply handpick them and pretend nothing ever happened!
Planting Mexican Hat Plant
Choosing the perfect growing medium for your Mexican Hat plants is nothing but a piece of cake. These flowers will usually grow just fine in a wide range of soil types. However, they will have a hard time growing in heavy clay or moisture-rich soils. If you want to spoil them a little, we recommend you plant them on a substrate that has excellent drainage.
Because Mexican Hat plants can perform well even in soils that are poor in nutrients, they generally do not require supplemental fertilizing. The only time when you must provide them with fertilizer is at the moment of planting, but only if their soil is not of good quality. In this case, a small amount of compost into their growing medium should be more than enough.
Your Ratibida columnifera plants will benefit from regular deadheading throughout the summer months. All you have to do is to remove all spent blossoms from your plants to allow new ones to flourish in their place. This process will also extend their flowering period.
Mexican Hat plants tend to grow at a very fast pace and can spread like crazy with time. If you want to control their growth or to maintain a certain size/shape, regular pruning is your secret key. Moreover, you should cut your plants back in early spring to encourage new, healthy growth.
If you are growing your Mexican Hat plants indoors in containers, they will need repotting every now and then. Due to their fast-growing habit, these flowers tend to outgrow their pots in several months or so. To avoid stressing your plants too much, you should repot them in early spring before their active growing season. For this, transplant them in other containers that are one size larger than the current ones, then care for them as usual.
Watering Mexican Hat Plant
One of the greatest superpowers of Mexican Hat plants is their ability to tolerate drought once established. These flowering companions can stay without water for a long time even in the hottest and driest areas out there. Yet, they will show up the best results when they receive deep soakings from time to time.
If you want your Mexican Hat plants to reward you with stunning and long-lasting flowers, water them whenever the top 2 inches (5 cm) of soil has dried out. In hot and arid regions, you should use mulch in their soil because it will help your flowers to conserve moisture. From winter through spring, these companions will appreciate some occasional irrigation only in particularly dry conditions.
Propagating Mexican Hat Plant
We know, Mexican Hat plants are so alluring and easy to deal with that you cannot possibly resist their charm. If you want to have more of these beauties around, don’t you dare to look for other specimens in nurseries or markets! You can propagate your beloved plants at home with little to no effort along the way. And what method could be a better fit than sowing seeds?
First things first, you must collect the seeds from your Ratibida columnifera plants in late summer. It is wise to collect these seeds from numerous plants to increase the colour spectrum. For best results, you can take seeds from plants with red-brown petals to contrast with solid yellow-ray plants. Believe us, you will not regret it!
Once you have the seeds, you should sow them in a large container or outdoors directly on the ground. Although not mandatory, you can also stratify the seeds at 40 °F (4.4 °C) for 9 weeks or so and sow the seeds in spring. After this, make sure you plant the seeds just above the soil but push them a bit into it to provide some stability with time.
With proper care, Mexican Hat seeds will germinate pretty easily due to their fast-growing habit. In general, germination occurs if you keep the seeds in a warm, well-lit, and provide them with water whenever the soil has dried out completely. When the seedlings produce a healthy root system, you can also transplant them in individual pots and gift some to your friends or family members!
Having Mexican Hat plants in your garden or home is nothing but a delightful experience! The cute and colourful flowers of these buddies complement their overall low-demanding nature. If your eye-catching plant family lacks this type of member, Mexican Hat plants are surely a must-have for you this summer. And more other years to come!
Are you already growing Mexican Hat plants? Share your experience in the comments below!