The summer is in full swing and it is the time for our later season perennials to start blooming. One of the first mid-summer perennials to start blooming is coneflower, Echinacea purpurea. To us, when the coneflower start blooming, we know we are gearing up for the gorgeous show that is put on by our late-blooming perennials like black-eyed susans, goldenrod, coneflowers, Joe-Pye weed, bee balm, sedums, and more. We’ll get into all the others on another day but this month we want to feature the coneflower!
In the wild, Echinacea purpurea is purple with a single layer of petals surrounding the center. This plant is native to the US from Florida to northeastern Texas through to Virginia, Ohio, Illinois, and Iowa. It thrives in grasslands or disturbed areas where the soil is not too loam or fertile. It struggles with heavy leaf litter or organic matter since it doesn’t naturally grow in forested areas where organic matter builds up.
The nursery industry has bred TONS of varieties of Echinacea. It comes in many heights from 1 foot tall to 3-4 feet tall and in every shade of pink, purple, and white you can imagine. There are even some coral, red, and orange-toned coneflowers available. You can choose coneflowers with single petals and coneflowers with double layers of petals. One of our favorites is the butterfly kisses variety that is pink with an extra fluffy center. The options are really endless. When choosing coneflower, just be sure to check out the plant label to be sure you choose the color, shape, and size that fits your planting site.
Plant Nerd Alert
Coneflowers are in the same family as daisies and black-eyed susans, the aster family. Asters are easy to identify because of their unique flower arrangement – a composite inflorescence with disk and ray flowers. This is a fancy way of saying they have that iconic daisy-like flower with a flat middle and longer, bold petals surrounding the flat center. We think of that whole structure as the flower but actually the flat center is composed of tens or hundreds of individual flowers and each long petal around it is also its own flower! Each petal and all the flowers in the center has its own reproductive parts and floral structures making up one big “flower” that we see but is actually many, many single flowers!
Here are the basic growing requirements for coneflower and a selection of our favorite varieties!
- Light: Full sun
- Water: Water through establishment but avoid overwatering. Tolerates drought very well once established. Plants will struggle with wet soil.
- Hardiness Zone: 3-8
- Bloom time: May through August
- TPL favorite varieties: White Swan, Butterfly Kisses, Magnum, Marcella Rainbow, Raspberry Kismet
Pro Tip: During the blooming season, clip off dead flower heads to stimulate more flowering and extend the flowering time. When the blooms start to slow down, leave the last few flower heads to provide seeds for songbirds and interesting structure through the winter.