We first planted coneflowers and milkweed in 2014. These plants are perennial, which means they come back on their own the following year without replanting. During the 2014 season, the majority of the coneflower plants grew mainly horizontally and bushy, with leaves stretching in many directions going around each plant’s center. These plants reached a maximum height of about 30 cm tall, except for a few that grew to about 120 cm. Only the taller ones flowered the first year.
This year, almost all our coneflower plants grew taller rapidly, with leaves branching off thick vertical stems. Within about a month in early summer, the coneflowers went from just poking out of the ground to being taller than some of us! Many of the coneflowers are now between 5-6 ft tall (about 190 cm). That is over 6x taller than our average height the first year. All of the coneflowers flowered this year as well, giving a beautiful yellow flowers that were visited by many types of bees.
The milkweed also grew a little differently. The plants also grew taller, and the milkweed began to flower and grow seed pods.
The main reason why our perennial plants are taller in their second season is that in their first year, a lot of the energy the plant uses goes into growing its root system underground. But now that the roots are established, the plants are free to shoot upwards and flower!