The blooms of the Echinacea Purpurea, also known as the coneflower, are resistant to drought and attract songbirds, butterflies, and winged insects; their daisy-like look appeals to a range of pollinators. Hummingbirds are attracted to its rich nectar, and finches eat and scatter the seeds.
Native to central and south-eastern US, this perennial blooms from June to September and grows upright between 2 to 5 feet tall.
Coneflowers are low-maintenance plants that flourish easily once attended to with care. They are resistant to drought, salt, heat, dry soil, humidity, and deer. These hearty plants are a great choice for home gardens as they tolerate an array of harsh environments.
Echinacea Purpurea is not only enjoyed for its beauty and hardiness alone; it is also a useful herb to have on the homestead as well.
This plant has is known for having the ability to alleviate pain when brewed as tea with ginger, and the oil derived from coneflower plants is known to uplift moods as it produces dopamine (known as the Happiness Hormone). Echinacea is also reported to relieve sore throats, fight off various infections and alleviate skin irritations or disorders.
Here is everything you need to know to grow this useful herb on your homestead.
Table of Contents:
Quick Facts about Echinacea Purpurea
- The flower is drought and deer resistant, but has challenges with the Japanese beetle and a few other plant attacking diseases.
- They make a very healthy herbal tea blend especially from the Echinacea purpurea variety.
- The plants stand out as ornamental plants mostly used for decors in gardens, and for events.
- When planted, they tend to arrange themselves in an admirable and organized way.
- Contrary to the opinion of some, they are easy to grow and maintain. Hence the encouragement that you can grow them easily in your garden.
- They perform well in containers or garden beds.
- Supplements derived from the plant can help boost the immune system.
- They grow in an upright and erect manner with a stable height of 2-5 inches.
- Until after pollination when they now begin to scent of sweet vanilla, coneflowers initially don’t have any odor.
- The flower contains strong anti-inflammatory and anti-septic properties.
- These daisies can survive up to 6 years in the wild, but they are not toxic plants.
- The colors of the petals and arrangement, depends on the variety of the plant.
- Interestingly, coneflowers produce chemicals that prevent other plants from competing in growth with them, a secretion known as allelopathy.
- They are perennial crops and their bloom season is from June till September.
- The name Echinacea is derived from a Greek word “ekhinos” that means hedgehog or sea urchin in reference to the spiky cone at the center.
Varieties of Echinacea
The coneflower typically grows in the pinkish-purple variety. In many cases, this is the wild plant you can still see growing in many parts of the United States. However, this is a popular garden plant, and there are many varieties and cultivars of the Echinacea flower that include a yellow similar to a sunflower.
Each variety thrives in a fixed temperature range so geography often determines the type of coneflower most prevalent. Depending on where you live, you may be able to find these varieties in your local garden store, or be able to order them from a catalog.
- Double scoop: This is a variety of strawberry pink with petals either a brilliant light pink or with an orange hue. They tolerate heat relatively well and their short petals glow under sunrays and mix well in containers and borders.
- Marry me: Thinking of the perfect outdoor wedding, or bouquet choice? This immaculate white petal flower with a yellow cone and underlying green dash in the cone is your pick. These amenable buds will grow throughout the central and south-east US.
- Pink shimmer: Many varieties have shades of pink, but this one shimmers above the rest. Blooming up to 36 inches in height (90cm), this beauty is best planted at the back of borders as it is will stand out and survives easily.
- Primadonna deep rose: With large petals, full central cone and a sturdy stem, this variety can reach 30 inches and the stand out among its peers. The Primadonna deep rose attracts singing birds with its beauty and is best planted in moderate regions.
- Sombrero lemon yellow: These bold flowers grow a yellow similar to the sunflower. The sombrero lemon yellow has a sturdy stem, lovely petals and protruded cone and arranges them beautifully. The mature height offers it a chance to stand out beautifully in your garden.
- White swan: The petals of the White Swan are unwrapped, leaving the cone which stands a couple of inches taller to shine and attract winged pollinators. This fast growing flower grows to about three feet at maturity, and each plant will expand two feet wide.
- Purple coneflower: The most popular of all varieties can grow more than 20 inches in height amidst drought and other regional conditions that hamper the growth of other species. It is loved for its herbal qualities, as well as simplicity and uttermost beauty.
- Echinacea big sky harvest moon: With a lovely aroma, small spikes, and fewer petals, this yellow beauty is perfect for your decor pots. It grows in USDA zones 4-8.
- Fatal attraction: captivating with the purple-pink petals, wide cones, and upright stature, this variety lives up to its name.
- Doppelganger: Beauty in adversity as it grows in dry conditions; this light pink purple coned flower is eye-catching for butterflies, and gives a calm look in flower vases.
- Ferris wheel: The uniqueness of the Ferris wheel lies in its ruffled white petals. Usually grown in zones 4-9, they are truly attractive.
- Green jewel: A floral beauty taking up nature’s favorite color, this pastel-colored variety has light green single petals and an astonishing arrangement near the dark green center. It thrives better in zones 3-9 and is a delightful choice for your garden.
- Milkshake: a twist in cone and unique in its bloom, this summer flower grows up to 30 inches tall, and lets its white petals reveal its slightly yellowed cone.
- Marmalade: Sharing similarities with the orange marmalade, this burst of citrus-colored Echinacea, dresses up as a red-orange petal and brown-dominated center. A statement variety for your garden is known to grow tall in moderate soil.
- Echinacea pallid: Pale purple with a reddish cone, the Pallid variety is thick in the center, wide in the range of winged insects it attracts for pollination.
You can find even more varieties here.
While you can purchase these plants from nearly any catalog or garden store, one of the best ways to obtain them is to gather seeds from coneflowers growing where you live, or to trade some plants stock from a fellow homesteader or neighbor.
If you get your plants local, you know that they’re adapted o your local soil and weather conditions, and you’ll save money in the process too.
Soil Types and pH
Echinacea (Coneflower) may be planted in clay, high organic matter, loam (silt), sand or shallow rocky soil. It grows well on properly drained soil.
The soil ph must however be neutral between the ranges 6.0 and 8.0; that is neutral to acidic ph level. The soil must not be too watery, overly moist or too dry. A balance between moist and periodically dry is best for a flourishing plant.
These flowers bloom in the eastern and central USA at hardiness zones 3a, 3b, 4b, 5b, up until 8b on the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map.
How to Recognize Echinacea
Recognizing the plant is not always easy as there are many different varieties. However, some universal features might help you recognize an Echinacea when you see one.
At their initial growth stage:
- New leaves arise from existing roots.
- The leaf tips are gently rounded, together and somehow flat.
- As the flower grows, more leaves surround the plant and there is a pointed tip on each leaf with a strong central vein. Smaller veins emerge from the big vein of the leaf, and the flower head emerges from the midst of the leaves.
- As the stem grows taller, the space between leaves and the flower head is visible.
- The central portion of the flower looks like green spines.
While they are in bloom or grown:
- Once pollinated, the coneflower has a scent of vanilla.
- Their cones take an admirable protruding shape and the petals fall beside it.
Growing in Containers or Garden Beds
Planting a stand of Echinacea in your garden will give it a good look, fresh scent and colorful atmosphere. It is an easy plant to cultivate and manage.
Before you commence planting, you should note that the soil type is essential to the growth of the flower so it must be planted on a loose soil by simply adding the seeds to a few inches below the ground (in your container or garden bed).
In about 4 weeks, the seeds would have germinated and by 12 weeks the leaves will start to grow.
The plant has sturdy roots so, in any case of transplanting, the new hole must be twice the width and depth of the previous one to enable the rootball to be on the same level with the top of the soil. They are easy to grow and care for, but must be handled meticulously.
When planting coneflowers in your garden (garden beds) or in containers, you typically follow the same steps, planting the viable seeds in your garden towards the end of the new season, winter or fall.
The cold temperature they are slightly exposed to helps echinacea seeds germinate. Wherever you plant them, proper spacing and adequate airflow is important. This is especially true of container plantings.
Divide crowded plants to give them all room to flourish and spread wide to avoid diseases like powdery mildew, since this disease tends to thrive in crowded coneflower plantings. Water the plants mildly as instructed since excess water could cause their roots to rot and like all seedlings, keep an eye on them.
Planting in Containers
You can plant your coneflowers in containers that are deep enough for the roots to spread and get nutrients.
These simple steps will guide you in planting them in containers:
- Perforate the container and create holes for ventilation.
- Get the appropriate soil type suitable for the flower and fill the pot halfway with it.
- Monitor the plant in partial shade for about three days before changing the location to where the plant can receive morning sun and afternoon warmth/hue.
- Water the plant mildly and monitor it to know when to water or not. Sandy soil requires more water; moist soil requires attention so too much water does not make it overly moist and unsuitable for the plants.
- Use fertilizers and insecticides periodically on the soil and on the main plant as instructed.
- Do not water the plant from the cone or leaves down, instead water the soil.
- Check on the plants constantly and possibly document their growth.
If you are transplanting a seedling, ensure you are using the same soil type and ph level so your plant adjusts immediately. For seeds, start out by planting them in the container then leaving them for the stratification process to bring about their germination.
Edibility + Recipes
The tea is highly effective for cold weathers and flu. It boosts body immunity and many believe it acts as an anti-inflammatory compound in the body. This may be one of the reasons why the tea provides relief from illnesses.
Asides this use, the tea possesses compounds that attack yeast infections and hasten healing from these infections making the coneflower prominent for its herbal potency.
The roots, flowers, stems, and leaves are all parts of the flower used to make Tea and Tincture. The Echinacea Tea is however, mostly made from the flowers and the roots dried or fresh.
Fresh Echinacea Plant Tea
- Add ½ cup of fresh Echinacea to 8 ounces of boiling water.
- Let the mixture settle for about 15 minutes.
- By the time the mixture settles, it will be the size of a 6 ounce mug. You can now serve the tea for consumption.
- If the taste of the tea is bland or you wish to add more herbs for medicinal purposes, you may include ginger, clove and other herbs compatible with the tea that can give the desired result of either improving its taste or herbal potency.
- Also note that in using the fresh plant to make the Echinacea tea, you will need double the size of the dried plant to get the same quantity they would both give.
Dried Echinacea Plant Tea
- Add a ¼ cup of dried Echinacea to boiling water able to fill a size 60 ounce mug. The hot water absorbs the plant making it suitable for drinking.
- Let the mixture settle for about 15 minutes.
- Pour it into a mug and your tea is served. However to improve the taste, you could add other suitable herbs like ginger, clove, garlic, turmeric and medicinal herbs that could also help to increase its benefits.
Echinacea tincture contains alcoholic compounds and it is advisable to consume it in small quantities when you are sick. This is why the tea recipe is recommended more than the tincture.
Pests and Disease
Every plant faces attacks from pests and diseases as a result of various factors. The beautiful Echinacea is not left out.
Japanese beetles: One major pest that launches fierce attacks on this plant is the Japanese beetle. Japanese beetles usually attack at the start of the bloom season in June. They rip the plant apart by feeding on the foliage and flowers in groups till the plant is weak and dies out.
Aster yellow: The aster yellow is a virus that attacks the Echinacea. You can spot it easily when the flowers of the plant are deformed, the cones have unusual tufts in them, the leaves turn yellow and their veins remain green.
It has no cure, so immediately you spot it on any plant, it is best to root out the plant and destroy it to prevent the virus from spreading to others. Although it can be spread through deadheading (a pruning process), it is typically spread by sap sucking insects.
Aphids: they suck out nutrients from the plant, and are not to be mistaken for insects that suck nectar for pollination sake. By taking away the plants nutrient, its growth dwindles until it dies.
Powdery mildew: when the plant soil is too moist and airflow is restricted, the plant is at risk of this disease. It can be prevent through proper spacing, adequate ventilation and maintaining the moisture of the soil on an average level.
Aster yellows: synonymous to the powdery mildew, aster yellow can also be caused through poor growing conditions. The growth of the plants becomes stunted; they turn green in color and wilt away.
Pest and Disease Control
Organic insecticides work on some of the pest and diseases. For others with no cure or curbing mechanism, the solution is to uproot the infected/affected plant from the midst of others so the damage is curtailed.
What does it mean if the leaves of an Echinacea have white dots?
If the leaves of your coneflower develop white dots, they might likely have a fungal infection. It does not spread rapidly, and there are cures for it. Using insecticides, cleaning off the spots from infected leaves and watching out for other symptoms will help you get rid of the infection.
Echinacea is a beautiful flower and an important medicinal herb that has a place on every homestead. While this is a relatively easy perennial to grow, nurturing a healthy stand of coneflowers requires a little bit of patience, grit and dedication.
No matter where the flower grows on your property, any variety of coneflower will flourish with a little bit of tender love and care.
Any good thing you have on your homestead will challenges from time to time, and pest/diseases are one of those things that could suffocate the growth of the Echinacea.
To prevent such an occurrence, use preventive control, and take measures that will shield your flowers from falling prey. The explanation on different varieties is all the knowledge you need to recognize the coneflower, and make your choice on which variety you want to use for your designated purpose.
So, if you’re ready, plant some coneflower seeds or get a plant from a garden store or a neighbor, and begin growing Echinacea today!
When Tom Harkins is not busy doing emergency repairs to his 200 year-old New England home, he tries to send all of his time gardening, home brewing, foraging, and taking care of his ever-growing flock of chickens, turkey and geese.