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Plants for Sun - ECHINACEA
by Paul Henjum
November 15, 1999

The purple cone flowers or Echinacea are closely related to Rudbeckia which include the black- eyed-Susan. They are native to north America - growing generally in dry areas like grasslands and stony out-croppings in forested areas. These plants make great plants for the perennial border blooming early to mid summer, with large showy flowers. The daisy like flowers are pink or purple or white (yellow in one species)

There are five to nine species including:

•E. angustifolia = From the prairies of north central U.S. and Canada. This plant has long lax petals that hangs down from a round central cone. The petals are thin and rose-purple to pale whitish-purple in color. The flowers are up to six inches in size. This plant grows to 4 feet in height and 18 inches wide with a nice erect form. E. angustifolia is not much used in the garden but should make a nice addition to the wild meadow or grassland. Used also for medicinal purposes too. Zones 4-9

•E. pallida = This plant is like E. angustifolia except that it is larger growing up to 3-4 feet tall in size and 24 inches wide. This plant is native from central to south central U.S. It has the same long hanging petals and is pink to pale purple in color. This plant is great for the naturalizing or the sunny border, it is showy and different . It looks good in a vase and growing in the border, were the flowering stalk rises above any foliage. Zones 4-8

•E. paradoxa = this is the odd ball of the group with yellow flowers. This plant is from Kansas and Arkansas to Missouri and north Texas. It grows in a very narrow habitat restricted in the wild to dry prairie knobs. Upright growing with large showy yellow flowers. Highly recommended for prairia and border plantings.

•E. purpurea = this the garden purple cone flower. Native from Virginia to Iowa south to Georgia and Louisiana. It is found in open woods and on prairies. It grows to one meter in height and has a long stiff stem with one large showy purple flower. The flower has long rays that reflex down some what with a cone that is hard and prickly. This is a much valued perennial for the garden loved by butterflies and people.

Great for cutting and drying. The dried center cones make a very long lasting dried flower-collect them in the late fall when the plants seeds are ripe. There are a number of forms that are more showy than the species and these include:

•‘Bravado' with 4-41/2 inches flowers with more horizontal growing petals and a more rounder shape to the flower than other forms.

•‘Bright Star' Purple red flowers with lightly lax petals. Three to four feet tall.

•‘Magnus' With larger flowers to 7 inches and darker orange cones, deep purple in color and nice outward growing petals.

•‘White Swan' Has white flowers on many branched stems, 41/2 inches across with large orange cones with the petals more or less dropping down.

•‘White Swan' x ‘Bright Star' Produces plants that have a variation in color from purple to pink to white. The plants have larger cones with nice orange coloring and a more branched habitat- mine I would say bloom twice as much as other purple forms. So far this has been the showiest cross for me, with many flowers open at the same time clustered in a nice dense pattern atop the 3-4 foot plants.

•E. tennesseenis = Upright growing plant with linear leaves and four inch flowers that have greenish-pink disks. Dark-mauve petals, single flowers on 24-36 inches plants. Not a strong grower-but nice looking plants in the wild flower garden-rare. Zones 3-9.

Cultivation of Echinacea:

Grow in deep well drained soil-they like sandy soils and are short lived on clay soils. Full sun to light shade, easy to over winter. Cut back stems after flowering to encourage more flowers and to prevent self seeding.


Leaf minors powdery mildew-darn woodchucks, bacterial spots, root aphids, gray mold and vine weevils. I have some that have developed stunted growth with malformed flower heads that are green - I think it is caused by the cresol from the light post they are growing next to or from some viral infection. Plants self sow freely. They attract bumble bees (apparently this is a problem to some people)


Easy from seed, sow at 55-60 degrees in spring. Germination in 10-20 days. Refrigeration for a week helps germination, light is also good for germination so sow on the surface and after seeds germinate cover lightly. Plants grow fast and are not difficult to transplant out. In early spring or fall divisions can be made- if you have a very nice form and you want to increase it-cut the plant off at the soil level after flowering and it will produce many divisions.

Dig it up and pull off and pot up or replant. Flowers some times from a early sowing the first year- best flower production the third year.

Cut off seed heads to prevent self sowing. About 7,000 seeds per once.


Will attract butterflies. These plants were used to make the infamous "snake oil" of the past- It was used as a poultices for blood poisoning and snake bites. It was used as a mouth wash for gum and tooth problems.

Paul Henjum

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