Coneflower: Purple (Echinacea purpurea)
Starting Coneflower Seeds
Crop Care After First Year
Harvesting & Storage
Ease of Growing: Easy
Grown as: Perennial
Blooms: Summer, Late summer, or early fall
Hardiness: Hardy. Echinacea purpurea is hardy to all temperate zones.
Crops: Spring Transplant, Spring
Growing Season: Short, Long
Growing Conditions: Cold, Cool, Warm, Hot. Echinacea will be most productive in a warm sunny spot, but will tolerate light shade as well as a wide range of weather conditions once it is established.
Outdoor Growing Temp: 50°F - 95°F
Min Outdoor Soil Temp: 50°F. There is really no advantage to planting Echinacea in colder soil, so wait until the soil reaches at least 50 ˚F.
Start Indoors: Yes
Start Outdoors: Yes
Light: Sun: min. 6 hours daily (Cold, Cool, Warm, Hot). Echinacea prefers full sun, but will tolerate light shade.
Water: Low. Excessively drained. Well drained, soil remains moist for a short period after precipitation. Once established, Echinacea only needs to be watered during drought or high heat periods. However, it doesn't hurt to give the plants some water every couple weeks, especially if the soil is dry.
Feeder: Moderate. Prefers rich soil.
Suitability: Deer Resistant, Drought tolerant, Tolerates light frost, Tolerates hard frost, High heat
Small Gardens?: Yes
Containers?: Yes. Plant individual plants in 3 gallon pots or larger, or multiple plants in a narrow planter that is at least 1 1/2' wide. Add gravel to the bottom of the container to encourage draining. Place pots in full sun. Every spring, fertilize your plants and prune back dead flowers and leaves.
Attracts beneficial insects?: Yes
Forage: Edible to birds
Plant Height: 36-48"
Sow Depth: 1/4"
Hardiness Zone: 3-9
Produces: narrow, hairy leaves and 3-4” flower heads with drooping purplish pink petals and a spiny orange center cone.
Uses: Medicinal Herb, Cut Flower, Will Naturalize, Suitable as Annual.
Soil pH: 5.5-7.5, Ideal 6.5-7.0. Echinacea prefers a rich, limey garden soil that drains well. If possible, plant in raised beds for better soil drainage and aeration.
Compost (N), 2", 1 time: Incorporate at least 2" of compost or well aged manure into the top 8" of soil before planting.
Starting Coneflower Seeds indoors for Spring
Transplanting coneflower seedslings Outdoors in spring
Water Needs: Low. Once established, Echinacea only needs to be watered during drought or high heat periods. However, it doesn't hurt to give the plants some water every couple weeks, especially if the soil is dry.
Fertilizer Needs: Moderate. Prefers rich soil.
Pruning: every 2 weeks. Cut flowers regularly to encourage continued blooms.
Watering: Water, 1 inch(es), every 2 weeks. Once established, Echinacea only needs to be watered during drought or high heat periods. However, it doesn't hurt to give the plants some water every couple weeks, especially if the soil is dry.
When and How:
When: Harvest flowers when they begin to open up.
How: Use a sharp knife and cut the plant where the first healthy leaves are growing.
When: Echinacea root is harvested during the dormant period, preferably in the autumn after 2 or 3 years of growth (after the plant has gone to seed).
How: The roots are dug up with a garden fork or shovel, shaken free of dirt, and washed with a pressure hose. Large crowns will need to be hacked apart with a hatchet or machete in order to allow access to dirt and stones lodged at the base of the crown. Echinacea roots are pretty stable after washing and may be cold-stored or shipped over a period of several days without molding. However, it makes sense to make the fresh root tincture as soon as possible after washing, which will minimize oxidation.
Storage Req: Cool, Dry
Storage Temp: 50-65°F
Storage Length: 180-360 days
Flowers: Lay cut tops on a screen, or hang upside down in a dark place. Make sure they aren't so dense that air cannot circulate through them. When completely dry (crumbles when touched), store in a glass jar with tight fitting lids in a cool, dry place for up to 1 year.
Storage Req: Cool, Dry
Storage Temp: °F
Storage Length: 180-360 days
Seed Viability in Years: 5 - 8 years
Germination Percentage: 50%
Native plants are perfect for the perennial garden. Because they are native, they are very adaptable to the existing conditions and do not require as much care as introduced species. An excellent native to pair with Echinacea is butterfly weed. It has bright orange blooms and does indeed attract butterflies.
Gaillardia has all the tones of a sunset, while black eyed susan brings cheery yellow and a similar rayed flower. Lupines come in an array of tones and are early season color, while hardy geranium creates a carpet of jewel tones and makes an excellent base plant in the bed.
Other native Coneflower companion plants include:
American Basket flower
Pollinator Attracting Companion Planting with Echinacea:
If you want to bring in the bees, butterflies and other pollinators, a flowering and fruiting garden can help and there are many brightly colored choices. A sea of jewel tones and softer pastels will draw pollinators like a magnet and improve the overall health of your landscape.
Goldenrod provides a cloud of lemony blooms, while sedum plants have puffs of pink to yellow flowers on hardy succulent bases. Other companion plants for Echinacea might be:
Foliage Accents for Coneflowers:
Companion planting with Echinacea isn’t just about the flowers. If you are wondering what to plant with coneflowers, there are many foliage plants that will provide just the right accent amongst the blooms. Many of the new coleuscultivars are now just as happy in sun as they are in shade.
Heuchera, or coral bells, are tough perennials with fluted leaves and numerous colors from which to choose. Smoke bush may get a little large but is an excellent foliage plant for the back of the perennial garden. Outstanding blue green leaves or burgundy foliage offer options for contrast.
Lily turf has strappy leaves, often variegated and is hardy in most zones. Ornamental grasses that prefer sunny, well-drained soil are excellent Echinacea companions. Their movement and grace are perfect complements to coneflower’s bright beauty and there are numerous varieties from which to choose that often produce fascinating inflorescences to add double interest to the garden.
The Health Benefits of Echinacea
Cancer Prevention: Echinacea’s ability to affect the immune system specifically relates to how it handles foreign substances within the body. Echinacea has been connected to preventing cancer because it stimulates the body’s immune system to eliminate cancerous cells. Although echinacea is not necessarily considered an antioxidant, it can certainly help eliminate free radicals by stimulating the proper immune system cells, like T cells, thereby helping to prevent the development of cancer.
Bacteria and Viruses: Echinacea does more than stimulate T-cells, it also increases the production of white blood cells in the body, which are the main soldiers in the battle against illness going on in our bodies every day. Furthermore, echinacea contains a compound called echinacein, which actually inhibits bacteria and viruses from penetrating healthy cells, thereby greatly reducing the chances of contracting any type of infection while consuming echinacea in either supplemental or natural form.
Inflammation: The active chemical components in echinacea have been proven to reduce inflammation and the associate pain of that irritation. For this reason, echinacea is often recommended as a “cure-all” for aches and pains in the joints. For this same reason, echinacea oil is often spread on the skin to reduce the inflammation people suffer from being in the sun for too long.
Skin Conditions: For the same reason as it can be helpful for sunburn, it can also help heal other skin conditions. Echinacea has been recommended to patients for many years as a way to help heal psoriasis and eczema. If spread on the affected area, improvement can be seen quite rapidly, and besides healing the irritation and inflammation, it also prevents any open sores from becoming infected, due to its powerful antibacterial and antiviral powers.
Respiratory Conditions: The anti-inflammatory capacity of echinacea extends to the respiratory tracts, so for those patients who regularly suffer from conditions like bronchitis, echinacea can help to reduce the irritation and mucus deposition in those tracts, thereby helping you to heal faster.
Recurrent Infections: Some of the worst, and most annoying, illnesses are recurring. For example, ear infections are known to occur very often once a person has suffered through it once. This sort of recurrence can make life very unpleasant. Echinacea allows for various immune-boosting compounds to build up and remain in the body, tacitly altering the structure and reactivity of our immune system. Studies have shown a reduction in ear infections when echinacea is consistently consumed as a way to build up resistance to further infections.
Oral Health: Studies have shown a connection between the intake of echinacea and a reduction in gingivitis, which makes sense, considering that gingivitis is a bacterial infection. Regular echinacea supplementation can be an effective way of helping to keep your teeth strong and healthy.
Wound Healing and Recovery: Not only does echinacea stimulate the immune system to fight against infection and illness, it also speeds up the recovery time and wound healing process in case you do fall ill, or injure yourself. It can speed up the formation of new skin cells and get you back on your feet by eliminating bacteria from the system quicker than other medications. Also, any wound that you suffer from an accident or injury can be protected from developing infections at the same time as it is speedily healed.
A Few Words of Caution: Some people have reported allergic reactions to echinacea, so obviously speak to your doctor before beginning any treatment regimen. Furthermore, if you are taking other painkillers, echinacea can negatively impact your liver. Also, some people report headaches and stomach aches. However, the overall benefits of echinacea far outweigh the potential negatives.
Purple Coneflower Tincture
To preserve the tincture, glycerin, alcohol or vinegar is used to make it potent for up to two years. Echinacea is easy to grow at home. Because the plant is easy to grow, individuals often keep a ready supply in stock. The tincture is also easy to prepare as well. Aside from Echinacea leaves and alcohol, a glass jar, sieve, cheesecloth, and a storage container with a dropper will be needed for making a tincture. Experts recommend brandy, vodka, or rum as the alcohol ingredient.
The leaves are chopped and placed into the glass canning jar. The leaves are covered with alcohol to cover the crumbled dried leaves. The mixture is stored in a dark place for two weeks. The jar should be agitated every couple of days.
Check the alcohol levels as they may absorb the alcohol. Add more alcohol as needed. After two weeks, the mixture should turn brown. Place the cheesecloth in a sieve. Then pour the mixture into the cheesecloth to extract the liquid. Store the liquid in a dark brown eyedropper bottle. The alcohol should preserve the liquid for at least two years.
Purple Coneflower Tea Recipe
The concoction may be consumed with lemon or honey to enhance the flavor of the Echinacea tea. If the leaves are dried, two teaspoons are required to make a herbal tea concoction. If the leaves are fresh, a quarter cup of fresh material is used. Bark or seeds may also be used, if the recipe calls for it. Two teaspoons of seeds are recommended for the best blend and also, 1 tablespoon of bark.
Baby's Breath: Annual (Gypsophila elegans)
Baby's Breath: Deep Carmine (Gypsophila elegans)
Bee Balm: Lemon (Monarda citriodora)
Black-Eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta)
This native prairie biennial forms a rosette of leaves the first year, followed by flowers the second year. It is covered with hairs that give it a slightly rough texture. The Green-headed Coneflower (R. laciniata) has yellow ray flowers pointing downward, a greenish-yellow disk, and irregularly divided leaves.
Lupine: Arroyo (Lupinus succulentus)
Lupine: Russell (Lupinus polyphyllus)
George Russell, a self-taught horticulturalist from Great Britain, produced this lovely hybrid in the early 1920’s after nearly two decades of cross-breeding and experimentation. On being honored by the Royal Horticultural Society for his achievement, Mr. Russell stated that all the really crucial work had been done by the humble little bees in his garden. The name Lupine comes from the Latin “lupus,” meaning wolf. This refers to the folk belief that this plant took nutrients from the soil. Ironically, this plant actually improves the soil because of its nitrogen fixing abilities.