Purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea, pronounced eck-kin-NAY-see-uh pur-pur-EE-uh) is one of our favorite native wildflowers here at Native Nurseries. It’s a strong, drought tolerant perennial, for full sun to part. Although it’s tough and easy to grow - not fussy at all – it does prefer well-drained, neutral to alkaline soil. So unless you’re putting it in garden soil that’s been amended with mushroom compost over the years, adding a little dolomite lime to our acidic Tallahassee soil is a good idea.
You (and the butterflies and bees) will enjoy almost non-stop blooming from summer to frost with this impressive wildflower. It’s a member of the compositae family, so what looks like one flower is actually a flower head containing many small flowers. In the case of the purple coneflower, the flower head is orange and cone-shaped surrounded by pinkish/purple petals (bracts). They occur on sturdy stalks, which may reach five feet in height. Despite that height they rarely require staking. Purple coneflower also makes a great, long lasting cut flower.
Propagation is easy. It reseeds readily and can also be started from root division. For best results, divide purple coneflower plants in the fall and no more than once every three to four years.
If it starts to look tired or ragged in late summer, you can cut purple coneflower back by about a third. This will rejuvenate the plant and most likely cause a new flush of blooming that lasts till frost.
There are many cultivars of purple coneflower; and although they are beautiful, so far we are not very impressed. While most probably do well for the season in which you plant them, many do not come back the next spring, at least not in this part of the country – or they are not as pretty if they do. Lilly has had some success with Cheyenne Spirit, Pow Wow Berry and Pow Wow White; but she’s only had them for two years, so the jury’s still out. Donna says Kim’s Knee High was nice for two years but has not performed well since then. So far you just cannot beat the native species for longevity and reliable performance.
I did touch on butterflies and bees, but the capacity of this wonderful wildflower for attracting these pollinators to your yard deserves another mention. Plant it in or near your vegetable garden to ensure plenty of pollinators for your tomatoes and such. Plant it anywhere there’s adequate sun to invite more butterflies into your yard. Just plant it, and you’ll be glad you did.
At Native Nurseries, we typically stock purple coneflower in 4” and 1-gallon pots. Currently we have both. As always, give us a call to check availability before making a special trip (although we’re always happy to see you). Sorry . . . we do not ship plants.
Some information for this blog post came from the following sources –