Echinacea purpura – Coneflower

echinacea coneflower

Echinacea photo above courtesy of Karen Matthews

Echinacea is a native of the plains and prairies of the USA. Originating in this tough environment gave Echinacea the deep-rooted traits of drought tolerance, long bloom, low maintenance and dependability. The blooms of Echinacea and the oblong, crinkly textured foliage on strong stems add a rugged striking beauty to gardens.

Coneflower’s unique “hedge-hog” centers start out in early summer a bright lime green. As summer temperatures heat up, so do the cones. They change to a swollen, coppery-colored, intricately packed cone of birdseed. Soft petals surround the cones bringing an energetic vitality to summer gardens. The center cones and petal rays are a quick giveaway that Echinacea is a member of the Asteraceae, or sun-follower’s family.

echinacea purpura - coneflower

Some thoughts on hybridizing Echinacea

Echinacea is such a fine native plant that hybridizers keep trying to improve what is already a tried and true perennial.  Echinacea is so close to perfection that ‘Magnus,’ one of the first hybrids, earned the Perennial Plant of the Year Award. ‘Magnus’ is a truer shade of pink with a more open flower rather than the traditional shuttle-cock shape but still looks like an Echinacea. The white versions of hybrid Coneflowers are sparkling and pure-looking in the garden. They are especially attractive when mixed with their pink purpurpa sisters.

echinacea - white

It’s troubling that many of the newer hybrids have been changed to weird-looking flowers in a wide variety of colors like oranges and fuchsias. It appears that breeders are trying to force this lovely perennial into being something it is not.  Caution is advised, for most of these new hybrids have lost their hardiness and should be considered annuals in the high valley gardens of the West. It would be wise to see what other gardeners in your area are growing before investing in some of the newer hybrids, with the exception of the standard pink and white varieties.

pink echinacea

Echinacea’s drought tolerance is due to thick fleshy tap roots that are known for their healing powers. These roots are dug and processed then sold in health food stores as aides to stimulate the immune system for fighting off bacterial and viral infections.

More Growing Tips:

Here are some additional growing tips provided by Don’t forget to deadhead in order to encourage longer blooming times.


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