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Echinacea purpurea

Echinacea purpurea,Cone flower, is a daisy type of flower that blooms well during late summer months. I love it in combination with the Butterfly weed. The orange of the Asclepsias tuberosa, butterfly flower, picks up the same hue in the disc part of the coneflowers, set off by a warm pink of the petals in the Echinacea. Match them up with the beginnings of pyracantha’s orange berries and it is very pretty in the garden at this time of year.

There are nine species of  Echinacea, native to eastern North America.

The Look

just opening

just opening

Daisy form flowers open their blooms starting in July. The discs, the central spiny dome, are a reddish orange. The ray flowers are typically soft pink, but have been bred to achieve brighter color, white, and magenta. A soft orange has been achieved in E. purpurea ‘Sundown’.

Native to the Eastern United States it grows to height 2 to 5 feet and width of one and a half to two feet. They are a bit messy looking in terms of somewhat coarse leaves and the tendency for the flowers to look a little moth-eaten as they end their bloomtime.

But a large group of coneflowers are a beautiful sight and a strong presence in the garden, along with their attractiveness to butterflies.

  • height 2 to 5 feet
  • width of 1½ to 2 feet

New Breeds

The new Echinaceas come in exotic forms: pom-pom, anemone-form, spoon or quill-shaped petals. They now have brighter, unusual colors: soft to bright orange, lighter lemon yellow, or even red.

Dwarf habit is another trait to make coneflowers more garden worthy. One of the best of these is E. ‘Twilight’.

One of the traits that lead to this plants popularity is its tough nature, but new breeding does not always retain that. Some of the newer introductions are not as hardy, and turn out to be “weak growers”.

Top Picks

  • ‘Pica Bella’
  • ‘Elton Knight’
  • ‘Fatal Attraction’
  • ‘Hope’
  • ‘Sunrise’
  • ‘Vintage Wine’
  • ‘White Angel’
  • ‘Coconut Lime’

Short-Lived Perennial

Coneflowers are one of those perennials that have shorter lives in the garden. Because the original type reseed themselves, this is not a problem, however the newer breeds often will not set seed and may die out.

 

How To Grow

Hardy in zones 3 to 8.

Full sun to part shade, water requirements of dry (when established) to medium moisture. Originally found in rocky open woods and prairies, conditions for growing in the garden are simple: average, medium, well-drained soil.

  • Full sun to part shade
  • Average to dry moistures
  • Average soil 

 

Echinacea and Asclepsias in the garden

Echinacea and Asclepsias in the garden

Growing Tips

I grew my own plants from seed one year. They grow easily from seed, but took a few years to settle in and make themselves at home.

I also had a little trouble with keeping plants alive from those I had purchased from a nursery. I think they require a little more consistent moisture than their reputation for drought tolerance led me to believe- at least in the early establishment.

The AARS Winner for 2010, ‘PowWow Wild Berry’ comes with these directions for growing from seed:

To produce plants from seed that will flower the first year, sow seed no later than January 25, regardless of location. Sow seed on top of germination media that has been thoroughly wet and allowed to drain. Seed can be exposed to light or covered lightly with media. Maintain 65F to 70F (18C to 21C) soil media for 10 to 15 days, the length of time for germination. Seedlings can be transplanted into larger containers within 20 to 28 days. Grow on at no less than 50 to 65F. Apply liquid fertilizer, when needed. Transplant into a full-sun garden location with amended soil that is well draining.

Clumps can also be divided for additional plants.

  • Grows easily from seed
  • Germinates in 10-15 days
  • Can be divided spring or fall

 

Echinacea purpurea

Now coneflowers come in an array of closely harmonied colors

Health Benefits of Echinacea

Uses in Alternative Health: “Echinacea is believed to stimulate the immune system to help fight infections.”

“With natural antiviral and anti-inflammatory properties, Echinacea purpurea is best know for its ability to kick-start the immune system, stimulating the production of white blood cells.

Echinacea purpurea contains iron, iodine, copper, potassium, sulphur, vitamin A, vitamin E and vitamin C. Echinacea purpurea also contains polysaccharides, resembling bacteria, which motivate the healthy white blood cells attack bacterial invaders.” ~Herb Almanac

Fun Facts

Attracts goldfinches, so I would grow it with cosmos, which goldfinches also love. The two would be beautiful companion plants in a garden.

Echinacea comes from the Greek word “echinos” meaning hedgehog in reference to the spiny center cone

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Echinacea purpurea