Echinacea purpurea | Purple Coneflower
Coneflowers, officially known as Purple Coneflowers (no matter the color of the bloom), and also commonly known as Echinacea, was discovered by European explorers in the forests of the southeastern US in the 17th century and has remained popular in gardens as a medicinal herb and an ornamental flower ever since.
It is fair to say that Purple Coneflower is the one of the finest, most versatile native perennials in the U.S. With handsome, long-lasting flowers, it is sturdy and self-supporting, undemanding, and easy to grow, suitable for both the formal border and the meadow look. The slender elegance and robust stems give the plants good wind and weather resistance. Echinacea plants produce large, distinctively fragrant flowers that bloom over a long period of time. They are followed by attractive, long-lasting seed heads which provide winter food for finches and other birds. The dried seed heads also provide architectural interest during the winter months.
Echinacea purpurea is tough as nails and cold hardy in almost every state. Plants prefer sunny sites with low levels of competition, plus high levels of magnesium and calcium. Periodic disturbance (fire, grazing, etc.) is necessary for the maintenance of their preferred open conditions. Echinacea is very drought tolerant and survives in places that receive as little as 15″ of rain per year. They grow best in deep, well-drained, humus-rich soil, ideally in full sun, although they can tolerate some shade. Avoid over-watering as Echinacea prefer drier conditions once established. No additional fertilizing is necessary. Heavy fertilization can lead to tall, leggy plants that flop over. Cut back stems as the blooms fade to encourage further flower production.
Echinacea purpurea is a great choice for a cut flower garden or dried flower markets because of the large, long-lasting flowers on long, sturdy stems and blooms are produced over a long period of time. In addition to its ornamental appeal, Echinacea attracts wildlife into the garden. The flowers are nectar sources for many flying insects including native bees, wasps, and butterflies. Additionally, the flowers serve as winter seed sources for many bird species, most notably the beautiful goldfinch. Deer and other grazing animals may eat young Echinacea plants, but normally avoid mature plants, unless they are desperate.
Sow seeds in late winter to spring or in late summer to autumn.
Echinacea is widely used as an herb (primarily Echinacea angustifolia and Echinacea purpurea). Great Plains tribes of Native Americans such as the Sioux, Lakota, Omaha, Winnebago, Kiowa, Crow, Hidatsa, Comanche, Pawnee, Choctaw, Delaware and Cheyenne have used preparations of the roots for over 400 years.. Native Americans exposed European colonists to the Echinacea plant and it was used widely during the 18th and 19th centuries for scarlet fever, syphilis, malaria, blood poisoning, and diphtheria. Traditionally, Native Americans either chewed the pepper-flavored roots or they mashed the roots to apply them as a poultice. Today, people use extracts, ointments, pills, tablets or tinctures of the entire plant; roots, stems, leaves, and flower heads. It is believed that Echinacea stimulates the immune system and reduces the length and severity of colds, flu, sore throats, coughs, fevers, and infections. Echinacea was the most widely used plant remedy in the US and Europe until the dawn of the pharmaceutical age when it fell out of favor. Echinacea has come around to become a popular herb once again.
Sun exposure: Full sun
Mature height: 3-4 ft
Mature width: 18- 30 inches
Hardiness zones: 4-10