Echinacea (ek-in-AY-shee-a) is commonly known as the Purple Coneflower and is valued for its daisy-like flowers and medicinal effects. It has a somewhat cone-shaped head because the petals tend to point downward once the flower head fully opens, thus forming a cone.
Echinacea is deer resistant, easy to grow, and attracts many beneficial insects and pollinators to your garden. The bonus is it blooms through July and August, especially if it is deadheaded and not allowed to go to seed.
Echinacea is drought tolerant and found growing in dry prairies, open wooded areas and flourishing in drier gardens, so it’s a great plant for those hot, dry spots. Although it loves the sun, it also tolerates light shade. The only thing that will shorten the flower’s lifespan is planting it in heavy clay or damp soils; otherwise, the plant is known to live 4-5 years.
The Purple Coneflower is herbaceous and is prized for it’s immune-enhancing effects. Several trials have reported that Echinacea can cut the length of a cold by more than half if it is taken in the very early stages of the cold. A word of caution: recent studies have shown that it should only be taken for one to two weeks. Prolonged use reduces its potency.
How to Grow Echinacea
I like things “easy”, so I plant Echinacea from starts that I purchase from a local nursery. If you’re one of those die-hards who likes to do things from seed and to save a little money, then you’ll want to start out by placing your seeds in a bag of moist peat moss in the refrigerator for one month (this method is called stratification and will help improve the chances of your seeds germinating).
Sow your seeds indoors about 6 weeks prior to planting in about 1/8-inch depth of soil, then water. You should see seedlings sprouting in 2 to 4 weeks. Continue to grow indoors for up to 6 weeks.
Once the weather warms up and there is no longer a threat of frost (my rule of thumb is Mother’s Day in our climate), begin placing your plants outdoors for a short time each day to acclimate them to the weather before planting. .
Dig a hole that is as deep as the growing pot in a sunny location, in well-drained soil, and approximately 12-inches apart. Remove the plant from the pot and transplant it to the hole. Fill in with nutrient rich soil and tamp the soil around the plant. The beauty of echinacea is that it can grow in just about any poor soil so it rarely needs fertilizer, but if you do fertilize, make sure it is low in nitrogen so it won’t weaken the root system.
Water weekly for the first year until the roots are established.
When the flowers are spent, cut them back in half. That way they tend to develop into a bushier plant instead of a straggly one. Cut at a 45-degree angle just above the node where the stems and leaves meet the main stem (also known as deadheading).
Common Name: Coneflower
Genus: Echinacea (ek-in-AY-shee-a)
Family: Asteraceae (ass-ter-AY-see-ee)
Species: E. purpurea
Category: Perrenials, herbaceous
Height: 18-24 inches (45-60 cm)
Spacing: 18-24 inches (45-60 cm)
Hardiness: USDA Zone 4a to 9b
Sun Exposure: Full Sun
Bloom Color: Rosy purple and white. Some recent hybrids have introduced yellow, orange, burgundy and shades in between.
Late Summer/Early Fall
Soil pH Requirements: 6.1 to 7.8
By dividing rootball
From seed: direct sow outdoors in fall
From seed: winter sow in vented containers, coldframe or unheated greenhouse
From seed: stratify if sowing indoors
From seed: sow indoors before last frost
Allow seed heads to dry on plants; remove and collect seeds. Properly cleaned seeds can be successfully stored.
Disease: black spot and white powdery mildew
Other: Cut flowers, attracts birds and butterflies, drought tolerant, deer resistant, easy to grow.