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Echinacea – Coneflower – One of the finest garden plants

There’s nothing more beautiful in peak bloom than Echinacea en masse.

These native plants, commonly known as coneflowers — once wildflowers of open woodlands and meadows — are at home naturalized in a meadow or in a more refined border.

Coneflower is particularly stunning when paired with any yellow or orange daisy-like flower or daylilies.  Phlox of various colors, Powis castle, ornamental grasses and plants with bronze foliage are other complimentary companions.

Echinacia and Daylilies

Echinacea and Daylilies

Characteristics

Growing 3 to 5 feet tall — depending on your choice of variety —- coneflower reaches maturity in 3 or 4 years and by that time will have spread about 2 to 3 feet.

Bloom starts in early summer and can continue sporadically through early fall. Deadheading will help increase bloom time.

Bees and butterflies love the blooms!  And when bloom is finished, birds love the seed — especially goldfinch.

Most of the hybridized Echinacea are not the strongest growers. It’s the natives like purpurea and angustifolia that will give you a greater chance for success. Not only that, but in the majority of cases any native plant produces more pollen and nectar to feed the bees than their hybridized counterparts.

More than One — Start from Seed

To allow Coneflowers to shine in your borders you’ll definitely need more than one.  Fortunately, they’re easy to grow from seed.  I like to start my coneflower via the wintersown method in January or February so they won’t need any attention until I get ready to transplant them.

Some say that Echinacea needs a chilling period of a week or so before it’ll germinate. Others say that’s only for the angustifolia variety. Others say none of the varieties need it. Whether it does or whether it doesn’t —Winter sowing takes the guess work out of it — since the seed will get chill time anyway if you sow in January or February.

Under the best of conditions they may even bloom the same year planted, but plan for the second year bloom so you won’t be disappointed.

 NOTE: I’ve seen seed for sale for some of the new hybrid coneflowers, but I can’t help but feel those new varieties need to come from division or cutting.
But if you consider the seed reasonably priced you might want to experiment anyway.

You can also start coneflower about 2 months before your first fall frost. This method is good because you can get them into the border in fall. With a little mulch they’ll do just fine and be off to a fast start and most likely bloom the following spring.

Root Division

Coneflower can be propagated by root division, but you have to be careful to keep the long taproot intact.  I tried it many times when I first grew Echinacea years ago, but was not successful because I always damaged the taproot.  My older plants are so beautiful and I don’t want to take a chance on setting them back — so I just start more from seed.

Start Seed Now via the Wintersown Method

Starting Echinacea Purpurea from seed is so easy if you use the wintersown method.  I’ll give you links below to 3 posts I’ve written on wintersown.  Those 3 will give you all the easy info you need to get started.

Vermont Wildflower Farm has the seed.  You can click their banner below or the one in the left column. They have various Echinacea — so put Echinacea Purpurea in the search box on their site.  Four cultivars (varieties) of Echinacea Purpurea will come up.

Two varieties are in shades of lavender/pink.  I would go with the lighter one which is the basic Echinacea Purpurea.  I’d bet it’ll be a stronger grower than the darker pow-wow wild berry.

Two varieties are white — White Swan and Pow Wow White.( I have White Swan.)

Keep in mind that the white coneflowers are not the strong growers that the lavenders are. Mine have always been a bit shorter and not quite as full as the lavenders.  However, they’re stunning and well worth having.  Buying and starting your own seed makes them so affordable —- it’d be a shame not to have the whites as well as the lavender.

Final Thoughts

Coneflower will be one of the finest plants in your borders. Couple them with other great perennials and/or annuals to make some of your most noteworthy border displays.
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Posts on Wintersown:

You Can Plant in December

Looking at Winter Sown Seedlings and the Garden

Warm Weather Crops and the Winter Sown Method
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2 comments to Echinacea – Coneflower – One of the finest garden plants

  • Sandra

    Hi Theresa,
    I take these poor flowers for granted. They just get on with it, without any help from me. And I agree, they look fab. with the orange daylillies in a big mass. I never used to appreciate these, but now that I know they can be winter sown – well…..
    Thanks for highlighting this stalwart.
    Hope your day has been a good one.

  • Theresa

    Anything that can be winter sown has lots of appeal for me too Sandra. I have lots of echinacea — but I’ll have more now.
    Theresa

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