Grow Your Own Echinacea
This traditional remedy also has a gorgeous summer bloom.
Echinacea, or Coneflowers, are beloved by cottage gardeners and butterfly enthusiasts. The large daisylike flowers with mounded heads and showy rose or pink rays (petals) are usually borne singly on stout stems, well above the foliage. They'reerect perennials with coarse lanceolate to ovate, often toothed leaves. Plants grow from thick taproots that are quite deep on mature plants. The plant is often used as a medicinal for alleviating skin rashes and internally for stimulating the immune system.
Common Name: Purple coneflower
Bloom Time: Summer bloom
Planting Requirements: Full sun to light shade
How To Grow
Coneflowers are plants of prairies and open woods. Give them average, loamy soil in full sun or light shade. Plants grow best with adequate moisture but are quite tolerant of extended drought. These tough plants have deep taproots that enable them to store some water for lean times. Plants increase to form broad clumps. They flower throughout summer, and the rayless seedheads are attractive throughout fall and winter. Division is seldom necessary and not recommended. Once divided, plants tend to become bushy with compromised flower production. Propagate by root cuttings in fall. Sow seed outdoors in fall or indoors in winter. Give seeds 4 to 6 weeks of cold, moist stratification to promote uniform germination.
Coneflowers are comfortable additions to formal and informal landscapes alike. Plant them in borders with catmints (Nepeta), garden phlox (Phlox paniculata), blazingstars (Liatris), yarrows (Achillea), and Shasta daisies (Leucanthemum maximum). Create a pastel combination with lamb's ears (Stachys byzantina), verbenas, pink bee balms (Monarda), calamints (Calamintha), and cranesbills (Geranium) backed with ornamental grasses. In meadow and prairie gardens, plant coneflowers with native grasses, gray-headed coneflower (Ratibida pinnata), goldenrods (Solidago), butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa), and black-eyed Susans (Rudbeckia). They respond well to pot culture if planted in a deep container.
Showy purple coneflowers (Echinacea purpurea Alba) are extremely heat- and drought-tolerant. They have thick, deep taproots that store moisture for lean times.
Echinacea angustifolia (an-gus-ti-FO-lee- a), narrow-leaved coneflower.
Size: 1 to 2 feet tall and wide. A compact coneflower with spare, lance-shaped basal leaves with stiff hairs and mostly leafless stems topped by 2-inch heads with short (1-inch) drooping rose-pink rays. USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 3 (possibly 2) to 8.
E. pallida (PAL-i-da), pale purple coneflower.
Size: 3 to 4 feet tall, 1 to 2 feet wide. A sparsely branching plant with stout, nearly leafless stems topped with large heads of drooping pale rose rays. The basal leaves are lance-shaped and covered in stiff hairs. E. laevigata, smooth coneflower, is similar but has smooth leaves. Zones 4 to 8.
E. paradoxa (par-a-DOX-a), yellow coneflower.
Size: 2½ to 3 feet tall, 1 to 2 feet wide. This is an unusual coneflower in that its rays are bright yellow. The plants grow in tight, multistemmed clumps with mostly basal leaves. The leaves are broadly lance-shaped. An important plant in current breeding programs. Zones 4 to 8.
E. purpurea (pur-pew-REE-a), purple coneflower.
Size: 2 to 4 feet tall (rarely to 6 feet), 2 to 3 feet wide. A shrubby, wellbranched plant with leafy stems and dozens of flowers with flat or drooping rose-pink to red-violet rays. Bright Star is a graceful selection with mostly flat rosepink flower heads. Kim's Knee High is an excellent compact selection to 2½ feet with large heads of gracefully drooping rays. Kim's Mop Head is white. Magnus has huge, flat flower heads. Springbrook's Crimson Star has delicate, deep crimson flowers on sturdy 3-foot stems. One of the best. White Lustre has larger, brighter white flowers than Alba and White Swan. Zones 3 to 8.
E. tennesseensis (ten-e-see-EN-sis), Tennessee coneflower.
Size: 1 to 3 feet tall, 1 to 2 feet wide. The upswept rays of this species make it unique among coneflowers; the overall impression is of a rose-purple cup. This species has contributed its unique form to many new hybrids that will be released in the future. Zones 4 to 8.